Careers

At age 6, Luka Modric was a refugee. Now he's leading Croatia to the World Cup Final

Luka Modric of Croatia celebrates following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Russia and Croatia at Fisht Stadium on July 7, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.
Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Luka Modric of Croatia celebrates following his sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Russia and Croatia at Fisht Stadium on July 7, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.

The world has watched in awe as Croatia battled their way through the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final and on Sunday, the team will take on France in the country's first World Cup championship. Much of Croatia's success can be attributed to the nation's "Golden Generation," made up of well-respected players like Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric.

As the Croatian team's captain, Modric has show tremendous leadership, providing excellent passes and crucial motivation during the team's several overtime appearances. He may have developed that strength under pressure during a uniquely challenging childhood.

When Modric was just six years old, his family became refugees. Yahoo Sports recounts that Serbian militants attacked Modric's hometown of Modrici, on December 8th, 1991. His grandfather was shot, his home was burned to the ground and his family was forced to flee for their lives.

Luka Modric of Croatia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between England and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Luka Modric of Croatia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between England and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.

"When the war started we became refugees, and it was a really tough time,” The Sun reports Modric saying in 2008. “I was six years old. These were really hard times. I remember them vividly, but it’s not something you want to remember or think about."

After being uprooted from their home, Modric and his family moved to the city of Zadar, Croatia, and struggled to make ends meet. "We lived in a hotel for many years as we struggled financially, but I always loved football," he recalls. "I remember my first shin pads had the Brazilian Ronaldo on them, and I loved them."

According to Canadian media organization The Loop, Modric grew up practicing soccer in empty parking lots and remembers hearing grenades in the background. But despite these difficulties, the captain says he is stronger today because of the challenges he has faced.

“The war made me stronger, it was a very hard time for me and my family," reports The Sun. "I don’t want to drag that with me forever, but I don’t want to forget about it either.”

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