Man of all seasons
Updated: 2011-08-05 11:05
By Mike Peters (China Daily European Weekly)
Croatian Ambassador Ante Simonic says the Chinese have a strong identity and "know who they are". Mike Peters / China Daily
Posting helps Croatian ambassador see the bigger world picture
Editor's note: This is part of a monthly series on European ambassadors.
Arower cannot make much money or become famous by the sport, no matter how good he is at it, says Ante Simonic with a bit of regret in his voice. The lifelong athlete should know. Always active in sports, Croatia's ambassador to China was part of a championship national team in the former Yugoslavia.
"It's a hard sport," he says, but one that gave him both self-confidence and the social skills that a team effort demands. But while his career took him in other directions including professor, physician, scientist, legislator and deputy prime minister, sport has always been a part of his life.
He took up skiing and soccer as a young man, and years later after Croatia became independent, combined two of his passions when he became the team physician for a football team that became national champions.
As ambassador, he takes pride in an ongoing relationship between his country and Beijing Sports University. "The university produced 13 gold medals at the last Olympic Games, while Croatia produced one," he jokes. And when he took charge at the embassy in 2009, there was a slight change in the duties of the military attaches there.
Now, they regularly play soccer with the boss. "My wife and I came to China the year before the Olympics," he says. He had been to the country many times, but it was her first visit. After seeing Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai at that time, they were consumed by the energy around them.
"I have a friend from Hungary, a professor who now recruits music students from China to study in Texas," Simonic says. "He is fascinated by the young people here and says, 'You can't find young people in the US will to work that hard.' It's rather neo-Darwinistic, here people have to fight for their place in society.
"One sign of that is right in the street: new cars, old bicycles."
When the couple returned home Simonic went to see the president.
"He had been trying to get me to take a diplomatic post and I said: 'OK, I am ready. But I want China," he says.
He got his wish and his fascination has only increased.
A lifelong student of history and culture, Simonic's office features replicas of artifacts found in his country that date from Roman times.
He is impressed with the way Chinese people embrace their 5,000 years of traditions.
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