Kayla Brdar, Ivana Mišljenović, Kate Tominac, Elizabeth Granić, Andrea Ivančić, Kassandra Bezjak, Ivona Ereiz, Stefanie Cikojević, Danijela Jezerinac, Jessica Benko, Kristen DaSilva, Nicole Smičiklas, Kristen Duić and Nicole Rudyk are fourteen wonderful girls who visited Croatia for the first time as a team to play three friendly matches with their peers from the Croatian Football Federation. The tour kicked off August 2nd with a match against the Agram Women’s Football Club before moving on to face the Split Women’s Football Club in Glavice near Sinj on the 7th of August. The match with ŽNK Rijeka – Jack Pot was played at the end of the tour, August 10th, when they were welcomed by Rijeka City Council president Dorotea Pešić-Bukovac.
They were joined on the tour by head coach Dean Smičiklas, assistant coach Predrag Ereiz, club manager and the chief Canadian organiser of the tour Kathy Benko and the players’ parents. Along with their athletic duties the Canadians also toured Zagreb, the Plitvice Lakes, Split, Sinj, Zadar, Opatija and Rijeka. Ahead of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day the group visited the heroic town of Knin, where they were received by the mayor, Josipa Rimac. Accompanied by their hosts from Knin, the head of the administrative department for self-government and social affairs Nenad Damjanović and the president of the City of Knin Sports Federation Jure Zečević, the young football players paid homage to Croatians who fell in defence of the country during the Homeland War of Independence by laying a wreath and lighting a candle at the memorial to Croatian victory in the 1995 Operation Storm on Ante Starčević Square, before ascending to Knin’s legendary fortress.
This culture and sports tour by Mississauga Croatia S.C. Girls 1997 was organised by the Croatian Heritage Foundation, with the help of several prominent sports professionals and football enthusiasts: Vinka Fabjanac of ŽNK Split, Višnja Torbar and Željko Kurevija of ŽNK Agram, Jelena Lovrić, Ivona Stazić and Bruno Koneštabo of ŽNK Rijeka – Jack Pot and Ivica Bilić and Robert Vučemil of NK Glavice.
The group was accompanied on the tour by organiser Lada Kanajet Šimić and culture programme department head Mirjana Piskulić of the Croatian Heritage Foundation.
The Mississauga Croatia S.C. Girls football club was founded in 2007 and currently plays in the Ontario South soccer league. The club is an active member of the Peel Halton soccer association, and in 2013 was the first women’s side in the club’s history to win the champion’s league. The club is a member of the Croatian National Soccer Federation of Canada and the USA, which pools twenty-one Croatian football clubs on the North American continent.
Text and photos by: Lada Kanajet Šimić