National Football League
Bill Belichick receives Croatian citizenship, meets with soccer team ahead of Euros
National Football League

Bill Belichick receives Croatian citizenship, meets with soccer team ahead of Euros

Updated Jun. 5, 2024 11:28 a.m. ET

Instead of coaching a team through the NFL's offseason program, Bill Belichick has been traveling in his first season away from the sideline in 50 years.

Belichick's latest trip took him overseas to a place where he has a special connection. The former New England Patriots head coach visited Croatia earlier this week, taking a pair of important meetings as he officially became a citizen of the nation.

First, Belichick met with Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenković and president Zoran Milanović. They presented Belichick, who is of Croatian descent, with a certificate of nationality. He also received the Order of the Croatian Star, which featured the effigy of Franjo Bučar.

Belichick then hit the other football field, attending the Croatian men's national soccer team's match against North Macedonia in its penultimate friendly ahead of the 2024 Euros on Monday. Following Croatia's 3-0 win, Belichick spoke with the team.


"My grandparents came to the USA in 1910 from Draganić and had a difficult life, but that's why my father [Steve], also an American football coach, managed to live his American dream," Belichick said, according to a Croatian newspaper Večernji. "Yesterday, I became a Croatian citizen. Now I'm one of you."

In his final seasons with the Patriots, Belichick showed his pride in his Croatian heritage. He often wore a Croatian pin on his gameday attire as the league allowed players and coaches to celebrate their heritages beginning in 2022.

"I'm proud of my Croatian heritage, and I'm proud to wear it," Belichick told reporters that season. "I'm not in Croatia. I'm not a citizen, but it is a heritage that is half of my family. My mom was English. My dad was Croatian.

"So, for other Croatians, Coach [Nick] Saban, Coach [Pete] Carroll, and others of us that have that little bond, proud of it and glad to have the opportunity to wear it. And I've heard from some people across the ocean that they appreciate it and appreciate the recognition as well. Go, Croatia!"

Belichick has also been a noted fan of the Croatian men's national soccer team. He was so glued to the TV during Croatia's upset win over Brazil in the quarterfinal of the 2022 World Cup that he was the last person to arrive at the field for a Patriots practice. He was also passionately watching Croatia's matches in the 2018 World Cup, when it made a run to the final.

"I watched them and rooted hard for our team," Belichick said via Croatia Week. "I wear the jersey when the game is on TV for a little extra support, so I am very proud of the soccer team, of the handball team, the water polo team, and certainly great basketball players that have come out of there. I will see if we can find a couple [American] football players from Croatia, because I know there are some big, athletic kids there.

"I am proud of my heritage, it is something that will always resonate with me and I still stay in contact with my cousins and family members and relatives from Croatia. I am very proud of it."

Belichick, who has visited multiple college lacrosse teams, Washington's football team (where his son, Steve, coaches) and Nebraska's football team so far this offseason, is also in Croatia to be a special guest for the Sunset Sports Media Festival, which will be held from June 6-8.

Shortly after, the Croatian squad will begin group play with its first match in the 2024 Euros. That will be against Spain in Group B on Saturday, June 15 (noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). 


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