She went to Russia for the World Cup in Russia and conquered the World of football with her charm, beauty and humility. Now Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has become a darling of not only just soccer fans, but many other people in the world.
She first surfaced in the news and started trending on internet after she flew to the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi on July 1 in economy class with ‘ordinary’ fans who were going for the quarter-final showdown with Russia which won her admiration and lots of praise from soccer fans across the world.
“She likes the sport, and what she is doing now is normal for the president. She took a flight with ordinary people, greeted everyone. And I like it: we have a small country, we are like one team,” one of the Croatian fans told TASS.
Seated beside FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev in the VIP section, the first female president of Croatia was seen raising her hands and doing a little victory dance to celebrated Croatia’s second goal. She was even later seen celebrating the quarterfinal win over the hosts with the players in the locker room and video went viral.
The Balkan nation’s leader was seen in a video clip celebrating in front of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and in the players’ changing rooms after they knocked the hosts out 4-3 on penalties.
Although she did not watch the semi-final win over England due to the NATO summit in Brussels, she however still sent a video message of encouragement to the players and fans.
However the most iconic moment came during the final and at the award ceremony after France beat Croatia 4-2. The Croatian President once again won many admirers for her own performance in Moscow, where she stood in driving rain at the closing ceremony, smiled and hugged every player from both teams.
Grabar Kitarovic, clad in a red-and white Croatia soccer shirt, stood on the podium with Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron when the medals were given to the players.
While Putin was handed an umbrella, she stood soaked but smiling in the heavy rain, clearly delighted by Croatia’s brave showing. Aides eventually found her an umbrella.
And then there was that magical moment with Macron during the final match in which she congratulated the French president with pecks and light touches that melted many admirers with some wishing the two were a couple.
Fans all over the world have since been sending appreciative messages to the president commending her for her down-to-earth nature and passion and love for her country. Some also saw a display of a great sporting spirit as she hugged players from both teams
“Loved your gesture and sporting spirit during World Cup final game. You are the true epitome of sportsman spirit. Way to Go!” A fan posted on social media.
Later on Monday, the Croatian capital Zagreb staged a welcome celebration for the soccer team, which achieved the greatest success in the history of Croatian football, surpassing their performance 20 years ago when Croatia won the third place at the World Cup in France. She was even photographed personally driving the team in a bus after they arrived in Croatia.
WHO IS KOLINDA GRABAR-KITAROVIC?
The Croatian president, 50, Grabar-Kitarovic was born on April 29, 1968 in Rijeka in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia. She signed up to a student exchange programme while at school, spending a year at Los Alamos High School in New Mexico.
She later studied in Zagreb, Vienna, Washington DC and Havard, before completing her doctoral studies in her home country three years ago.
Grabar-Kitarovic is fluent in Croatian, English, Spanish and Portuguese, while she has some understanding of German, French and Italian.
Grabar-Kitarovic became the fourth President of Croatia in February 2015, the first woman to do so.
She has held multiple positions since joining the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in 1993, starting out as an adviser to the foreign ministry.
Following her studies in Washington DC, Grabar-Kitarovic returned to the Balkan country, joining their parliament.
Prior to becoming president, she worked as a Croatian Ambassador to the United States and as Assistant Secretary General of NATO before being elected by beating the current head of state Ivo Josipovic.