Lose or Beat – Loyal to Hajduk Split

Split is a city in Dalmatia, Croatia. Originally built around the Diocletian palace built for the retired Roman emperor Diocletian, this is a major tourism hub that extends over a large area well beyond an ancient core.  Split is the ideal summer getaway for many tourists with Roman walls, pleasant squares, stunning temples and hundreds of restaurants.

To the east of Split sits the beautiful waters of the Adriatic Sea where a host of Croatia islands await for adventure or relaxation.

Split is also home to two football clubs RNK Split and the more famous Hajduk Split. Amongst the many murals dedicated to Hajduk one word sticks out the most. Curiously it’s not a Serbian or even Croatian word but a Brazilian Portuguese word – namely that of ‘Torcida’.

The term ‘Hajduk’ itself tells a tail of freedom, defiance, and partisanship.  In Balkan folklore the ‘Hajduks’ were freedom fighters who fought against the invading Habsburg and Ottomans.   Explaining Torcida is a little more complicated and its use is said to have originated in October 1950.

The roots of its utilisation point to both the seafaring traditions of the Croats but also the 1950 FIFA World Cup which was held in Brazil.

On 1st July 1950 Brazil defeated Yugoslavia 2-0 in a World Cup group match.  The game was played in front of 142,000 at the noisy Maracana Stadium in Rio.  Back in Yugoslavia people read and heard about the exploits of the team with cinemas showing news reel footage of the games back in Zagreb and Split.  The passion from the stands offered to the Brazilian side was said to have inspired then Hajduk players and a group of fans.

The word Torcida is very commonly used in Rio by fans of many of the local clubs including at the most popular club Flamengo.

Of the 22 men who travelled to Brazil in 1950 as part of the Yugoslavian World Cup football team, many were native Croats with four being Hajduk Split players.  Second choice goalkeeper was Vladimir Beara whilst in defence was the strong tackling Bozo Broketa.  Ivo ‘Ive’ Tadovnikovic was a squad member who never played in Brazil but was highly regarded at Hajduk.

The most famous of the Hajduk Split players who travelled was Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas.  In ten years with Hajduk (1947-1957) he scored 89 goals in 202 appearances. It was the goals of Vukas that helped Hajduk Split win the Yugoslav first league in 1950 – a year that had been World Cup year.

The Torcida of Split went onto organise themselves into a larger body and survived loosely throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. By the 1970’s Marshall Tito’s very own brand of Yugoslavianism had come to the fore and some sense of communist hegemony started to be defied.  While regional nationalism was frowned upon sentiments of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘unity’ was encouraged in constituent states – perhaps the perfect context for the Torcida of Split to progress.

The 1976 UEFA European Championships took place in Yugoslavia with all the Croatian ties taking place in Zagreb. In wider society, architecture started to become far more progressive with a stark movement away from bland Stalinist principles of design and thought.  By 1979 Hajduk Split had moved from its inner city Stari Plac to the modern and futuristic bowl at the Gradski stadion Poljud.

Split and the Poljud Stadium was the venue for the 1979 Mediterranean Games.

The 1970’s also saw a golden generation of Hajduk Split players come to the fore on the field of play.  Yugoslav Championships were won regularly as were domestic cups. Soon Hajduk Split and its ‘Torcida’ supporters were known for travelling exploits throughout the former Yugoslavia. Some of the ‘hottest’ footballing grounds in the former Yugoslavia – Mostar, Zagreb and Belgrade were visited every season.

Today the Torcida of Split are a loose association of many fan groups but the name is huge and well known.  They have branded lines of clothing available throughout Split from boutique shops whilst fees, membership dues and sponsorships for activities are organised.

Local rhetoric and national tales about the roots of the Torcida will always differ there is no denying the contexts in which this group of supporters developed. From just a small group of fans Torcida Split has become a ‘movement’ that is likely to last for a very long time. Despite playing second to the much stronger Dinamo Zagreb the Torcida group of Hajduk continues to offer a special brand of support to the Split side.

When they lose, when they beat – always loyal to Hajduk Split!

You can see our images from Split here.