Divine cheers for Croatia from Tonganoxie

The Rev. Mark Goldasich holds a small version of the Croatian flag Friday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tonganoxie. The longtime Tonganoxie priest, who grew up in the Strawberry Hill district of Kansas City, Kan., is of Croatian descent. Goldasich has caught World Cup fever in rooting for the homeland, as have many in Strawberry Hill. Enlarge photo

July 14, 2018

The Rev. Mark Goldasich said he might need an iPad at the altar for his Mass at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tonganoxie.

After all, Croatia — the Goldasich family’s homeland — plays at 10 a.m. Sunday for the World Cup soccer championship.

Goldasich was joking about the technological assistance at the pulpit, but the longtime priest is all in when it comes to the Croatian national team.

“I would follow it when USA was in there,” Goldasich said about previous World Cups. “And Croatia usually got knocked out pretty early.

“But this year, yeah, I’ve been following it very closely. I thought Argentina would beat Croatia. They (Croatia) beat them. Oh my gosh. They keep going.”

Strawberry Hill proud

Down the road in Kansas City, Kan., Goldasich’s roots are planted in the Strawberry Hill community, an area known for its Croatian heritage.

“I grew up and went to school there,” he said. “I was ordained there. My whole family is all there.”

He went to Savior of the World, a seminary preparatory school, while most of his friends attended Bishop Ward High School.

Asked whether he joins his fellow Croatian Americans at gatherings in the Strawberry Hill area, he said he actually just watches in Tonganoxie.
“I have not been down there because I think they would say ‘Oh good, the priest is here, they’re guaranteed a win,” he said with a hearty laugh.

He has other motives for watching in the comfort of his home.

“I do because I’m so nervous,” he said. “I get up a lot and walk around.”

World Cup fever

His fellow fans have been getting into the spirit in KCK. He said people were wearing shirts that read “I’m not yelling, I’m Croatian.”

“We’re very loud people,” Goldasich said.

The local priest grew up going to the St. John’s Catholic Club in KCK. The establishment has six bowling lanes, food, drinks and more.

Goldasich was told the watch party crowds have been so big at St. John’s that chairs had been set up in the bowling alley approach lanes..

The establishment’s Facebook page shows many fans celebrating in their red-and-white checkered shirts, the dominant pattern in the country’s flag.

“It’s really been exciting for the community,” Goldasich said. “Before the World Cup, people didn’t know what Croatia was.”

Croatia was part of the European country of Yugoslavia from 1918 until 1991, when it declared independence and became its own country.

In World Cup play, Croatia defeated Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland before outlasting Denmark and then Russia in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals — both on penalty kicks. Croatia outlasted England, 2-1, Wednesday in the semifinals. The team takes on France in the World Cup championship Sunday in Russia.

“All these penalty kicks, oh my gosh, my heart can’t take it anymore,” Goldasich said.

Matchday food

So what authentic Croatian food might someone serve at a World Cup watch party?

Start with sarma, which is a cabbage roll with meat inside and then roll out the kobase.

“Some would call it ‘Polish’ sausage,” Goldasich quipped, “But it’s sauerkraut.”

You then need a side of Croatian potato salad, which is a potato salad served cold with onions, vinegar and oil.

To finish off the spread, Goladisch would serve some nut bread.

As for the drink of choice, slivovic or slivovitz is a popular selection, though he warned that the plum brandy is strong.

“It will take the rust off your car,” he joked.

Whatever is on the menu, soccer fans will be buzzing Sunday morning.

As for Goladsich, he’ll join in the fun after church.

“I’ll do my best to keep my mind on Mass,” he said with a laugh.

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