Wednesday, December 12, 2018 | ePaper

Modric, from Croatian war child to Ballon d'Or winner

  • Print


Olympique Lyonnais' Ada Hegerberg with the Women's Ballon d'Or (center) poses with Real Madrid's Luka Modric, with the Ballon d'Or (left) and Paris St Germain's Kylian Mbappe with the Kopa Trophy (right) during the Golden Ball award ceremony at the

AFP, Croatia :
Luka Modric's journey from Croatian war child to the world's best footballer was celebrated Monday when the Real Madrid midfielder hoisted the Ballon d'Or.
A national hero in his home country and crowned the best player on the planet, Modric was rewarded for his key role in Croatia's historic run to the World Cup final and his club Real Madrid's third straight Champions League trophy.
"It's a unique feeling. I'm happy, proud and honoured," said Modric, who also won the FIFA Player of the Year award in September.
The star-studded Paris ceremony could hardly be further removed from Modric's early years as a child refugee, fleeing the burned-out shell of a remote Croatian cottage where he spent part of his childhood.
Hidden in the folds of Velebit mountain, with the nearest neighbours several kilometres away, trees now grow inside the roofless ruin and a sign warns of "Mines - Keep out!"
The player's grandfather, also named Luka, lived in the house, lying on a mountain road winding through the Modrici hamlet.
His grandfather was killed by Serb forces, the house was burned and the family fled to the coastal town of Zadar, some 40 kilometres (19 miles) away.
It was there that Modric, born in 1985, began his footballing odyssey, drawing attention for the first time to his budding abilities.
"I heard about a little hyperactive boy constantly playing with a football in the corridor of a refugee hotel, even going to sleep with it," said Josip Bajlo, who was then coach at the First Division club NK Zadar.
As soon as Bajlo saw Modric play he signed him up for the club's football school, where he immediately stood out.
"He was an idol to his generation, a leader, a favourite," Bajlo told AFP earlier this year.
The 1991-1995 war with Serb rebels, during which Zadar and the surrounding region were heavily shelled, toughened Modric, according to those close to him.
"It happened a million times that we were going to training as the shells were falling, and we were running to shelters," said childhood friend Marijan Buljat, who trained and played with Modric while growing up.
Modric left Zadar, where he remains a legend, for Dinamo Zagreb in 2000 and then joined English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in 2008. After a bidding war he was snapped up by Real Madrid in 2012.
But his popularity in Croatia and his image as a modest family man was tarnished by his testimony last year during the multi-million-euro corruption trial of former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic.

More News For this Category

David Willey returns to ODIs

Ahead of the three-match Test series against Windies in January, England have named an unchanged 15-man squad from the one which finished the successful tour of Sri Lanka recently.Following the

Villarreal, Valencia and Athletic struggling in Spain

AP, Madrid :Traditional Spanish clubs Villarreal, Valencia, and Athletic Bilbao entered the season with high hopes, looking to make a run against the powerful trio of Real Madrid, Barcelona and

Badminton's Lee reveals tears over cancer diagnosis

AFP, Kuala Lumpur :Malaysian badminton great Lee Chong Wei has revealed how he broke down in tears after learning he had nose cancer - and detailed the "nightmare" treatment that

Members of Bangladesh Under-15 Football team passing their time at a swimming pool in Thailand on Tuesday.

Members of Bangladesh Under-15 Football team passing their time at a swimming pool in Thailand on Tuesday.

Barcelona express worry about La Liga match in USA

AFP, Barcelona :Barcelona have withdrawn their wish to play a first ever La Liga game in the Unites States until all parties agree with the idea, the club announced on

Westbrook, George spark as Thunder mute Jazz

Westbrook, George spark as Thunder mute Jazz

AFP, Los Angeles :Paul George led the scoring with 31 points while Russell Westbrook bagged his sixth triple-double of the season on Monday as the Oklahoma City Thunder downed the

Maintain polls atmosphere

Staff Reporter :Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda on Tuesday instructed the judicial magistrates to maintain election atmosphere and not to allow anyone or group to destabilise the heat

President of Bangladesh Badminton Federation and Secretary of Ministry of Information Md Abdul Malek inaugurating the Younex-Sunrise International Badminton Tournament by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Shaheed Tajuddin Indoor Stadium on Tuesday.

President of Bangladesh Badminton Federation and Secretary of Ministry of Information Md Abdul Malek inaugurating the Younex-Sunrise International Badminton Tournament by releasing the balloons as the chief guest at the Shaheed Tajuddin Indoor Stadium on Tuesday.

City starlet Foden signs new contract

City starlet Foden signs new contract

Manchester City's highly-rated young midfielder Phil Foden has signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal with the Premier League champions the club announced on Monday.Foden is regarded as one of the brightest

Dananjaya's bowling action found to be illegal

Sri Lanka off-spinner Akila Dananjaya has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect after the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Monday that an independent assessment has