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08 Aug 17

Croatian Sports Heroes Score Political Own Goals

Borna Sor

When Croatian sporting stars decide to start a new career in politics, they often lose their heroic image as adulation turns to contempt.

Davor Suker. Photo: Flickr/ Nazionale Calcio.

They are all cheering your name!

They are screaming and crying, laughing and howling, kissing and hugging.

They know everything about you, and your family and your long road to success. They know how hard you tried to get here, to win, to represent all of them.

They know how you walk and talk, how you attack and defend. They know your weaknesses and admire your strength.

Babies are named after you, and one day when you are gone, schools, streets and squares will have your statue or bear your name.

Students will learn about your deeds and old men will tell stories to their grandchildren how they've met you and talked to you. They will be mostly lies, but that is what old men do.

And if you achieve great results, they might even call an 'era' after you.

There are two type of people who yearn for such a life. Sportsmen and politicians.

For politicians to achieve such glory is incredibly hard, during their lifetime almost impossible. Especially if they don't use oppressive methods and forcefully create personality cults.

For sportsmen is much easier. People love winners, world champions, Olympic medalists. Nations adore all sorts of sports, especially those they are good at.

Croatians love football, but they also love skiing when we are winning gold medals, or MMA when Cro Cop or Stipe Miocic KOs somebody.

Ukrainians love boxing and the Klitschko brothers, Americans love their baseball players who are always 'world champions'.

And they do scream their names, celebrate their wins, and cry for their defeats. And so sportsmen live what politicians can only dream of.

And that makes some sportsmen think: "I have the love of the people. They are cheering my name. I inspire them and they trust me. There is so much more that I can do than just sport. This country has no faith in politicians, and there is no one with real charisma fighting for the betterment of our society. I should step up."

If they don't think that, then their managers do, or their families or some vulture-like political party looking to attach itself to somebody else's glory.

So they decide to start a political career.

In Croatia, this has happened with our football, basketball, skiing, athletics and martial arts stars.

Women and men with world titles, gold medals and the love of the nation decided enter join politics. Hoping to use their name and achievements for the good of the people.

It didn't turn out that well...

In sport there are rules. There are judges. There are cameras and modern technology that count every point, second or gramme. There is fair play, time or points limits, sponsors and tickets. There is also rest.

In sport they will forgive you for what you say wrong, if you do right. And they will cheer for you even when you lose, if you gave your best.

In sport, your coach, your manager and your team members are all on the same side. In politics, not so much.

There are no rules when it comes to a failing economy, and no judges when opponents cheat. There is no camera to capture corruption or fair play during elections.
Sponsors don't put their logos on your shirt, but do try anonymously to put their euros on your account.

There is also no rest in politics. You are representing all day, every day, with everything you do and say.

Your 'team members' are not on the same side, and if you lose, nobody will care if you tried.

And most importantly of all, the crowd hates this game and you didn't train for this.

There is no gold medal in human rights, and no world titles is fighting corruption.

But it doesn't mean there is no training and practice in politics. And people can see it.

Our once-beloved football player, Davor Suker, is now hated by most of the population. His talent allowed him to score the most beautiful of goals, but this didn't help him when he became the president of the Croatian Football Federation.

Every time there was a controversy at the federation, people forgot one of his goals. Now they can't remember a single one, and there were hundreds of them.

Janica Kostelic, the legendary Olympic skier, is now the state secretary for sport. Once called the Queen, now she's verbally abused on the streets by people who are sick of the organised crime that still tarnishes our sports clubs.

The only thing going downhill now is her ratings.

Many of our other famous sporting figures tried their luck in parlament, but after being forced to 'show their skill' on topics like electoral law, decentralisation of the government or war crimes, soon decided that 'politics is not for them'. All of them lost some of their popularity along the way.

All this shows that sports and politics don't really mix.

It is easier for people to be united behind somebody making a play than somebody making a tax reform. Or somebody winning a medal than somebody winning the vote.
Somebody breaking a record than somebody breaking a promise.

Because it's not a game. Here you aren't playing with balls, you are playing with our lives.

Talk about it!

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