Sunday, August 17, 2008

American Hooligan

I recently got home and went to my favorite bar to see some of my friends and find out about going to the soccer game this week in Rijeka, which is about an hour away by car. I see my friend Matija and we chat for a few. I inquire about the game. "You want to go to game? He asks. "Yeah, and this time I would like to see it."

Last year, right when I moved here, I was was walking around Pula and found a cool bar named the Mushroom bar, which was tucked away from the main walkway. I walked in and had a beer and started to talking to some of the guys there. I see that there are a couple of Hajduk posters, Hajduk is the 2nd biggest team in the Croatian League 1, behind Dynamo Zagreb, and I ask if they are playing the game on TV on Sunday. He tells me that the Mushroom bar is the Hajduk fan club bar of Pula and a bunch of the guys are going to the game in Rijeka on Saturday night and he asks if I want to go. "Yeah, totally." I am fired up to go the game, as Hajduk is my favorite team. (When my girlfriend and I were still living in Italy and going to move to Croatia, she had a job offer in Split and we went to the city for the interview and to check it out. Loved the city and found out that the team is Hajduk, so that was my new team. Job fell through and we moved to Pula instead, which is awesome, but my team was still Hajduk) On the day of the game I walk to where the bus is picking us up and meet the rest of the fan club. Have a few beers in the parking lot and in the bus, but not enough to get really drunk. Get to the game and the stadium is packed. I wore my Hajduk shirt, which turned out to be a bad call. Turns out the game was on high alert, as the police were informed that there was going to be a bunch of Hooligans from Split. We are walking in next to a bunch of other Hajduk fans, not with us, who are singing and pretty drunk. A policeman comes over and grabs them and then about 8 of our group, there were about 20, including me. The policeman looks at the shirt and shoves me into a line with other Hajduk fans. A van comes and they load us all in, as we protest not being drunk, but the other guys are pretty rowdy. Damn shirt. There are quite a few rowdy and hooligan type Hajduk fans and the fans of Dynamo Zagreb, Hajduk's rival, were recently voted the worst soccer hooligans in all of Europe. Well, the van takes us to a police station and we are all herded in a big room. As we are all giving our ID's the guy writing all of our names down gives me a double take after looking at my California driver's license. In the room there are about 40 guys and all are singing Hajduk songs as we got taken out of the stadium because we were apparently trouble. I turn out to be a novelty, since I am an American as a bunch of the guys come and talk to me. I'm bummed to be in a Croatian holding cell for the game and more bummed to miss the game. The time was spent just chatting and smoking and every once in a while a sadistic guard would come and tell us that Rijeka had just scored and then he would laugh. Wonderful. After the game is over, Hajduk lost 4-0, we are all taken back to the stadium and the bus is still there waiting for our guys to get out. One of the guys I had met was hanging out the window and sees me getting out of the police van and yells, "hey American Hooligan!" I'm happy to be out of the jail, so I just smile. We go home and at least I have a good story.

Just got a call from my buddy, who says we will be leaving at 5 pm today to go eat something have a couple of beers in Rijeka and then go to the game. I will be leaving my Hajduk shirt at home this time.

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