ZADAR, Croatia (Reuters) - Croatia’s coastal town of Zadar, known for its beautiful sunsets once lauded by Alfred Hitchcock, is packed with tourists every summer.
But this year many tourists, dressed in national jerseys, are appreciating not just the sunsets, but also the success of Croatia’s soccer team which will face France in the World Cup finals on Sunday.
Captain Luka Modric and three teammates all come from the Zadar area. These days their houses attract fans who come to pay tribute.
A huge banner bearing the images of Modric, goalkeeper Daniel Subasic, Sime Vrsaljko, and reserve keeper Dominik Livakovic hangs at the entrance of Zadar’s Old City, proudly declaring “Zadar’s Heart – Made in Zadar.”
The Modric family took refuge in a hotel near Zadar in 1991 when the war that followed the breakup of former Yugoslavia started and after Luka’s grandfather was killed by Serb militia.
And from there, Modric began to build a successful soccer career with Real Madrid.
When visiting Zadar in 1964, film director Hitchcock wrote: “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida, applauded at every evening.”
This summer the sunsets have not been the only pull for tourists. The World Cup has lent an extra glow to the town.
In the village of Zagrad, the parents of goalkeeper Daniel Subasic will be watching the match on television. His father Jovan, 63, spoke about how his youngest son played soccer when he was six years old.
“They didn’t have a goalkeeper and he asked the coach if he could stand by the goal so he stood by the goal and stayed there,” laughed Jovan.
His wife Boja, 62, says watching his son fall during matches keeps her away from the television.
Their house which sits in a quiet village is full of their son’s achievements - jerseys and scarves from previous Croatia tournaments and A.S. Monaco where he has been playing for the last six years.
The older Subasic says if Sunday’s match goes into penalty kicks, his son will have an advantage since he knows many of the French players.
“It will be a big advantage for Daniel because when you know the players especially when it comes to penalties, that’s a big advantage,” he said.
Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Stephen Powell