(Part Four) – Tunnel Vision
We believe that this series of articles are both timely and necessary, as understanding a nations culture and philosophy on and off the pitch is necessary for football to achieve its potential.
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar July 9th 2008)
Tito used football to settle scores. Teams that continued to play under the Ustaše were disbanded. Both Partisan Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb were new teams that received players from the disbanded teams.
Although Red Star was a new team as well it tended to deny its origins, but they inherited the stadium: some players, kit and offices of the pre-Second World War team Jugoslavija. Another team from Belgrade, BSK, was also disbanded by Tito’s government after the war.
Its assets were inherited by OFK Beograd – Belgrade – but unlike Red Star OFK openly acknowledge its roots and even tried to reclaim the name BSK in the 1950s. Red Star’s great rivals are FK Partisan. Franjo Tuđman learned how football could be used as President of Partisan in 1957.
Punishment through Football
Tito reserved harsh punishment for Zagreb teams after the war had been won. Građanski: Hrvatski Akademski Športski Klub1 (HAŠK) and Concordia were disbanded. Građanski’s manager the innovative Hungarian Márton Bukovi was inherited by the new club NK Dinamo Zagreb.
HAŠK in particular had been one of Croatia’s best pre-war teams. Ratko Kacian: Željko Čajkovski, Svetozar Peričić and Dragutin Lojen became regulars at Dinamo. Čajkovski had a decade long career at the new club, but some of the greatest Građanski players were sent to Belgrade to play for Partisan. They included Stjepan Bobek: Miroslav Brozović, Franjo Glaser and Florijan Matekalo.
Glaser also played for BSK before the war. He became a legend of Partisan as did Matekalo who went on to coach Partisan. Despite being Croatian Matekalo continued to live in Serbia after Croatian independence. He died there in May 1995. Dinamo inherited HAŠK’s stadium, played in the colours of Građanski and eventually adopted a club symbol very close to that of Građanski.
The Footballing Partisans
While Jugoslavija: BSK, Građanski, HAŠK and Concordia were punished by Tito and his government at the end of World War II for continuing to play by being disbanded, one Croatian team was treated with great deference by Tito. Hajduk Split was Tito’s favourite team and with good reason.
It was always a politically active team that could play attractive football. In the late 1920s they broke the domination of Belgrade and Zagreb clubs by winning the Yugoslav championship twice. Hajduk’s activities in the Second World War are particularly worthy of mention.
Where others collaborated and continued to play Hajduk steadfastly opposed the Italian occupation and sided with the partisans, eventually becoming a partisan army team – something Tito always held them in high esteem for.
In the 1970s Hajduk had its most successful period. They won three Yugoslavian championships and five consecutive cups. As Yugoslavia disintegrated they removed the red star from their kit. Dinamo went one stage further. In 1992 they asserted their Croatian identity by changing their name to HAŠK-Građanski, but it didn’t last.
Franjo Tuđman severed ties with the remnants of Yugoslavia in 1991, declaring Croatia independent. The wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina lasted until 1995. Croatian nationalism was rekindled by events at the Maksomir Stadium on May 13th 1990.
Tuđman knew the power of football and how it could be used to bolster the cause of Croatia. Dinamo’s name was changed to Croatia-Zagreb in 1993 at Tuđman’s instigation. It was never accepted by Dinamo’s supporters and in 2000 the club reclaimed its name of Dinamo.
Tito’s vision of a federal Yugoslavia was dead. Tuđman died in 1999 – still President of Croatia. His legacy is controversial. The War Crimes Tribunal in Den Haag would almost certainly have indicted him had he lived, but in Croatia Tuđman is revered. Despite accusations of anti-Semitism and war crimes regarding the suppression of Serbs in Krajina and also the apparent deal with Milošević to carve up Bosnian territory between them, ultimately Tuđman’s vision proved the more durable.
Tito’s vision of a federal republic and for football too could not survive his passing by much, whereas almost a decade after his death Tuđman’s dream of an independent Croatia is here to stay. They have the more successful national football team too.
1 Croatia Academic Sport’s Club.