Ivan Rakitic has admitted that choosing to play for Croatia over Switzerland in international football was his most difficult life decision.
The Sevilla midfielder, who has Croatian parents, was born and raised in Switzerland and represented the country all the way up to Under-21 level. However, he ultimately decided to represent Croatia, much to the annoyance of the Swiss football federation.
“I totally understand how they feel,” he told Goal.com.
“But I also hope they can understand my position because it is still not easy for me.
“Your heart wants to be in one place but your head is thinking something different that may be even better for you. I said to everyone who had helped me there, ‘Thank you very much for everything.’
“I know it’s not easy for them. They spent a lot of money to develop me and to help me on my way. But in the end I had to listen to my heart.”
Indeed, Rakatic, who left Schalke for Valencia last year, confessed that he struggled with the decision for a long time.
“It was the hardest moment for me,” he said.
“I had been playing for five-and-a-half years for Switzerland and went right through from the U15s to the U21s.
“I remember I had the opportunity to join the first team for two internationals, but something inside me said, ‘Just wait a little bit longer.’
“It was a really hard moment for me. One part of me, my heart really wanted to play for Croatia. All my family is from there and I had a real feeling of being Croatian.
“But another big part of me was saying, ‘Yeah, I am also from Switzerland. I am born here, all my friends are here. I started playing football here.’
“It was a very hard time for me and in the end I decided I needed to follow what my heart wanted me to do, and it was saying Croatia.
“This was the moment I decided and thought, ‘Yeah, I want to play for Croatia.'”
Rakitic’s Croatia kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
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