UEFA Euro 2016 started last week and it’s been pretty fun seeing first hand how big soccer really is in Europe. Croatia played their first game last Sunday afternoon. All of the cafés – big, small, on the Riva, in Diocletian’s Palace, by my apartment – rolled out large screen TVs and locals packed into every seat to watch the game.
We chose a café on a square a little off the Riva. We were able to snag a seat and cheer with all of Split as Croatia scored the only goal and beat Turkey 1-0.
America needs to take a cue from Europe. The concept of outside cafés is genius – enjoy the fresh air, protected under an umbrella, with no judgment from waiters for sitting for hours, enjoying coffee or beer, with the ability to bring in your own food and water.
On Friday night, Croatia played their second game against the Czech Republic. I had a meeting that kept me from watching the first half of the game but I could hear people cheering from the café outside my apartment as well as from families within my apartment building. I needed to finish one last thing before calling it a day at work and I succumbed to the excitement so worked at the café until I was done.
My friend Kurt, who studied abroad with me, texted asking who I was rooting for: Croatia because I’m here or the Czech Republic because we lived there. Luckily I didn’t really have to choose since it ended in a tie at 2-2.
The game was suspended for a few minutes in the second half because of some flares the Croatian fans fired onto the field that lit the grass on fire. Apparently the governing body over Croatian soccer is very corrupt. There is a group of loyal fans who travel to games and purposely disrupt play as a form of protest so Croatia’s soccer organization gets fined by FIFA. TBD on if this tactic works.