THE CAPTAIN. THE LEADER. THE HERO
05
Despite experiencing the horrors of war as a child and practically no one believing in him, Luka Modrić defied the odds to become a professional footballer. PAVEL TIKHONOV chronicles the Croatian's journey from humble beginnings to being voted best player
at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
/ 27
Eight-year-old Ivano and five-year-old Ema COULD FEEL PROUD OF THEIR FATHER
name: Luka Modrić, the future Croatian national team captain, World Cup finalist and four-time UEFA Champions League winner.

Modrić may now be world famous but he came from humble beginnings, growing up in the modest hamlet of Modrići on the southern Velebit slopes near the village of Sveti Rok. Here, the climate can be extremely harsh in late autumn and winter. The locals would often joke that only wolves and the Modrić family could withstand the conditions of the Velebit mountains. A year after the documentary was filmed, Modrić's childhood was brutally interrupted by the sound of guns and bombs, shattering his peaceful existence. The wolves and goats disappeared overnight. So did some of the people.

In December 1991, a Serbian patrol came to Modrić's small community. Civil war had ignited in the former Yugoslavian territories and fatalities were starting to become commonplace. However, the Modrić family had no idea of the looming horrors that would ensue. On Christmas morning, Luka Modrić Sr (the boy's grandfather, a kind-hearted soul according to neighbours) left the house to tend to the goats. It was something he did in all weathers, all year round. This time, however, he did not come back.
Once they'd buried his grandfather, Luka Jr and his parents grabbed their belongings and fled their home without a clear idea of what would become of them or where they would even be the following day.

The Modrić family was lucky in a way: they found themselves in Zadar, where they took refuge in the somewhat run-down hotel. Luka's father continued working as a military aircraft mechanic while Luka played football in the parking lot. The children were advised to watch their step, and unexploded landmines were commonplace. Despite all that, an element of stability gradually returned for Luka and his family, even though they will never forget the tragedy of December 1991. Luka, understandably, does not like talking about it.

"I watch your boy playing in the parking lot every day," the hotel manager Slavko Pernar would say to Luka Modrić's parents. "I've never seen a kid that fragile, but the ball just sticks to his feet so perfectly. You'd better let him attend our football school. Let the coaches watch him, maybe he'll be a success."

Davorin Matošević, Luka's first coach, met him when he was a skinny little boy with big frightened eyes. Running across the pitch kicking a ball helped the boy keep his troubled thoughts at bay. Matošević saw how much talent he had but was still not sure if Luka would actually make the grade. It is impossible to be 100 per cent certain when someone is so young.

"He was very skinny and very short for his age," recalls NK Zadar's owner Josip Bajlo, whose club, then in the top tier of the Croatian league, was where Luka played his youth football as a young adolescent. "That said, there was something special about him as a football player," he added.

Soon Luka would receive his first shin pads. "I remember they had Ronaldo's picture on them," Modrić said. "I loved them very much. I loved Ronaldo, the old Ronaldo who played for Brazil. I wore them for several years, from my childhood right up until the beginning of my professional career in Bosnia and Herzegovina's Premier League. I remember crying for a long time after I gave them to somebody as a present."

Coaches marvelled at Modrić's peripheral vision and his ability to anticipate and avoid tackles without appearing to see his opponents. "It was as though he had eyes in the back of his head," noted more than one coach at the Zadar academy.

At the age of 12, leaving the war far behind, Luka attended a junior championship in Italy and helped Croatia finish runners-up. By then, everyone could see his potential, not least the head of NK Zadar's academy Tomislav Bašić, who managed to get the youngster a trial with his beloved Hajduk Split. Heartbreakingly for him, it didn't work out, with Luka adjudged too small and too frail. However, when his young charge graduated from high school, Bašić, who Luka considered his 'sporting father', tried again. This time, he contacted the agency of Zdravko Mamić, a well-known Croatian football administrator at the time. With the assistance of Mamić, Luka managed to secure a transfer to Dinamo Zagreb. According to Bašić, Mamić did the deal without Modrić even having to undergo a trial.

Luka signed a youth contract, rented an apartment and somehow managed to support his family. But the club believed that for Modrić to reach his full potential, he would not only need to continue to develop physically, but also become psychologically stronger. In the summer of 2003, he was loaned out to Zrinjski Mostar in the Bosnian league. It was standard practice for Dinamo Zagreb to send its younger players out on loan to gain first-team experience, and besides, there was no place in Zagreb's starting XI.

One of Modrić's teammates at his new club was Ivica Džidić, a native of Mostar. Džidić recounts that the Zrinjski Mostar fans were dismayed by Modrić's slight physique. "He's sure to get killed on the pitch," said the diehard locals, who used to support their team at the dilapidated 9,000-capacity stadium.

Not only were Zrinjski Mostar competing in what was considered one of Europe's toughest leagues, but they were battling against relegation at the time. It's jokingly claimed that in some matches, the atmosphere was so intimidating that referees only blew twice during the entire encounter: for kick-off and full time. Protecting the players was low on the list of priorities. How on earth would Modrić survive?

"Of course, we'd heard that the league was tough, but we never expected it to be quite so brutal or partisan. Our opponents in Banja Luka and Trebinje were particularly bad," recounted Davor Landeka, Modrić's regular roommate, in one of his interviews.

Eventually, Zrinjski Mostar managed to achieve their goal for the season and avoided relegation. Just as significantly, Modrić defied his doubters and was voted the club's Player of the Year.

His leadership qualities, exemplified in taking Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia, were just as evident at an early age. He would receive the ball, side-step two players rushing to intercept him and create an opportunity in the very next move. When confronted by giant defenders, Modrić would simply dribble past them. When he had to keep the ball, he would protect it with his body, giving his teammates time to get in position. And when he had to make amends for somebody else's mistake, Modrić would frequently catch up with usually taller opponents and win back possession, while avoiding being elbowed out of the way.

"It was just a higher level of play; he was head and shoulders above any of us in terms of ability – though obviously not in the physical sense," Džidić recollects.

Modrić was learning the hard way. Players in the Bosnian league did not go down writhing in agony whenever fouled. Those type of antics could get you in even more trouble. When Modrić went on to play in the top leagues abroad, he often came across players who thought nothing of pretending they'd been pole-axed. But Luka remained the way he was, battle-hardened by the experiences of playing in places like Banja Luka and Trebinje.

In the summer of 2004, Modrić returned to Dinamo Zagreb and asked to be sent to Zrinjski Mostar for another season: he loved the locals and they loved him. But the Dinamo Zagreb management refused and instead loaned him out to NK Inter Zaprešić.

Modrić spent one season at NK, but what a season it was. He helped his team to second place in the Croatian league, the best achievement in the club's history, ironically proving more successful than Dinamo Zagreb and finishing only behind Hajduk. That was that as far as Zagreb were concerned. No more loans. By 2005-06, every top European scout knew about Luka Modrić even as he signed a 10-year contract and spent a portion of his new-found riches on purchasing a sumptuous villa for his family on Stjepana Radića Street in Zadar.

Despite the lengthy contract, Dinamo Zagreb were biding their time, waiting for a lucrative opportunity to sell their prized asset. But it was the same old story: many renowned European coaches were still put off by his lightweight build. "Yes, this guy has great skill and vision on the pitch, but he is too weak to play in our league," they'd say. Among their number was Arsène Wenger.

"I doubt that he was the only one who had such apprehension," Modrić recalls. "When I was in Croatia, I kept hearing throughout my career that my physique would prevent me from doing this and that, that I was not good enough because I was not strong enough. But there is one thing you should know about Croatian people. After everything w'd been through, we became tougher. The war made us stronger and we're not easily broken. When people told me that I wouldn't be able to manage, it gave me an extra incentive. I wanted to prove them wrong."

Modrić got the chance to do just that when he finally landed a dream move in April 2008, to the English Premier League and Tottenham Hotspur. They did not allow players to kick lumps out of each other quite as much in England, but opponents were even bigger and more aggressive. Four months after the transfer was sealed, Modrić made his debut against Middlesbrough, but things didn't quite go according to plan. The first five minutes were a real eye-opener for the newcomer and by the end of the game he was exhausted. How could players the size of bulls run so fast for 90 minutes? he asked himself. The diminutive Croatian felt out of his depth and realised this was a whole different ball game, so to speak, compared with the Bosnian Premier League. It was time to reinvent himself. He had been told that you could not succeed in England without optimum physical fitness, and so he spent the next three months pumping iron in the gym before it all got too much for him and he reverted to what he knew best.
Eight-year-old Ivano
and five-year-old Ema
COULD FEEL PROUD
OF THEIR FATHER
Luka Modrić
picked up
THE GOLDEN BALL
after the final
ack in September 2017, documentary footage started to appear on YouTube showing wolves attacking cattle in Croatia. The faded archive film then showed a little boy wearing his father's big jacket shepherding goats in the Velebit mountains. The scene changes and the wolves are now peering down at the five-year-old from the slopes above. The boy's
Luka Modrić
PRODUCED
CAREER-BEST
FORM
on the
pitches of Russia
Once they'd buried his grandfather, Luka Jr and his parents grabbed their belongings and fled their home without a clear idea of what would become of them or where they would even be the following day.

The Modrić family was lucky in a way: they found themselves in Zadar, where they took refuge in the somewhat run-down hotel. Luka's father continued working as a military aircraft mechanic while Luka played football in the parking lot. The children were advised to watch their step, and unexploded landmines were commonplace. Despite all that, an element of stability gradually returned for Luka and his family, even though they will never forget the tragedy of December 1991. Luka, understandably, does not like talking about it.

"I watch your boy playing in the parking lot every day," the hotel manager Slavko Pernar would say to Luka Modrić's parents. "I've never seen a kid that fragile, but the ball just sticks to his feet so perfectly. You'd better let him attend our football school. Let the coaches watch him, maybe he'll be a success."

Davorin Matošević, Luka's first coach, met him when he was a skinny little boy with big frightened eyes. Running across the pitch kicking a ball helped the boy keep his troubled thoughts at bay. Matošević saw how much talent he had but was still not sure if Luka would actually make the grade. It is impossible to be 100 per cent certain when someone is so young.

"He was very skinny and very short for his age," recalls NK Zadar's owner Josip Bajlo, whose club, then in the top tier of the Croatian league, was where Luka played his youth football as a young adolescent. "That said, there was something special about him as a football player," he added.

Soon Luka would receive his first shin pads. "I remember they had Ronaldo's picture on them," Modrić said. "I loved them very much. I loved Ronaldo, the old Ronaldo who played for Brazil. I wore them for several years, from my childhood right up until the beginning of my professional career in Bosnia and Herzegovina's Premier League. I remember crying for a long time after I gave them to somebody as a present."

Coaches marvelled at Modrić's peripheral vision and his ability to anticipate and avoid tackles without appearing to see his opponents. "It was as though he had eyes in the back of his head," noted more than one coach at the Zadar academy.

At the age of 12, leaving the war far behind, Luka attended a junior championship in Italy and helped Croatia finish runners-up. By then, everyone could see his potential, not least the head of NK Zadar's academy Tomislav Bašić, who managed to get the youngster a trial with his beloved Hajduk Split. Heartbreakingly for him, it didn't work out, with Luka adjudged too small and too frail. However, when his young charge graduated from high school, Bašić, who Luka considered his 'sporting father', tried again. This time, he contacted the agency of Zdravko Mamić, a well-known Croatian football administrator at the time. With the assistance of Mamić, Luka managed to secure a transfer to Dinamo Zagreb. According to Bašić, Mamić did the deal without Modrić even having to undergo a trial.

Luka signed a youth contract, rented an apartment and somehow managed to support his family. But the club believed that for Modrić to reach his full potential, he would not only need to continue to develop physically, but also become psychologically stronger. In the summer of 2003, he was loaned out to Zrinjski Mostar in the Bosnian league. It was standard practice for Dinamo Zagreb to send its younger players out on loan to gain first-team experience, and besides, there was no place in Zagreb's starting XI.

One of Modrić's teammates at his new club was Ivica Džidić, a native of Mostar. Džidić recounts that the Zrinjski Mostar fans were dismayed by Modrić's slight physique. "He's sure to get killed on the pitch," said the diehard locals, who used to support their team at the dilapidated 9,000-capacity stadium.

Not only were Zrinjski Mostar competing in what was considered one of Europe's toughest leagues, but they were battling against relegation at the time. It's jokingly claimed that in some matches, the atmosphere was so intimidating that referees only blew twice during the entire encounter: for kick-off and full time. Protecting the players was low on the list of priorities. How on earth would Modrić survive?

"Of course, we'd heard that the league was tough, but we never expected it to be quite so brutal or partisan. Our opponents in Banja Luka and Trebinje were particularly bad," recounted Davor Landeka, Modrić's regular roommate, in one of his interviews.

Eventually, Zrinjski Mostar managed to achieve their goal for the season and avoided relegation. Just as significantly, Modrić defied his doubters and was voted the club's Player of the Year.

His leadership qualities, exemplified in taking Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia, were just as evident at an early age. He would receive the ball, side-step two players rushing to intercept him and create an opportunity in the very next move. When confronted by giant defenders, Modrić would simply dribble past them. When he had to keep the ball, he would protect it with his body, giving his teammates time to get in position. And when he had to make amends for somebody else's mistake, Modrić would frequently catch up with usually taller opponents and win back possession, while avoiding being elbowed out of the way.

"It was just a higher level of play; he was head and shoulders above any of us in terms of ability – though obviously not in the physical sense," Džidić recollects.

Modrić was learning the hard way. Players in the Bosnian league did not go down writhing in agony whenever fouled. Those type of antics could get you in even more trouble. When Modrić went on to play in the top leagues abroad, he often came across players who thought nothing of pretending they'd been pole-axed. But Luka remained the way he was, battle-hardened by the experiences of playing in places like Banja Luka and Trebinje.

In the summer of 2004, Modrić returned to Dinamo Zagreb and asked to be sent to Zrinjski Mostar for another season: he loved the locals and they loved him. But the Dinamo Zagreb management refused and instead loaned him out to NK Inter Zaprešić.

Modrić spent one season at NK, but what a season it was. He helped his team to second place in the Croatian league, the best achievement in the club's history, ironically proving more successful than Dinamo Zagreb and finishing only behind Hajduk. That was that as far as Zagreb were concerned. No more loans. By 2005-06, every top European scout knew about Luka Modrić even as he signed a 10-year contract and spent a portion of his new-found riches on purchasing a sumptuous villa for his family on Stjepana Radića Street in Zadar.

Despite the lengthy contract, Dinamo Zagreb were biding their time, waiting for a lucrative opportunity to sell their prized asset. But it was the same old story: many renowned European coaches were still put off by his lightweight build. "Yes, this guy has great skill and vision on the pitch, but he is too weak to play in our league," they'd say. Among their number was Arsène Wenger.

"I doubt that he was the only one who had such apprehension," Modrić recalls. "When I was in Croatia, I kept hearing throughout my career that my physique would prevent me from doing this and that, that I was not good enough because I was not strong enough. But there is one thing you should know about Croatian people. After everything w'd been through, we became tougher. The war made us stronger and we're not easily broken. When people told me that I wouldn't be able to manage, it gave me an extra incentive. I wanted to prove them wrong."

Modrić got the chance to do just that when he finally landed a dream move in April 2008, to the English Premier League and Tottenham Hotspur. They did not allow players to kick lumps out of each other quite as much in England, but opponents were even bigger and more aggressive. Four months after the transfer was sealed, Modrić made his debut against Middlesbrough, but things didn't quite go according to plan. The first five minutes were a real eye-opener for the newcomer and by the end of the game he was exhausted. How could players the size of bulls run so fast for 90 minutes? he asked himself. The diminutive Croatian felt out of his depth and realised this was a whole different ball game, so to speak, compared with the Bosnian Premier League. It was time to reinvent himself. He had been told that you could not succeed in England without optimum physical fitness, and so he spent the next three months pumping iron in the gym before it all got too much for him and he reverted to what he knew best.
"I realised that it was not my cup of tea," Modrić said. "I would rather just play my way. My father had very strong legs. Mine are just the same. My legs are stronger than my trunk and I have a low centre of gravity, which is why it's hard for opponents to take the ball away from me."

«ut as Spurs endured their worst start to a league season in their history, winning none of their first eight matches, so Luka's poor form coincided with the club's malaise, leading many to question if he truly was cut out for life outside the Balkans.

Then came a change of coach and a different role for Modrić. Harry Redknapp, who had taken over from Juande Ramos, brought the Croatian in from the left wing and decided to make him the team's orchestrator-in-chief.

It worked a treat. Modrić focused on working on his stamina and speed, got into shape, became a first-team regular and drew suitors far from far and wide as he dictated the tempo of games.

Understandably, Europe's elite upped their interest and, after four years in London, Modrić moved to Real Madrid despite Tottenham's initial reluctance to sell. The rest, as they say, is history. Arriving in the Spanish capital in August 2012, Modrić's footballing odyssey had taken him from the threadbare pitches of his war-torn homeland to the very top of the tree. Fourteen club titles followed before the highlight of a glittering career: leading his country to the final of the World Cup in Russia, where he outperformed the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and other superstars.

However, Russia 2018 was not all plain sailing. Take the 116th minute, deep into extra time, of the last-16 tie against Denmark, perhaps the most difficult moment for Modrić and the entire Croatia team en route to the final. Even harder than the quarter-final against Russia, the semi-final against England and the final itself against France, when the Croatians had nothing to lose.

When Ante Rebić was fouled in the Danish area, all Modrić had to do was score from the penalty spot to send Croatia into the last eight. The odds were very much in his favour, but in one nerve-shredding moment, Modrić's world collapsed as Kasper Schmeichel dived to his left to save his weak kick and keep the Danes in the competition. Modrić sank to his knees, realising he had let his country down. For the remaining few minutes all he could think of was Schmeichel's yellow jersey, haunted as he was by the worst miss of his career and the gut-wrenching realisation that his team could be eliminated, and that it would be all his fault.

If ever a captain had to stand tall, this was the time. As the referee blew for full time and a penalty shootout loomed, Modrić had to look his teammates in the eye and summon up every ounce of self-belief. But before he could say anything, his midfield partner Ivan Rakitić spoke up.

"Listen, guys, Luka has saved us more times than we could ever have hoped for," he said, as both sides prepared for the dreaded shootout. "Now, it is time we did something for him. Let's do it!"

It was a short but inspirational message and it did the trick. Modrić did his best to regroup mentally, agreed to take the third Croatian penalty and this time smashed the ball down the middle, with Schmeichel moving towards the corner. The towering keeper managed to keep out the spot kicks of Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric, but the Danes missed three of their own, aptly leaving it to Rakitić to calmly sent his country into the quarter-finals with the decisive kick.

"It would've been better to have got through without all this suspense," said Modrić, who admitted he was still upset at having left his country on tenterhooks. "It was very hard to rise to the occasion again after such a blunder, especially as I'd worked so hard to score."

In the three matches that followed, Modrić took his game to even greater heights and, on the evening of 15 July, despite defeat in the final, FIFA named him the best player of the 2018 World Cup.

The following day, Zagreb erupted in celebration. It seemed like the whole of Croatia had gathered in the city's central square to greet the team's arrival. Among the crowd was 14-year-old Petr Brković. The boy was gravely ill, and his father would do anything to bring a smile to his face, even for a brief moment. Petr had watched all Croatia's World Cup matches and had long dreamed of seeing Modrić in person. An hour later, Petr stood embracing Luka Modrić and smiling before 400,000 people. The boy had never been so happy.

Both Luka and Petr had, in their own respective ways, spent a lifetime to reach this moment. It had not been easy for either of them, but both deserved it. The whole of Croatia deserved it.
Back in September 2017, documentary footage started to appear on YouTube showing wolves attacking cattle in Croatia. The faded archive film then showed a little boy wearing his father's big jacket shepherding goats in the Velebit mountains. The scene changes and the wolves are now peering down at the five-year-old from the slopes above. The boy's name: Luka Modrić, the future Croatian national team captain, World Cup finalist and four-time UEFA Champions League winner.

Modrić may now be world famous but he came from humble beginnings, growing up in the modest hamlet of Modrići on the southern Velebit slopes near the village of Sveti Rok. Here, the climate can be extremely harsh in late autumn and winter. The locals would often joke that only wolves and the Modrić family could withstand the conditions of the Velebit mountains. A year after the documentary was filmed, Modrić's childhood was brutally interrupted by the sound of guns and bombs, shattering his peaceful existence. The wolves and goats disappeared overnight. So did some of the people.

In December 1991, a Serbian patrol came to Modrić's small community. Civil war had ignited in the former Yugoslavian territories and fatalities were starting to become commonplace. However, the Modrić family had no idea of the looming horrors that would ensue. On Christmas morning, Luka Modrić Sr (the boy's grandfather, a kind-hearted soul according to neighbours) left the house to tend to the goats. It was something he did in all weathers, all year round. This time, however, he did not come back.
Luka Modrić picked up THE GOLDEN BALL after the final
Eight-year-old Ivano and five-year-old Ema COULD FEEL PROUD OF THEIR FATHER
Luka Modrić PRODUCED CAREER-BEST FORM on the pitches of Russia
"I realised that it was not my cup of tea," Modrić said. "I would rather just play my way. My father had very strong legs. Mine are just the same. My legs are stronger than my trunk and I have a low centre of gravity, which is why it's hard for opponents to take the ball away from me."

But as Spurs endured their worst start to a league season in their history, winning none of their first eight matches, so Luka's poor form coincided with the club's malaise, leading many to question if he truly was cut out for life outside the Balkans.

Then came a change of coach and a different role for Modrić. Harry Redknapp, who had taken over from Juande Ramos, brought the Croatian in from the left wing and decided to make him the team's orchestrator-in-chief.

It worked a treat. Modrić focused on working on his stamina and speed, got into shape, became a first-team regular and drew suitors far from far and wide as he dictated the tempo of games.

Understandably, Europe's elite upped their interest and, after four years in London, Modrić moved to Real Madrid despite Tottenham's initial reluctance to sell. The rest, as they say, is history. Arriving in the Spanish capital in August 2012, Modrić's footballing odyssey had taken him from the threadbare pitches of his war-torn homeland to the very top of the tree. Fourteen club titles followed before the highlight of a glittering career: leading his country to the final of the World Cup in Russia, where he outperformed the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and other superstars.

However, Russia 2018 was not all plain sailing. Take the 116th minute, deep into extra time, of the last-16 tie against Denmark, perhaps the most difficult moment for Modrić and the entire Croatia team en route to the final. Even harder than the quarter-final against Russia, the semi-final against England and the final itself against France, when the Croatians had nothing to lose.

When Ante Rebić was fouled in the Danish area, all Modrić had to do was score from the penalty spot to send Croatia into the last eight. The odds were very much in his favour, but in one nerve-shredding moment, Modrić's world collapsed as Kasper Schmeichel dived to his left to save his weak kick and keep the Danes in the competition. Modrić sank to his knees, realising he had let his country down. For the remaining few minutes all he could think of was Schmeichel's yellow jersey, haunted as he was by the worst miss of his career and the gut-wrenching realisation that his team could be eliminated, and that it would be all his fault.

If ever a captain had to stand tall, this was the time. As the referee blew for full time and a penalty shootout loomed, Modrić had to look his teammates in the eye and summon up every ounce of self-belief. But before he could say anything, his midfield partner Ivan Rakitić spoke up.

"Listen, guys, Luka has saved us more times than we could ever have hoped for," he said, as both sides prepared for the dreaded shootout. "Now, it is time we did something for him. Let's do it!"

It was a short but inspirational message and it did the trick. Modrić did his best to regroup mentally, agreed to take the third Croatian penalty and this time smashed the ball down the middle, with Schmeichel moving towards the corner. The towering keeper managed to keep out the spot kicks of Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric, but the Danes missed three of their own, aptly leaving it to Rakitić to calmly sent his country into the quarter-finals with the decisive kick.

"It would've been better to have got through without all this suspense," said Modrić, who admitted he was still upset at having left his country on tenterhooks. "It was very hard to rise to the occasion again after such a blunder, especially as I'd worked so hard to score."

In the three matches that followed, Modrić took his game to even greater heights and, on the evening of 15 July, despite defeat in the final, FIFA named him the best player of the 2018 World Cup.

The following day, Zagreb erupted in celebration. It seemed like the whole of Croatia had gathered in the city's central square to greet the team's arrival. Among the crowd was 14-year-old Petr Brković. The boy was gravely ill, and his father would do anything to bring a smile to his face, even for a brief moment. Petr had watched all Croatia's World Cup matches and had long dreamed of seeing Modrić in person. An hour later, Petr stood embracing Luka Modrić and smiling before 400,000 people. The boy had never been so happy.

Both Luka and Petr had, in their own respective ways, spent a lifetime to reach this moment. It had not been easy for either of them, but both deserved it. The whole of Croatia deserved it.