Cro Vienna – A Viennese-Croatian Football Club
It’s summer, 2018. Croatia had once again been embossed in gold letters into the annals of football history. Winning the silver medal at the World Cup catapulted Croatia back to the very top of world football. And it was celebrated in Vienna, where many Croats had come to live. Furthermore it’s no secret that a lot of Croatian national team members have come from the diaspora. For Croats, at home and abroad, football and the national team are sacred.
This is a story about football and Croats, about Austria, Vienna and in particular, one football club. But, first, you need to know that a large number of young Croats, or Austrians of Croatian origin, live in and grow up in Vienna. Many were born with an innate talent for football – or at least that’s what we like to believe (maybe to harsh?). They all dream of donning checkered jerseys and playing for the national team. But the road is long and difficult – and reserved for only a few.
For many Croatian-Viennese children, the journey begins at Cro-Vienna, a football club with a Croatian insignia, but more importantly, Croatian flair. Still, the club welcomes children of all nationalities and backgrounds, making the club even bigger.
The story of Cro Vienna dates back to 2004. The Austrian-Croatian Association for Culture and Sports sent a group of Croatian-Viennese boys under the age of 14 to a tournament in Vukovar (Croatia). They were from various Austrian clubs. And on their return, they were asked to write down their impressions. The young athletes, almost to a person, said they wanted to play for a Croatian club in Austria. Two years later, Cro Vienna was created.
Today, it is a well-established football club known in Austrian football circles as a nursery for talent. Players who today defend the colors of Austrian and other European clubs took their first football steps in Cro Vienna. One of those is David Durić, an extremely talented young member of the Croatian national team and a member of Vienna Rapid. Cro Vienna is also successful in senior football and competes in the Vienna Oberliga A.
In launching the club, the founders were guided by one thought: Football is not just a purpose, but a means for a purpose, i.e. the purpose of socializing, making friends, learning the Croatian language, while nurturing the country’s tradition, culture and customs.
Today, more than 200 players in those famous jerseys train on Cro Vienna football fields, says Ruža Stjepanović, the ‘good spirit’ of Cro Vienna, with 33 in the first team. The story of Cro Vienna is, in a sense, the personification of the story of the Croats and their success and progress in Austria. After 15 years, Cro Vienna has become a respected football club, with a clear vision and a bright future.
In addition, the club is a true representative of Croats in Austria, and a tough but fair opponent on the field. There is no doubt that a lot will be heard about them in the future. Who knows? The next Luka Modrić may be already out there training on a Cro Vienna pitch.
Vienna’s Hrvatski dom – Where Croats Meet
Beyond football, it is the sheer wealth of Croatian clubs, associations and other gathering places that make possible the rich social life of the Croatian diaspora in Austria. One of these is the Hrvatski dom (Croatian Home), which organizes cultural and social events.
Founded by a team of experts to ease integration through joint projects with Austrian institutions, it has been for many a game changer. Association president and entrepreneur Andrej Lucić, moved quickly to launch Hrvatski dom, making possible a series of projects for the preservation of Croatian identity, language, culture, and tradition.
“We want to strengthen the [sense of] unity in the Croatian community in Austria and its interconnection to our homelands of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Lucić said. “Connecting emigrants with their homeland, and using the potential of Croats across the world – these values are what we emphasize.”
He is particularly proud of their newly equipped library, where you can find well-known Croatian literary works, as well as valuable professional literature.
Like other organizations, they have been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, they are working hard on new projects for Croats in Austria, and all interested in Croatian culture.
Kroativ.at – The Favorite Information Portal of Croats in Austria
Kroativ.at, a bilingual, independent information portal in Croatian and German at the Hrvatski dom is especially popular, following events in the Croatian community in Austria and the diaspora. Kroativ also offers current information from Croatia and Austria, and is considered as a key source for all interested.
Founded in 2013, Kroativ came under new ownership just over a year ago, intensifying its work and expanding its reach. “So without any false modesty,” says Željko Batarilo, editor-in-chief of Kroativ, “it became the most influential and most visited Croatian-Austrian medium, with about 35,000 visitors a day and about 1,5 million per month.”
As a bilingual portal, they try to offer readers interesting and informative content about politics, business, and culture, to be further extended by its own Kroativ TV in the future, in a TV-studio they have already built.