We first published this series of articles six years ago. Then as now the aim is to develop an understanding of how that nationʼs history and experience contributed to the development of what has become a major problem in its football – one that threatens to tarnish Croatiaʼs experiences on the pitch. On the eve of the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, we think it timely to publish them again. Croatia will be entertained by Luiz Felipe Scolariʼs resurgent Brasilian side in São Paulo on June 12th – the opening match of Brasilʼs second World Cup. We hope Croatiaʼs fans will support their team with gusto while showing respect to their hosts.
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 8th 2008)
The formation of Dinamo Zagreb was more controversial. It was established at the end of World War II on June 9th 1945 following the punishing of pre-war Croatian clubs by the Yugoslav state by disbanding them and the traditions both footballing and culturally that they stood for. Three clubs in Zagreb – HAŠK,1 Građanski and Concordia – ceased existence at the end of the war.
Players from those clubs were split between Dinamo and Partizan Belgrade. Dinamo played in blue – the colour of Građanski. In 1969 Dinamo took a new emblem. Provocatively it was strikingly similar to that of Građanski. Nevertheless, the word Dinamo was associated with the previous government of President Tito and that led to name changes later, which were opposed tooth and nail by the traditionalists led by the club’s ultras, Bad Blue Boys.
They have won the Yugoslav championship nine times, although five of them were won by the previously disbanded clubs before the Second World War. Dinamo has already had greater success in the Croatian league with eleven titles. The national cup tells a similar story too – seven in Yugoslavia compared to nine in Croatia.
They never achieved the double in Yugoslavia, but have already bagged five in Croatia, including both of the last two seasons. They have almost achieved a monopoly on the Croatian league title, but the last time they won the Yugoslav title was in 1982 – a full decade before Red Star’s final triumph in that league. Their only European triumph was in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – now known as the UEFA Cup – in 1967, although they were runners-up in 1963.
Dinamo was again used for political purposes in the 1990s after the riot that contributed to the demise of Yugoslavia. Its name was changed to reflect the rise of Croatian nationalism. In 1992 it changed its name to HAŠK-Građanski, after two of the Zagreb clubs that were disbanded in 1945.
The following year the government of Croatian President Franjo Tuđman succeeded in getting the name changed again to Croatia Zagreb to reflect the image of Croatian nationalism that he favoured, but the team’s hardcore supporters, especially Bad Blue Boys never accepted Tuđman’s choice. They agitated until it was changed back to Dinamo Zagreb in February 2000.
The club’s academy is named after two former players with ties to the club – Ico Hitrec and Ratko Kacijan. Hitrec is a former HAŠK legend from the 1930s who embarrassed Spanish goalkeeping legend Ricardo Zamora – after whom La Liga’s goalkeeping award is named – with a brace against Real Madrid in 1931.
Hitrec is acknowledged as probably the best Croatian player in before World War II. He was also the first technical director of Dinamo. Meanwhile, Kacijan won the Yugoslav league with Dinamo in 1948. It was the new club’s first title. A decade earlier he won it with HAŠK. Dinamo is as important therefore tied to Croatia’s modern history and to its nationalism – warts and all.
1 HAŠK (Hrvatski Akademski Športski Klub) – Croatian Academic Sports Club – was founded in 1903.