Stefan Degač cheers on Croatia from Launceston for World Cup Final

FINALE: Stefan Degač immigrated to Australia in 1979 from Croatia. He will be cheering on his boys from Launceston on Monday morning. Picture: Neil Richardson
FINALE: Stefan Degač immigrated to Australia in 1979 from Croatia. He will be cheering on his boys from Launceston on Monday morning. Picture: Neil Richardson

The heart of every member of the international Croatian diaspora will beat as one with those in the motherland on Monday morning. 

Hrvatska, as the country is known in its native tongue, is into the World Cup final for the first time and will play against a heavily fancied French side.

One man who will be on the edge of his seat for the 90-plus minutes is Croatian-born Launceston resident Stefan Degač. 

Croatia is a country where, I reckon, they will celebrate all week if we win.

Stefan Degač

Mr Degač immigrated to Australia in 1979 from Slavonia as a 20-year-old, but still calls Croatia home. 

He will be watching the game from his West Launceston living room.

“Croatia is a country where, I reckon, they will celebrate all week if we win,” he said.

“All the shops will be shut, because they’re already going for it, but they’re not people who will jump straight away and think, ‘yeah, we’ve done it’. “There are a lot of Croatian communities in Australia and they’re all going to be out.”

Croatia was formed in 1991 after the country claimed its independence from Yugoslavia. 

The claim of independence sparked a war from within as the country’s Croatian-Serbians, aided and armed by the Serbian-centric Yugoslavian government, fought to keep the country a part of Yugoslavia. 

The four-year war, which claimed the lives of about 20,000 people and displaced a further 500,000, was fought parallel to an even bloodier conflict in neighbouring Bosnia as the region plunged into turmoil. 

Mr Degač said Croatia’s World Cup run was a sign of a more unified and prosperous nation. 

“It’s been great to see [the country] unite through [football], especially for this World Cup,” he said.

“Even our President [Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović], she was there before [the quarter final against] Russia.

“She was there, she wasn’t shy to turn up – she even went in the change room and danced with the boys.”

After defeating England after extra time in the semi-final, Mr Degač believes Croatia will go all the way to taste victory in Moscow.

“They lost to France in the semi-finals in 1998 and now they hope to give it back,” he said.

“I think they’re going to do it.”