Lose or Beat – Loyal to Hajduk Split

When they lose When they beat – always loyal to Hajduk Split.

The fans of Hajduk need to be loyal for they are perennially in the shadow of the all powerful Dinamo Zagreb.

While the soul is with the shared spirit of Croatia the heartbeat of the supporter is Hajduk.

More often than not it’s the heart that rules the soul where Hajduk is concerned.

This is a club with fans worldwide and thanks to the Yugoslav diaspora there are supporters clubs in Australia, Canada and the USA. Membership is a sign of permanence and attachment whether the fan is based in Split or Melbourne.

Split is a city in Dalmatia, Croatia. 

Originally built around the Diocletian palace that was 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 has Roman walls, pleasant squares, stunning temples and hundreds of restaurants.

It also has the Stadion Poljud where those who follow on religiously congregate.

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

While Split is home to two football clubs – RNK Split and the more famous Hajduk Split – but few murals are dedicated to the former.

And, amongst the many murals dedicated to Hajduk one word sticks out and seems the most common.

Curiously it’s not a Serbian or even Croatian word but a Brazilian Portuguese word – namely ‘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 but its use is said to have originated in October 1950.

The roots of its utilization 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.  

The passion from the stands offered to the Brazilian side was said to have inspired a group of fans.

Of the 22 men who travelled to Brazil in 1950 as part of the Yugoslavian squad, many were native Croats including four who were Hajduk Split players.  The second choice goalkeeper was Vladimir Beara whilst in defense 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) Vukas scored 89 goals in 202 appearances. It was the goals of Vukas that helped Hajduk Split win the Yugoslav first league in 1950 – a season that had been World Cup year.

The Torcida of Split went onto organize themselves into a larger body and survived loosely throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s inspired by the 1950 World Cup.

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 – the perfect context for the Torcida of Split to progress and foster togetherness.

The 1976 UEFA European Championships took place in Yugoslavia.

In wider Yugoslav 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 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.

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 by the fans from Split.

Today Torcida Split are a loose association of many fan groups – it can be an individual or everyone.  They have branded lines of clothing available throughout Split whilst fees, membership dues and sponsorships for activities are organized.

Its all much the same as the Delije from Red Star Belgrade – a collective unifying name and term more often than not seen with the year of formation – 1950.

Local rhetoric and national tales about the roots of the Torcida will always differ. But there is no denying the contexts in which this group of supporters have 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 on the field of play the Torcida 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!