BOBAN, GENTLEMAN SUPERSTAR
One popular rhyme might have it that little boys are made of slugs and
but when it comes to champions, well, crystalline class generally
accounts for a
large portion of their genetic heritage.
Zvonimir Boban is one such champion. Just when it looked as though his
up at Milan, the 31-year-old Croatian settled under the management of
Zaccheroni and produced the stuff which was to change the face of the
on to win his fourth and most prized Scudetto with the club.
Zvone, no foreign player has won more than you in the history of the
does that mean to you?
"Thats true if you count the Scudetti, but not all the cups... Anyway,
it makes me
proud. Its a young mans dream come true. I know I cant compare myself
to some of
the players who have come before me, but I am thrilled to have won so
much here. I
think I have in part repaid my dept to this club."
You have been in Italy since 1991. In what way and to what extent has
changed you, both as a footballer and as a man?
"I have both gained and changed a lot. Not only have I developed as a
but I have also learned a lot about life. In Croatia we tend to be very
in tradition whereas Italy has moved on. Italy has opened more doors."
You once said, "Croatia is my country, Italy is my home." What did you
"Its the truth. Milan is my home; it is the club I have played longest
for and to whom
I have dedicated the greater part of my career. That doesnt mean I have
my roots. When I play for my country, I play for Croatia and this
remains my strongest
bond, professionally speaking anyway."
You were the unquestioned leader of the national team. How much of a
you at Milan?
"I was captain of the national team which I made a pretty good job of.
are always on the look-out for a leader, for someone who is willing to
responsibility and lead the side. The captain is in charge. Here at
Milan its different
with everyone taking on a huge share of responsibility thanks to a high
professionalism and a sense of belonging. The leader at Milan is
Maldini. He can really sway the team thanks to his charisma and talent."
You once described coming third in France 98 as the best moment in your
Does that still hold true?
"No, not any more because the last Scudetto filled me with an
After two years of suffering, it came as a total relief, not just for me
but also for Paolo,
Demetrio, Seba and Billy."
Zvone, when you talk about your country your eyes light up. Where does
nationalism stem from?
Croatia has been under rule for 12 centuries and in wartime we have
always had to
defend ourselves from the Serbs, so who can blame me for having such
feelings? Nationalism is fine when its all to do with loving your
country but it must
never include hating others. Unfortunately there is a tendency to
with chauvinism, or worse still, with Nazism, which have absolutely
nothing to do with
it. I truly love my country, as you love yours, so we are all
nationalists even if many
people pretend not to be.
But the Italians arent as patriotic as the Croatians...
"Weve just recently been at war, its different.
A few days ago a new Croatian Prime Minister was elected. You were very
attached to Tudjman, who was almost demonised in the west.
Yes, they were obviously uncertain about him and, after all, Croatia is
the rest of the
worlds unwanted child. Yugoslavia was created by the super powers of
this world and
then that power was given to Serbia. Tudjman ruined something they
created and for
this reason they have never trusted him. Our president would have given
his life for
his country and did so for 30 years; he stripped himself of his
decorations, he was
persecuted and during World War II he was a member of the resistance.
For us he is
the greatest Croatian in our history and well always be grateful to
him. He was no
dictator, just an old-fashioned politician who had a state to create. He
where others have failed; Bismark and Garibaldi have become heroes but
Tudjman? It was because Croatia didnt carry enough weight within
it fought for independence and freedom.
Did you know him well?
I knew him. He worshiped all champions who upheld the honour of his
What did this situation mean to you as a child?
I have always dreamed about a free Croatia but then it was just a
utopia, a dream
that could never come true while living under the grip of a regime.
Would you like to go into politics once you retire from football?
Aristotle said: "We are all political animals", though I dont think
about that too
Do you ever get fed up with being known as one of the games
No. I dont consider myself an intellectual. I just try to gather as
much knowledge as I
can from life.
Can you tell us why, at the age of 30, you have enrolled at university?
I have signed up for my first year of a history degree at Zagreb
University. Its a
passion of mine. My first thoughts are always for my work, but since I
have always felt
passionately about history, I wanted to explore the subject further. I
think if you keep
trying to improve yourself and your knowledge, youll have a better
So if you had to take just one book with you to a desert island, which
Fyodor Dostoevskys Brothers Karamazov. It is a fantastic book, from a
point of view.
And how about your favourite film and song?
Definitely Braveheart, for the film. It inspires so many feelings and
strong emotions. It
also happens to be a great story. As for a song, Id choose a Croatian
Gabbiano e Dio. Otherwise, I like Un piccolo grande amore and
Ancora, by De
On football, is there one opponent whom you respect above all others?
Moreno Torricelli, whos now with Fiorentina.
How about a team-mate?
Savicevic and Maldini. But Id better say Seba Rossi too; otherwise he
If you could choose to live in a different era, which would it be and
I have always been fascinated by the civilisations that created us in
so many ways,
such as Greek, Roman and Egyptian, but the Florentine Renaissance also
Weve also noticed that you take an active interest in fashion...
Yes. Dressing well seems to be in Italians ***. I really like
shopping at Etro, which
manages to combine classic English elegance with Italian taste. Having
said that, I
do go through phases. Im quite capable of living in jeans for a
fortnight, but I might
follow that by wearing a tie for a month... I do like to look my best if
I have to attend
a function, but otherwise I prefer to dress casually.
Zvone do you remember your first football pitch?
It was a small pitch only five metres from our home and it was all dirt.
Who was your idol?
I never had any idols.
Who did you support as a boy?
I was and still am a fan of Dinamo Zagreb.
Did you have posters of footballers on your bedroom wall?
There was one of Bruce Lee.
The most important match of your career...
It was in Athens against Barcelona and then there was the World Cup
Is there one youd rather forget?
Yes, the 6-1 defeat against Juve in front of our own fans. Now that was
The most important victory...
With Milan it was the match last May against Perugia and the one in
Athens. For my
country it was the third place match in the World Cup against Holland.
The best goal you ever scored...
It was at Lecce in the opening match of the season, my second at the
club. I kept the
ball up and knocked it over the head of a defender and hit a volley into
To which coach do you owe the most...
I owe a lot to Blazevic. He made me captain at 18 years of age.
What would you have done if you hadnt become a footballer?
I would have still been involved in sport and then gone to university,
possibly to study
Literature. As a boy I was more romantic. Now Im studying history.
Your ideal holiday...
In a boat cruising round the Croatian islands, each is different from
the other. The
landscape is extraordinary.
Your ideal evening.
I have two ideal evenings. One is with Leonarda and Marja and the other
And the best form of relaxation...
Playing tennis with friends.
What is your idea of happiness?
Life is an endless search for happiness. In this respect happiness is
But I can consider myself a happy man. I am fortunate in that I am able
forget terrible things very quickly and always look for the nicer
What qualities must friends possess?
To not fail in the basic things in life, like honesty and sincerity. The
odd lie is
acceptable, but never among close friends. The rest is common sense.
How about women?
Femininity. It is possible to be beautiful without being feminine...
Lets change the subject. What is your favourite dish?
Pasta with tomato sauce.
Which part of Milan do you like the most?
I like Brera.
Can you tell me one good thing and one bad thing about the Milanese...
They are very nice, they laugh and tell jokes. But they are always in
such a hurry.
Is there anything that really annoys you?
When people dont know their place.
The athlete you most admire...
I have always looked up to Carl Lewis.
The best sports-person of all time...
Are you happy to remember the past or do you try and cancel it out?
Its not possible to live on memories alone, but it is easier to look
forward if you can
recollect the past. I like to remember the good times by looking at
If you were in charge of the world what is the first thing you would do?
I would look for the means to offer peace. But I think it ...
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