The Perfect Defensive System # 1

In this new series called The Perfect Defensive System,we invite you the reader to contribute posts on what you think is the best defensive...
Dave Fox
Freelance writer and football obsessive, can be contacted via Twitter @davefox990

Latest Posts

Do Premier League Players Have a Say in Their Transfers?

Americans know that in sports, there is a widespread culture where players don’t have a final say in their destinies, with exceedingly rare exceptions.However,...

The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and it’s impact on Football

Not in Kansas AnymoreA century ago, amidst the poultry and pig farms in a small corner of Kansas, a local doctor became inundated...

The Best Football Books of 2020

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2021, we have compiled a list of the best...

Big Sam’s tactics against Liverpool show the template to stifle Klopp’s side

Two complete opposites came up in the congested Christmas fixture list, as Liverpool in great form sitting at the top of the table look...

The Meteoric Rise of RB Leipzig: From Tier Five Football to the Champions League

The best football clubs in the world usually have a storied history, years of success, and generations of fans. However, one of the best...

4 players Man United can target in January transfer window to challenge for the title

Manchester United after an up and down start to the season find themselves 5 points behind Liverpool with a game in hand. After being...

The Return of Strike Partnerships in the Premier League? Part 1

No matter the make-up, the notion of a strike partnership – two out-and-out attackers, often with very different strengths and calling cards, working seamlessly...

Football Books

The Best Football Books of 2020

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2021, we have compiled a list of the best...

Foul- The Beautiful Game, An Ugly Truth [Book Excerpt]

The clip-clop of football boot studs on concrete echoed through the tunnel over the hum of distant crowd noise. A drenched team of players...

Best Football Analytics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football analytics books for the casual football fan. Football analytics and data science/machine learning in general...

The Best Football Books of 2019

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2020, we have compiled a list of the best...

The Best Football Books of 2018

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2019, we have compiled a list of the best...

The Football match which started a war

Plenty of football stadiums have statues standing outside of them. There’s strange one here and there (Michael Jackson formerly outside Craven Cottage springs to mind, looking like a cheap toy from a Happy Meal) but most are what you would expect: legendary managers, team captains, record goalscorers. One statue that may strike you as unexpected can be found outside the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, home to Dinamo Zagreb. It depicts neither player nor manager, but rather three soldiers. The inscription reads: “to the fans of the club, who started the war with Serbia at this ground on May 13th, 1990”. It is a reference to the events of a football match in which the game took a back seat and Zvonimir Boban took centre stage – with a kick that started a war.

First, some background. By the time that now-infamous match between Boban’s Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade took place, Yugoslavia was already perched on the brink of the abyss of war it would sink into for the next five years. The Republic of Croatia had held elections a month before the game and pro-independence candidate Franjo Tujdman was the victor. Tujdman and his allies, familiar with the moderate, urbanite Serbs living in the big Croatian cities like Zagreb,  fatally underestimated the reaction of Serbs elsewhere in the country who saw Tujdman’s victory as a threat to their way of life. Indeed, there had been a media campaign waged from Belgrade which claimed that the Serbs in Croatia lived under the threat of genocide. This propaganda served only to stir up ethnic tensions which hardly needed stirring: many Serbs in Croatia already saw Tujdman’s unapologetic Croatian nationalism as a creeping fascism. During Tito’s reign in charge of Yugoslavia, national political rights were suppressed – Croat, Serb, Montenegrin, Albanian, Bosnian, Muslim, Kosovan, Macedonian, Slovene; all were subsumed under the all-encompassing Yugoslav state, and so after Tujdman’s victory, many Croatians were looking to a new era for their state. Croat nationalism came out of hiding; the sahovnica (the red and white heraldic shield, now the makeup of the Croatian football kit) flag was hung from buildings, Croat replaced Serbian as the language of the state and large numbers of Serbs were made redundant as nationality became a criteria for employment (previously Serbs in Croatia made up around 12% of the population but held almost 18% the official positions).

Tujdman’s pro-independence and pro-nationalist stance saw Croatia at loggerheads with Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic, head of the Serbian Communist Party. Milosevic promoted centralism and believed in the continuation of a unified Yugoslavia, controlled by Serbs. Milosevic had already reasserted his control over the former autonomous regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina but Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia, all of whom desired more autonomy if not full independence, would not be so easily brought to heel. As a result tensions simmered throughout 1990 and war seemed inevitable.

Ongoing political tensions did nothing to stop the Yugoslavian football league, which featured teams from every republic in Yugoslavia. Therefore May 13th of 1990 saw Belgrade’s Red Star travel to Zagreb to face Dinamo at the Maksimir Stadium. Both sets of fans featured a violent, hardcore ultra element. Red Star’s ultras were known as the Delije, led by the vicious Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznatovic – better known as Arkan, while Dinamo’s violent element were known by the Anglicised name of Bad Blue Boys (BBB). Clashes between the two groups were nothing new and the conflict at Maksimir seemed premeditated rather than spontaneous. Clashes started outside the ground, on the streets of Zagreb but continued inside the ground and on the pitch. Accounts of what actually happened tend to differ, but it seems that the Delije began chanting “Zagreb is Serbian” before tearing up seats and throwing them at fans. At some stage home fans (or, depending on the account you read, “neutral” fans of Rijeka) began tearing down Red Star banners and both sets of fans charged on to pitch toward one another, security doing little or nothing to prevent the clashes.

Capture

 The Red Star players soon exited the pitch and the stadium, but many of the Dinamo players stayed behind, setting the stage for Boban’s iconic moment. The then 21-year-old midfielder and club captain saw a Dinamo fan being attacked by a police offer and launched a flying kick at him, knocking him down and allowing the fan to escape. The moment was captured on camera and soon Boban became a Croat folk hero, a symbol for all they were fighting for. Boban found himself suspended by the Yugoslav FA for 9 months, missing the 1990 World Cup and was vilified across Serbia, though he soon moved away anyway, joining AC Milan in 1991. Though despite an illustrious career, for many the most important thing Boban did in his career involved kicking a police officer, not a ball.

 The riots in Zagreb and the Maksimir stadium are seen by many as the unofficial start of the Croatian War of Independence, one of the many conflicts to make up the Yugoslav Wars which raged between 1990 and 1995, the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II. It’s believed around 140,000 thousand people lost their lives during the wars, and over 2 million people displaced. Boban could never have known that a spur-of-the-moment kick to defend one of his own would have been a precursor to such events, but a football match proved to be a divining rod for events to come. The game of May 13th, 1990 proved that for better or worse, football can be more than a game.

Related

The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and it’s impact on Football

Not in Kansas AnymoreA century ago, amidst the poultry and pig farms in a small corner of Kansas, a local doctor became inundated...

Serie A’s Last Outsiders Part 1: Hellas Verona, 1984/1985

With the 2020–2021 Serie A underway, there is a general sense of uncertainty about a league that has fallen from the heights of its...

A brief history of the footballing aesthetic (and its gradual death)

The death of football at its most beautiful peak, is nigh ‘Football is the beautiful game.’ A statement we have heard since childhood. Words which...

The European Resurrections of Ever Banega

It seems fitting that Éver Banega’s final bow in European competition involved him lifting the Europa League. Barring a surprise reversal in the future,...

Remembering Arthur Wharton: The First Black Professional Footballer

In an interview from 1888, Arthur Wharton recalled overhearing a conversation between two fellow track competitors some years before. “Who’s he,” one rhetorically asked,...

The Jürgen Klopp Pressing system

If a single tactical feature were to be used to define a manager, for Jurgen Klopp, it would certainly be the pressing or the...

  The different methods to Marcelo Bielsa’s madness

The current Leeds United manager and arguably the most influential coach in modern football, Marcelo Bielsa is the subject of this analysis because I’m...

Great Squads From History – Bayer Leverkusen 2001-2002

The 2001-02 great Bayer Leverkusen side is infamous for their incredible choke job in the last stretch of the season, losing out on three...

Súper Dépor! The rise and fall of Deportivo La Coruña

At the StartWith the exception of a 2nd place finish to Helenio Herrera’s Atlético Madrid in 1948/49, Deportivo La Coruña have historically plied their...

Latest Posts

Do Premier League Players Have a Say in Their Transfers?

Americans know that in sports, there is a widespread culture where players don’t have a final say in their destinies, with exceedingly rare exceptions.However,...

The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and it’s impact on Football

Not in Kansas AnymoreA century ago, amidst the poultry and pig farms in a small corner of Kansas, a local doctor became inundated...

The Best Football Books of 2020

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2021, we have compiled a list of the best...

Big Sam’s tactics against Liverpool show the template to stifle Klopp’s side

Two complete opposites came up in the congested Christmas fixture list, as Liverpool in great form sitting at the top of the table look...

Don't Miss

How Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona Reinvented Total Football

Arrigo Sachi, the mastermind of the Milan side of the 80′s, had once staked a claim that the next tactical revolution in the game,...

The Evolution and Political Dynamism of Football in Mussolini’s Italy

On a November night in 1934, the English national football team faced their Italian counterparts, Nazionale di calcio dell'Italia. The match was held at...

Descent into darkness: Osvaldo Zubeldia and the era of antifutbol

EVEN if Billy McNeill was really nicknamed Cesar rather than Caesar, there was no denying that the scene on May 25, 1967, was one...

Remembering Arthur Wharton: The First Black Professional Footballer

In an interview from 1888, Arthur Wharton recalled overhearing a conversation between two fellow track competitors some years before. “Who’s he,” one rhetorically asked,...

What if Pep’s Barcelona played against Sacchi’s AC Milan?

Pep Guardiola has re-invented football so much in the past decade that one wonders if the game is still the same that was played...

Football History

The Original Invincibles- Preston North End 1888/89

In the wake of Manchester City’s record-breaking claim to the Premier League, The False 9 will look back at some of the greatest club...

The Evolution and Political Dynamism of Football in Mussolini’s Italy

On a November night in 1934, the English national football team faced their Italian counterparts, Nazionale di calcio dell'Italia. The match was held at...

FC Start and The Death Match

“Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we must not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived.” – John...

A look back at Liverpool’s treble winning 1983/84 season

In the wake of Manchester City’s record-breaking claim to the Premier League, The False 9 will look back at some of the greatest club...

Cruyffism through Spain

Spain has developed a unique commitment to technical football which has put them in good stead to make the past decade a period of Spanish dominance. The story to this dominance begin decades before hand when Cruyff decided that Barcelona would be the club he would next manage after his time at Ajax was over. He would create a cohesive identity for the club which kept the vision while finding success. This vision began with a number of manager who came before Cruyff but after Cruyff left, there would be many managers in Spain who would use his methods to discovery their own success.