The illustrated monograph by the head of the Split branch office of the CHF Branka Bezić-Filipović was presented to the Croatian community in the province of Ontario early this March, including a screening of a number of excerpts from the eponymous documentary film. The book was also presented in London, Ontario—home to numerous Hajduk enthusiasts. 

Branka Bezić-Filipović’s illustrated monograph Veterans of Hajduk was presented to the Croatian community in the province of Ontario early this March, including a screening of a number of excerpts from the eponymous documentary film.

The movie and book about the veterans of the Hajduk football (soccer) club continue on the theme of sports Mrs. Bezić has delved into in her previous works and the key role it has played among the Croatian emigrant communities. Sport has been and remains a channel for the expression of national identity and pride in one’s ethnic affiliation. Croatian athletes have always celebrated their athletic achievements with the Croatian tricolour, and similarly the players and fans of Hajduk have a particular affiliation with their white team colour.

The Veterans of Hajduk have been active since 1977 and have toured Europe and the entire world—from Sydney, Toronto and Chicago, to Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and other cities. The Veterans of Hajduk have always played without remuneration and have taken part in many humanitarian matches. They always felt that enjoyment, meeting new people, promoting the name of Hajduk and its many athletic achievements was important above all other considerations.

It was in this spirit that they launched their foreign tours. In wartime 1994 the Veterans of Hajduk played four matches in Toronto and its environs. This tour will be remembered for the friendly and athletic meeting with their colleagues from Croatia Toronto—itself a famous soccer club inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

The book promo was staged in Toronto at the premises of the Baka Gallery Café owned by John Marion, a businessman of Croatian extraction and the president of the Canadian Croatian Chamber of Commerce. Joining Hajduk fans and enthusiasts at the promo event were Croatian Ambassador in Ottawa Veselko Grubišić and Croatian General Consul in Mississauga Ljubinko Matešić. Also on hand was Member of Parliament Lynne Yelich, a Canadian proud of her Croatian heritage.

In her short address Mrs. Bezić related a number of anecdotes related to the writing of the book and noted the challenges she faced in compiling the truly comprehensive material require in the face of a dearth of written documentation pertaining to the Veterans of Hajduk in daily newspapers or official records. This led her to undertake the adventure of compiling stories and recollections concerning the club’s tours; photographs soon emerged and in the final tally there was sufficient material for a complete book that could faithfully document the activities of the White Jerseys.

The event also saw an auction of Hajduk memorabilia organised by Ivan Nižić and a book signing by the author. The book was also presented in London, Ontario—home to numerous Hajduk enthusiasts. Plans were also made to establish a Friends of Hajduk Club and to organise a traditional White Jersey Night.

During her stay among the Croatian community of Canada Branka Bezić Filipović also participated in meetings related to her primary activity. She met, among others, with Fra’ Tomislav Peko, organiser of an upcoming Catholic Youth Rally in Norval. Those interested in participating can apply at the Web site www.norvalyouthrally2013.com. The event promises to be a celebration of faith and youth with special guest star singer and songwriter Tatjana Matejaš Cameron, better known by her stage name Tajči, and Fra’ Damir Stojić.

Text by: Ana Bačić, Toronto