Croatia donates World Cup cash to flood victims
ZAGREB – Croatia’s football squad have donated a quarter of their money earned for reaching the World Cup finals to victims of deadly floods that have devastated the Balkans.
Members of Bosnia-Hercegovina’s World Cup squad, led by star striker Edin Dzeko, have also appealed for help for their stricken compatriots as they participate in a training camp near the disaster zone.
Croatia will take center stage when they face hosts Brazil in the opening game of this year’s World Cup in Sao Paulo on June 12.
But almost 50 people have died and about 150,000 have been forced from their homes because of floods in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.
Croatia coach Niko Kovac and striker Ivica Olic visited flood-stricken areas around Zupanja in the east of the country on Tuesday, cancelling all engagements to see the area where 15,000 people have fled.
“If we fight in Brazil like these people here on the embankments and in flooded areas than we will be good,” said the coach, who was visibly moved by the disaster.
“In this suffering I also see something nice, people who support each other.”
Croatia’s squad have agreed to donate about 130,000 euros ($180,000), one quarter of the money they were given by the Croatian federation for reaching the finals in Brazil.
“I have spoken to the team captain, Darijo Srna, and we have decided that the players and the coaching staff will renounce a part of their World Cup play-off win bonus,” said Kovac.
“These people are endangered and they have lost everything.”
Striker Mario Mandzukic took food aid to the village of Gunja in eastern Croatia in a separate mission.
“I have friends in Gunja, but here all people are my friends,” said the Bayern Munich player after he arrived with a truck-load of food.
Mandzukic was born in the nearby town of Slavonski Brod which is threatened by the floods. He said he would try to get the whole national team behind the relief effort.
The Croatian team are to gather in Austria for a training camp. But the national federation said receipts from ticket sales from a friendly against Mali on May 31 will go to the disaster fund.
Bosnia has qualified for the World Cup for the first time but their preparations have also been overshadowed by the disaster.
“Many people lost what they’ve been working hard for their whole lives in just two days and they are still in danger for their lives,” said striker Dzeko in a Twitter message.
“How would you feel if someone you loved more than anything was trapped in their home with no food, water or electric power? That is how I feel right now,” he added, while team captain Emir Spahic also appealed for help for victims.
The Bosnian team started a training camp this week at Hrasnica, near Sarajevo, which has been spared from the devastation.