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From the poultry farm to Croatia’s all-time top goal scorer at the World Cup: Perisic writes history at Qatar 2022

When he was only 10 years old, Ivan Perisic went with his friends to a construction site to play hide and seek. It was at that moment when some of the workers decided to throw some garbage from the highest level of the building. The scraps just missed little Ivan’s head and only tore his shoulder.

“There were 10 centimetres which helped him live,” said his father, Ante. One of the most influential persons in Perisic’s life, Ante was the role model than little Ivan craved. Since the current Croatia player was only a little boy, Perisic’s father set up a poultry farm and tried to run a business. His son helped him take care of the chickens, but usually got bored quickly and went on to play football.

Therefore his nickname in native Croatia – Koka, which means chicken – stuck with Perisic even when he became a worldwide star. But his means were little when he was a kid, therefore Ante had to sell some of his poultry farm to finance Ivan’s move to Omis, a little town on the Adriatic Coast, to the larger hub of Split.

There, Perisic started playing at Hajduk, but never featured in a senior game, even if the team, a powerhouse in Croatia, recognised his talent. At only 17 years old, Perisic had to leave Croatia and move to France, accepting an offer from Sochaux, because his family was in dire straits financially.

“It was a difficult decision, but it was best for the family for Ivan to go to Sochaux. That at that moment everyone would get away from me and my troubles. The conditions were really good, Ivan received a good income, and my wife and daughter went to France with him,” said his father, Ante.

Ajax, Hamburg SV or Eintracht Frankfurt were interested in him, but eventually he chose Sochaux, because it felt like the right place to develop. Then he followed an unconventional path, playing for Club Brugge in Belgium, Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg in Germany before hitting the jackpot.

He moved to Inter Milan for a fee of €16 million, was loaned to Bayern Munich, where he won the UEFA Champions League and now is a regular for Tottenham Hotspur, in the Premier League.

But back to the past, Perisic saved the farm of his father, who eventually went bankrupt three years later, but also kickstarted his career, one which saw him become one of the most decorated Croatia players in history.

In fact, Perisic has been an integrant part of Croatia’s golden generation, especially due to his versatility, which enables him to play both as a defender or as a winger, adding an understandably important quality for Croatia.

The 33-year-old player, who will probably play for the last time in his career in the team at the FIFA World Cup, is the third most capped player in Croatia’s history, with 120 appearances and the second-highest goal scorer, with 33 goals, only 12 goals less than Davor Suker, the all-time leading goal scorer and the president of the Croatian Federation.

The latest goal for Perisic came at Qatar 2022, a superb header from a cross coming from the right side of the pitch, which the winger duly converted with a beautiful header from nearly 16 metres away from Japan’s goal.

It was the goal that tied the match with Japan, 1-1, which Croatia subsequently went and win on penalties, qualifying for the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup for the second consecutive time.

This was also Perisic’s sixth goal in his career at the FIFA World Cup, tying him with Davor Suker for the 42nd place on the top goal scorer list in the world football flagship competition.

“It’s amazing. I started playing football because of the tournament, because of games like this. The first thing was coming here and playing the game. Now, scoring the goal, it cannot be better,” said Perisic after the goal against Japan.

With Brazil coming next, the midfielder’s role will be even more important. But there is no pressure on Perisic to deliver – he will do what he does best and just maybe this once, he will have a chance. He usually makes them.

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