In its glorious history, Ajax has recruited players from 51 nationalities. Great players, many of whom played for their country. Their country is in the final tournament with a new generation of soccer players. Now that the 2022 World Cup has begun, we believe it is the right time to let some of our former players speak again. In this first episode: Joy Didulica.
“I’m really looking forward to the World Cup,” said Didulica from Australia. “I’m with Croatia and Orange, because the Netherlands is the birthplace of my three children, Angelina, Luca and Nicholas. They are very proud of that.”
Good luck in the future
Didulica came to Ajax in 1999 through the Australian club Melbourne Knights. He was loaned by Ajax to Germinal Beerschot Antwerp in the 2001/2002 season. On December 15, 2001, the goalkeeper made his debut under Ronald Koeman in the selection of Ajax. He defended Ajax’s goal in sixteen league and four Champions League matches.
The former Ajax, Austria Vienna, and AZ goalkeeper himself has had two recent tours to his name with the Croats, but he did play for the Australian national team in his younger years. “I was supposed to participate in the Olympic Games with Australia in 2000,” says Didulica of one of the coincidences that marked his life. However, a week before that I had broken my leg and was unable to participate in the event the Olympics. It was unfortunate at the time, but it has turned out to be a blessing for the future.”
Because that allowed him to play for Croatia as well. They knew that too. In his time as an Ajax player, from 1999 to 2003, the Croatian national team coach came to Amsterdam to talk to him and Zlatan about whether they wanted to play for Croatia. “Zlatan was a Croatian mother, and I have a Croatian father. In Australia we were part of a Croatian enclave. It was a kind of little Croatia and the national anthem really made me feel like a Croatian. Zlatan chose Sweden. We might have become world champions,” he says, laughing.
“In one of the international matches, I played the role of a football player.”
His Croatian heart beat faster when he made his debut on 28 April 2004. “Especially against Macedonia. I say specifically because in my hometown Geelong they are the biggest rivals Some of us were Croats. I think it should have been.”
Croatia won 1-0. After that he only played three more international matches, but was part of the selection that played in the 2004 European Championship and the 2006 World Cup. “There is no better feeling than to represent your country in such a final tournament. It is very special. If your country chooses you to represent them there. That is Absolutely beautiful. It doesn’t matter that I only played four caps. One was already enough, and then I made it as a footballer. That’s a dream come true. I also tell my kids ‘dream big’, because if I can become a Croatian international from Geelong, Australia Anything is possible. I hope they will listen to me.”
During the 2006 World Cup, Croatia happened to be in the group with Australia. “And of course I knew all those guys there. There were friends on that team. Viduka, Skoko. They didn’t blame me for choosing Croatia. They also said that if they were in the same situation, they would have made the same choice.”
If a player is selected for his country, that will do something for him that Didulica knows from experience: “I’ve increased in stature, I’ve enjoyed more respect as an international player and you’ve had more faith and motivation. It wasn’t easy, because even though I felt Croatian, I also felt That I’m a stranger in this choice. In fact, I didn’t feel at home anywhere. I think it’s the same if a Turkish or Moroccan player is going to play for Holland or a Dutch Moroccan is going to play for Morocco. I have sympathy for Morocco. They’re feeling lost didn’t affect the performance. This deeper feeling was important for Croatia. A country that has known many wars, in which many people died. You want to make people proud through football.”
“Lewis can carry this cup.”
Joey would also be proud if Louis van Gaal carried the trophy. “He won everything as a coach, except a world title with his country. Let him win it. I also like the Dutch 3-5-2 system of play with a lot of movement, really attractive football. But of course I see Croatia as a favourite. Captain Modric is as old as 37, but he can still play football very well. It’s a big team. They weren’t finalists in the last World Cup for nothing. But I also give Brazil a good chance.”
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.