Tuesday, 16 April 2024
An Unforgettable Encounter: The Day I Met Zlatko Dalic, Croatia's Football Mastermind Gillie Sutherland

An Unforgettable Encounter: The Day I Met Zlatko Dalic, Croatia's Football Mastermind

Written by  Gillie Sutherland Jun 19, 2023

It was just like any other Monday morning.

Well, not quite, as I was flying back to Zagreb after a few days of work in Cyprus, so not exactly the standard commute of most people.

But I was sleepy, a little jaded from the night before, and more than a tad grumpy at the prospect of a further 3 1/2 hours on the bus to get home.

As usual, Zagreb airport was stress-free, no queues and not over-crowded.

Yet as I walked through customs and through the doors towards the exit, I’m met with a flurry of press and photographers everywhere. A palpable sense of excitement was in the air, and I was quite sure the welcoming committee wasn’t for me.

Nonetheless, this will always be remembered as the day I’d really wish I’d made more of an effort. Id literally just rolled out of bed, with just time to wash my face, brush my teeth and drink my coffee before heading to the airport.

For I did not know then who I was about to meet in the flesh.

All I knew was that it was someone special arriving, and of course, I was far too curious to remember I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

“What’s going on?”, I ask some friendly-looking camera operators.

Why did I not realise???

“It’s the Croatian Football Federation, arriving back from Rotterdam”.

Of course!

Is that really him...am I really here?

Suddenly I’m like an excitable young puppy, barely able to contain myself with the prospect of meeting some of my heroes.

My eyes are scanning around everywhere for Bruno, for Dominik, for Josko, and oh my god, what if Luka is here??

I don’t think I’m alone in my appreciation of the face that, as well as being National heroes, they are also the most handsome team in the World.

Then I realise there is a microphone stand being set up, someone is going to speak.

It’s only the Manager himself, Zlatko Dalic, giving a press conference, and I’m there for it. This can’t be happening.

So I grab my phone, entirely forgetting i might want to apply some lipgloss for this moment, and take some photos and videos.

As it draws to a close, I notice Dalic is happily signing an autograph for a young fan, but there’s a space just to the right of him, where there is no one standing.

I've got to get a selfie right?

I don’t even hesitate for long enough to say “carpe diem”, I’m already there, putting on my best smile and polite voice to ask for a photo.

He is more than happy to oblige and in that moment I may have just melted.

He is way better in the flesh, a real warmth to him, a twinkle in his eye, and I just want to give him a cuddle, but I stop myself, realising it’s probably a step too far.

I’m just ecstatic that we get to share a few words, before I reluctantly drag myself away.

It’s a real moment of magic. Divine timing. And I realise something really major shifted for me in that moment.

After over a decade at the top spot in my heart, Jose Mourinho has been relegated to second place. My new favourite Football Manager is Zlatko Dalic. Of course he is a Croatian.

I don’t care what anyone else says, he has done an insanely good job, this is an exceptional football team, history-making, and he certainly set my “heart on fire” today.

I’m going to remember this day forever. Not just another Monday I spent on planes and buses, but a very special day….

“The Day I Met Dalic”.


Read more Gillie here...


About The Author:

Gillie Sutherland grew up in the Lake District on the border between England and Scotland, but has now made Croatia her home. As well having her own online yoga and well-being business, Gillie plays an active role in the International Community here in Croatia, running events, activities and holidays. She is passionate about nature, wellness and adventure, swimming in the sea all year round and spending weekends hiking.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.ko-fi.com/gilliesutherland

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/wild-with-gillie

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gilliesutherland

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