Croatia is having a moment. The country’s soccer team shocked the world by making it to the World Cup Final before ultimately falling to France on Sunday; its president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, has won hearts around the globe for her enthusiastic support; and, perhaps best of all, in Milwaukee next weekend, it’s Croatian Fest 2018.
If, after watching Luka Modric and Vatreni advance through the tournament, you find that you’ve caught both Croatian Fever and Futbol Fever, the Women’s Soccer Club has your combination cure. On Saturday, July 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the WSC is hosting the first Croatian Festival Soccer Tournament.
The tourney will take place at Croatian Park, 9100 S. 76th St. in Franklin, during the festival, which is free and runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., celebrating Croatian culture with authentic food, music and other activities.
This is the first time the WSC – an organization that promotes soccer, community and friendship around Southeastern Wisconsin – has partnered with Milwaukee Croatians to hold a tournament during the festival. The WSC is organizing the event, and members of the Croatian Eagles Soccer Club will chalk and prepare the fields.
The cost to register a team is $200; the teams can be women’s-only or coed (all players must be at least 21 years old). The games are 6v6, the rosters are limited to eight players and, for the coed squads, there must be at least two women on the field at all times. Players can only register with one team.
Prizes will be awarded to the winners and each team will receive two free pitchers of beer. Participating in the tournament includes entry into Croatian Fest, which is open to the public, so players are encouraged to bring their friends and family.
The partnership is mutually beneficial, says WSC organizer Kelly Burns. The Women’s Soccer Club brings people to the tournament, and they then support Croatian Park and the Eagles by attending the festival. "Plus, it’s a fun way for our members to learn more about Croatian culture," she says.
"The appeal is that soccer is fun," Burns says. "This tournament is not super-competitive, but just a way to meet new people and experience what Croatia in Wisconsin has to offer."
The WSC, a division of Women’s Charities, Inc., was founded in 1999 by Ginny McCullough to provide opportunities and promote adult women’s soccer without regard to players’ experience, skill level, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic status. It’s run by McCullough and a dedicated team of volunteers, who get their member fees waived by setting up fundraisers, organizing schedules, recruiting and giving back to the community through the WSC’s Get Involved program.
"Ginny is all about building the community up by cultivating friendships within the club and using our resources to help communities outside of our own," Burns says, mentioning the WSC's Shoes for Africa shoe drive earlier this year.
Typically, the club hosts two annual tournaments, the Turkey Tourney at Uihlein Soccer Park around Thanksgiving and a Marquette Domes quasi-indoor tournament at Valley Fields in January.
"The unique thing about (Croatian Festival Soccer Tournament) is that it’s our first coed tournament," Burns says. "The cost breaks down to $25 a person, with six on the field and two subs. Not bad!"
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.