He was teary-eyed this morning upon hearing that Croatia fail in their 2018 World Cup championship campaign.
“Dad, what happen to Luka (Modric),” he repeatedly asked me. I know it’s hard for him being an avid fan of the Real Madrid midfielder. He has been following Croatia’s games since the start of World Cup 2018 in June.
He preferred the Croats outside the choices of his Mommy – which was Russia, and his Daddy – which was Germany, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain.
Luka Modric fails to lift the 2018 World Cup trophy. But he leaves a lasting impact in world football. Not because of his Golden Ball award, but because of how he understand football beyond a game on the pitch.
He is the story of the tournament. He is the embodiment of sports. He represents that idea of that one player who could make a difference – for himself, for his family, for his team and for his country.
He is not in the list of the top 25 highest-paid players in the world. He does not appear to have any headline personal sponsors. He had to fight those reservations about his small frame.
But watching him play is like an enchantment. It’s like being drawn into a good old music. He is the conductor that knits every note, melody, and instrument to chime together to create a masterpiece.
He is the ultimate high-grade component – the player who drives the player, and the player who scores the goal. The part that makes every other part function with more vim and more precision.
Who would have thought that Croatia, a nation of 4.5 million people, could reached this far? But Modric has been the driving force behind Croatia’s run up to the finals.
His is the story of every one of us — of struggles, of sacrifices and of hardships. He becomes a war refugee when he was six years old. His grandfather was shot, his home razed, and his family was forced to flee for their lives.
Modric grew up practicing soccer in empty parking lots and remembers hearing grenades in the background. But despite these difficulties, the Real Madrid midfielder says he is stronger today because of the challenges he has faced.
He is not the gaudy and showy type like other football superstars. He is uncomplicated, unflashy and, for some time, under-appreciated.
From Dinamo to Tottenham to Madrid, from three Champions Leagues in a row to the World Cup final, he has glided into the Ballon d’Or reckoning for 2018 in much the same unassuming way as he cruises around a football pitch.
Winning the World Cup for Croatia would surely make him the favorite to end Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s dominance in football’s top individual prize.
But Modric sums up what every football fan wants to say after France beat Croatia 4-2. He echoes the biggest lesson for all who suffer defeat from the biggest game of their life.
And perhaps he answers my son’s question when he said: —
“We played well. We were the better team. But sometimes better teams don’t win.”