Being Croatian in the early 1960s was nothing like what it is to be able to call yourself a Croat today. Being a member of a soccer club with the word “Croatia” as part of its name and the checkered coat of arms as its logo would have been unheard of during that time in a communist state.
On the other hand teams of this sort were being created across the globe in the Croatian diaspora — various cities and states that had large numbers of Croatian immigrants — with Canada, the United States, and Australia leading the way. Clubs such as the Croatian Eagles established in 1922 by Croatian Americans in Milwaukee, and Adelaide Croatia (now Raiders), founded in 1952 in Australia, are two of the oldest continuously run Croatian soccer clubs globally.
An excerpt from a book printed in 1966 can help explain Croatia Hamilton’s beginnings, hinting at the passion, patriotism and national pride the Club was born out of and continues to survive by today.
“The Sports Club Croatia Hamilton, Ontario was established in 1957. Due to some technical and organizational difficulties it stopped operating in 1960 but was reinstated in 1962. After the reorganization, Croatia Hamilton, the men’s soccer team under the guidance of head coach Stjepan Stanković, became a member of the Inter-City League.
On the field, its technical and skilled performances earned the Club success. In the early years the team flourished and garnered respect from every opponent. With each passing year Croatia Hamilton was regarded as one of the best organizations in the city.
Not only was Croatia Hamilton established to work towards the athletic development of Croatians in Hamilton, but the organization also committed resources to promoting a Croatian national identity in a fight for a sovereign Republic of Croatia.”
This fight for sovereignty continued into the 1990s, when the Club supported Croatia morally and financially in the defence of our homeland during the country’s war for freedom. We generously and proudly gave more than $100,000.00 CDN to Croatia for various causes. One of those causes was sponsoring four Croatian orphans, whose parent’s lives were lost defending our native soil.
“With every respect for your good will and support, the democratic authorities in the homeland to which you contributed at this period, in the name of the Republic of Croatia, thanks you, the Croatian National Sports Club of Hamilton for your donation of $105,000.00, which will be used to finance the economic development and prosperity of the homeland.”
Minister of Immigration / Minister of Defence
– Gojko Šušak, Zagreb, Croatia
Decisions to donate and support Croatia made by the Club’s past executives must be commended. This type of past leadership has definitely played a fundamental role in setting the stage for today’s execs. While it is nearly impossible to include the names of every person integral to the establishment of the Club, there are some honorable mentions to be made from the first half-decade:
- John Bermarija; Nikola Budak; Ante Čapin; Karlo Čerić; John Cvetković; Marinko Dragušica; Josip Dundović; Tomica Ivezić; Josip Ivinac; Živko Jurić; Ante Katalinić; Tomo Leingartner; Pero Listeša; Ivo Lončarić; Jure Miletić; Jimmy Negotović; Slavko Pavičić; Šimun Pavlak; Šime Peranić; Tony Peričak; Nikola Perošević; Pero Rukavina; Vjekoslav Šašić; Mirko Škarjak; Alojz Štokan; Pavle Usenica; and Zvonko Zubrinić.
These are just some of the men mentioned in previous anniversary booklets, old photographs, and conversations with surviving members from the early years. There are many others whose names are unlisted in some of our sources, but whose actions will always live on in the sacred crest of Croatia Hamilton.