As days from the FIFA World Cup finale are getting by, people from around the world are wondering all kinds of questions about Croatia, such as its location, national history, the ethnicity of Croats, and other trivia about this magical country. And especially one question pops-out now and then in the last few days- what’s the deal with football in Croatia, how did things start in Croatia and so on? Don’t fear, we got some answers to that too, just read on!
The first and most recognizable football club was HAŠK (short form “Croatian academic sports club) founded in 1903 in Zagreb by a couple of college students from Zagreb. And HAŠK is the ancestor of the currently biggest and most popular Croatian football club, the symbol of Zagreb – Dinamo. HAŠK was playing its matches on the stadium that Dinamo uses today, and the stadium could hold up to 50 000 viewers who were a really impressive number taking in considerable time and place where this happened.
But the beginning of HAŠK was hard. Football players were training at the fair, which was located east of Draškovićeva Street in Zagreb, and in 1906, after HAŠK leased land in the area that now occupies Marulić Square, the first public football match in Croatia was held.
The Second World War slowed down the development of football as well as other sports in Croatia but failed to completely stop it. It should be said that the most famous players of HAŠK were Dragutin Friedrich, Stjepan Vrbančić, Ico Hitrec, and others.
The other football club, which in some ways was considered a city rival of HAŠK, was the PNIŠK or the First Football and Sports Club founded in the summer of 1903. The first match played by PNIŠK was against the FTC. The match was played in Budapest on October 1, 1905, and the result was 11-1 for the FTC.
The PNIŠK ceased to exist in 1909, after which, in 1911, a Citizens’ Club was established, which was joined by a large number of PNIŠK players.
Today’s Dinamo is one of the main symbols of Zagreb, and its fans are widely known by the name of Bad Blue Boys (often shortened to BBB).
But football has its strong roots in Dalmatia too. The biggest opposition to Dinamo Zagreb is the second biggest football club in Croatia, the soul of Split – Hajduk. Established in 1911 during the rising of national emotions in Dalmatia. The jersey of the club is traditionally white, and that is also the official color of the club. And just as Dinamo has Bad Blue Boys, Hajduk has its fanbase called Torcida.
Another club that is worth mentioning comes from the city of Rijeka in the Northern Adriatic and is simply named- Rijeka. Next, to Dinamo and Hajduk, Rijeka is also one of the more popular football clubs in Croatia.
The national team (as Croatian national football team, not the Yugoslavian national team which also consisted of many notable Croatian players) started to gain visibility in the early 90s, during the Homeland War era and fight for independence. First official friendly match the national team played in July 1992 in Australia. The first official match in one of the international competitions was Croatia qualifying for the European Championship in 1996. In Estonia, our national team won 2: 0 and got to the quarterfinals.
In 1998 at the World Championships in France, Croatia achieved the greatest success in its recent history (until the recent World Championship) – the national team won the third place and the bronze medal, and Davor Šuker was awarded the best scorer of the championship.
Croatia also competed in the 2002 and 2006 world championships, and in addition to 1996, also played at the European Championships in 2004 and 2008, when she also had great success in the quarterfinals.
World Championship in Russia in 2018 is a new beginning for Croatian national team, and we can’t wait to see what the Croatian team will win next – because we know they will!