As iconic to Zagreb as its Cathedral or Dolac market, Dinamo have been the flagship club of the Croatian capital ever since Tito had the club formed from the ruins of three pre-war outfits in 1945.
As demonstrated by ten straight title wins up to 2014-15, Dinamo have dominated the Croatian game since independence, long overshadowing their cash-strapped eternal rivals Hajduk Split. But currently all is far from rosy at Dinamo, outspoken chairman Zdravko Mamic charged with tax evasion and other financial transgressions in relation to profits from the transfers of Luka Modric and other stars. With his brother Zoran Mamic, a former Dinamo club captain, as manager, a whole house of cards may well collapse around the club, on paper formed as a citizens’ association and exempt from income tax. Meanwhile, Dinamo’s core fan group the Bad Blue Boys are at loggerheads with management, boycotting games on a regular basis.
Never relegated from the top flight, neither when part of the Yugoslav League and nor when part of an independent Croatian League they have dominated since 1991, the Plavi (‘Blues’) started out by inheriting players, colours and stadium from the clubs that were disbanded to create them. Most notably, Franjo Wölfl and August Lesnik from Gradjanski, and Ratko Kacian and Zeljko Cajkovski from HASK, helped quickly establish Dinamo as a leading force in the newly formed Yugoslav League.
Winning the title in 1948, then picking up regular domestic silverware through the 1950s, Dinamo were one of a quartet (including Hajduk Split, Partizan and Red Star Belgrade) that took all but four Yugoslav championships from 1945 to 1991. Perhaps the most satisfying came in 1982, the first for 24 years, a team, itself under Ciro Blazevic, that featured later top coaches Velimir Zajec, Zlatko Kranjcar and Marijan Vlak.
In Europe, Dinamo were a feared name too, beating Don Revie’s Leeds to win the Fairs’ Cup in 1967, the first Yugoslav side to win a European trophy.
The modern era began with a riot, when Dinamo and Red Star Belgrade fans clashed at the Maksimir in 1990. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and its league, the Dinamo were ordered to become HASK Gradjanski, guaranteeing support from the new state that wished to rid Croatia of all trace of its Communist past.
Worse, soon afterwards the authorities decided that ‘Croatia Zagreb’ would deliver a louder message. A populist campaign to restore the old name Dinamo dominated a decade of poor-quality domestic football. The club’s fanatical support, the Bad Blue Boys, very few of them Communists, found themselves in the ironic situation of fighting for a name imposed on them by Tito – himself, rumour has it, a Dinamo fan.
Sanity was restored in 2000, by which time Dinamo and Hajduk Split had claimed every Croatian title since 1992.
With the later financial problems and backroom shenanigans in Split, Dinamo have now won the last ten titles. If truth be told, with average overall league attendances never touching 4,000, the top Croatian clubs badly miss serious competition from their Serbian, Bosnian and Slovene counterparts.
In Europe, Dinamo have been regular competitors in the Champions League, the likes of Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Eduardo putting in creditable performances against Real Madrid and Manchester United. What happened to the profits from their transfers is an entirely different matter.
Stadium, shop & bar
Dinamo’s home ground is the Maksimir, the hard-core fans occupying the North Stand. Plans are afoot for the club to move to a new stadium over the Sava at Kajzerica – though no specific time frame has been put forward.
Dinamo no longer have an souvenir outlet, only online purchases through the club website. The BBB have a ‘suvenir’ shop at Ilica 37, a short walk from the main square, where you can buy trackie tops, scarves and branded accessories. It’s set in a courtyard, a little hut where fans congregate.
Between the train station and the main square, the Bad Blue Boys have their own clubhouse near the Sheraton Hotel at Draskoviceva 23, with a bar, open most evenings.