Clint Eastwood, Croatia and zero fear of penalties

Now that it’s fashionable to make documentaries about soccer, Croatia deserves to be the protagonist of at least one. It is a selection that has stories to be told from different angles, from different narratives. For example, a script could well be written that strictly addresses what is related to his mettle to shoot penalties in decisive instances of a World Cup. To approach that Balkan character, One suggestion is the use of extreme close ups in the eyes of the shooters, footballers who seem to have been trained by Clint Eastwood to stand in front of the rival goal as gunmen incorruptible to any emotion whatever the scenario.

In both the spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone and the westerns themselves directed by Eastwood, Mr. Clint is portrayed as a man indifferent to fear when shot at his head or challenged to a duel. Fear does not go with him. On the other hand, yes, the absolute security to face his destiny because he knows he is stronger than the circumstance itself. In Joe Kidd (1972), by John Sturges, a thug warns him that he will kill him but Eastwood doesn’t flinch, he even takes the trouble to light a cigarette to hold his gaze and reply that he hopefully carries out the threat. As well as that scene, several more are found in his filmography playing cowboy characters. That repertoire of images as an apparently soulless gunman has his gaze as its hallmark, a look so firm and full of confidence in his being that it imposes and dominates whoever dares to see it, even in the case of the spectator.

It doesn’t matter if you grow old or soften your heart. When Eastwood is confronted by life and his adversities, he assumes the complexity, looking him in the face to let him know that time takes its toll with wrinkles on the skin, not the integrity that forges the hardship of the journey and survival. That can be seen in his masterpiece The Unforgivables (1992), film where we see him as a retired and old contract killer who is not tempted when Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) thinks he has the advantage over an elderly gunslinger. Putting down a guy who has a complete notion of what it means to survive is a mistake for whoever does it.

If someone knows about survival, the Croats raise their hands. His instincts, so developed and honed in his nation’s contemporary history, include soccer. That kick given to a policeman by Zvonimir Boban during the police repression against Croatian fans in the match between Red Star and Dinamo Zagreb, held in May 1990, became a kind of genetic code for all Croatian boys who want to be professional footballers. . It was not a simple blow, but a symbolic attitude against abusive authority. What can you be afraid of after confronting the authority figure and belittling it?

Said kick took place on a court, stage where the Croats learned to become strong so as not to fear anything that happened on a pitch. In the collective unconscious, the opposing goalkeeper is a metaphor for the policeman knocked out by Boban and the penalty is the representation of that kick to reaffirm that indecision and panic are alien to his nature at critical moments.

In Russia 2018 they eliminated Denmark and the host team in a penalty shootout. In Qatar 2022 they repeated that story against Japan and Brazil. There are two consecutive World Cups placing the ball on top of the stain and looking like Clint Eastwood at the rival goal: sure to defeat fate. in their boots, the Croats also confirm that the penalty is not a toss, but a shot to kill or be killed, and they have convinced themselves that the one who must fall is the adversary.

Maya Yoshida, Kaoru Mitoma, Takumi Minamino, Marquinhos and Rodrygo were the antithesis of Mario Pasalic, Marcelo Brozovic, Nikola Vlasic, Mislav Orsic, Luka Modric and Lovro Majer; Japanese and Brazilians who missed their shots they lined up harboring anguish and mortification in their eyes, defeated with anticipation. As soon as the ball was placed on the grass for execution, another Croatian look was in charge of molding them as insecure and imprecise beings before connecting with the round. It was Dominik Livakovic, an archer with nerves of steel and a poise mind who also seems to have been trained by the bounty hunters of the old west that Eastwood played in the movies.

As Eastwood witnesses the final duel in for a few more dollars (1965) admiring the best gunfighter, the soccer fan imitates that action and feeling in relation to Croatian players in penalty shootouts. Beyond appreciating the shape of the shot, what steals astonishment is his immunity to fear, that fear that imprisons so many footballers even for daring to ask for the ball.

In other universes, the Croats are possibly great western characters and Clint Eastwood a penalty shooter extraordinaire. They have something in common between fiction and reality to carry it out with good dividends: the fear of doom does not exist in their DNA. The one-on-one confrontation facing each other is a battle won for their cause.

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Clint Eastwood, Croatia and zero fear of penalties


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