We owe an everlasting debt to the early pioneers of the Croatian community in Canberra who had the foresight to establish the Croatia Soccer Club in 1958.
In the early years, love of soccer was seen as an important way to preserve the Croatian national identity. Those pioneers found the game was the best vehicle for assimilation into Australian society and the more successful the club became on the sporting field, the more recognition was bestowed upon the Croatian community.
There were times when propaganda perpetrated by the Yugoslav government attempted to place Croatians in an unfavourable light in the eyes of the Australian public, making it all the more important that Croatians united to protect and preserve their heritage. To understand this, it is important to realise that most of the early Croatian immigrants were forced to leave their homeland because of their political beliefs.
Australia provided a new home and a new way of life. It represented everything they had wished for, and been denied in their homeland-democracy, equality and freedom of speech.
Despite the passion that remained in the hearts for their beloved Croatia, the love that was displayed for their adopted home, Australia was just as great.
The Croatia Soccer club from its foundation always welcomed various nationalities into its player personnel, coaching ranks, and social membership. It embraced the Australian multicultural vision from the outset.
Croatia Soccer Club entered the ACT Soccer Federation Second Division in 1959 and was promoted to the first division immediately the following year.
The end of 1960 saw ACT teams directed by the Executive to change national names to neutral names.
Soccer Club HOPE was registered and accepted by the ACT Soccer Executive, but great thought had been put into the name by the passionate Croatian community and in order to keep ties with their heritage, the name was an acronym for the Croatian Liberation movement.
It did not take Croatia (HOPE) long to become a force in the ACT competition and in 1962 won its first Premiership. That year Croatia completed an extraordinary and unprecedented demolition of all of its opponents by also winning the Top Four competition, the Federation Cup and the Robertson Cup.
We defended our premiership in great style in 1963 and in 1966 we celebrated the return of our name to Croatia (Deakin) by recording our third premiership in five years.
On November 11 1969 the Croatia Deakin Soccer Club premises were officially opened-the first of its kind in Canberra. A day that will long be remembered as a one of the most important days in our proud history.
Knowing the importance of the occasion the players in 1969 made sure that another premiership trophy would be displayed in this lovely new building.
The seventies provided further success and the significance of the new building was just being realised as it provided a place for all the new silverware being accumulated on a regular basis.
The Amoco Cup and the Federation Cup in 1972 were followed by another premiership in 1973.
The label of Cup kings was confirmed in 1974 with another Federation Cup victory.
In 1975 Croatia Deakin gained a historic 3-1 victory over Sydney Croatia in the Inaugural Final of the Croatian Australian Tournament held in Sydney.
Both the Ampol Cup and Federation Cup were added in 1978 and to finish of the decade another Premiership and Ampol Cup in 1979 symbolized 20 years of domination of Soccer in Canberra.
The first Trophy in the Eighties was the 1984 Federation Cup and when the early part of the decade did not provide the customary regular silverware for Deakin, there was no cause for alarm as the second part of the decade certainly more than made up for it.
The Cup kings tag returned to Deakin in 1985 by winning both the Jim Fraser Memorial Shield and the Federation Cup.
1986 saw the beginning of an unprecedented three premierships in a row for the Years 1986, 1987 and 1988. All the more remarkable was that Croatia was undefeated in the premiership in those three years, something that to this date has not been repeated.
1986 also saw the Federation cup remain at Deakin, while in 1987 we added the Ampol Cup Top Four to our collection.
1988 saw a historic end to an era by winning not only the premiership, but also adding the Ampol Cup Top Four and the ACT Illawarra Challenge.
It was an end of an era, as for the next few years Deakin would compete in the NSW State League as Canberra Croatia after taking over the Canberra City Griffins.