Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb; there are matters lurking beneath

This preview is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Adam Brogden

by Joe

Let’s start with a rather bizarre story about continuity. Or lack of it.

You see, nobody knows for sure how old GNK (“GNK” stands for “Građanski nogometni klub” or “Bourgeois football club“) Dinamo Zagreb actually is. If you take the current official story from the official web-site of GNK Dinamo that goes back in 1911 (the year in which Građanski had been constituted but were banned during the communist reign between 1945 and 1991 due to ideological reasons).

However, NK „Dinamo Zagreb“, the one that had won The Fairs Cup in 1966-67 in one of the most exciting campaigns ever, were constituted in 1945, after Yugoslav partisans under command of The Supreme Commander Josip Broz Tito finally won the war against Ustashi regime of Ante Pavelić and Hitler’s army on Yugoslavian soil. The name „Dinamo“ had had every sign of brotherhood with Soviet pandans in Moscow, Georgia and Ukraine, as well as the one from Romania (Bucharest).

As you might expect, once Croatia had started cutting their ties with the dissolving Yugoslavia, their sport was going under ideological changes as well. So „Dinamo“ had been given a different name – „HAŠK Građanski“ (It could be translated as “Croatian Academic Sport Club Bourgeois”).

It didn’t catch on exactly – “HAŠK” and “Građanski” were two different clubs and had two completely different backgrounds so that name wore off after just two seasons before another change was made. The club changed the name to „Croatia Zagreb“. It was supported directly from the Croatian president Franjo Tuđman who was pretty regular visitor of the stands. The Bad Blue Boys – a rather notorious fan group that had managed to get “Croatia Zagreb” banned from European competitions for a year in 1994 – who were either boycotting the games or using a funny chant that I would like to translate a bit freely in order to keep the substance over form:

„There is a weird man, his name is Franjo Tuđman, every night before the sleep he does the same, he changes the Dinamo’s name.”

Zlatko Canjuga – who was a president of “Croatia Zagreb” – tried to persuade Tuđman that chants weren’t coming from the real Dinamo fans but from “Sorosh’ agents in Croatia”. As a real autocrat, Tuđman wanted – a bit in a mould of Benito Mussolini who had insisted in constituting AS Roma in 1927 in order to make „a massive Roman club“ – to make „Croatia Zagreb“ a massive club, the one that would dominate in Croatian football and compete in the European.

In order to do so, „Croatia“ practically had an unlimited budget even if the tax on players’ income was beyond normality at 132 percent (that tax-debt was later written off – we are talking about millions of euros) and the history of four different clubs from Zagreb had been merged into one („HAŠK“, „Građanski“, „Concordia“ and „Dinamo“).

This project also resembled a bit of Steaua Bucharesti during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu (which Florian, a regular correspondent of the site from Romania, may or may not agree with). „Croatia Zagreb“ had seven out of 22 players from the Croatian national team that ended up third in 1998 World Cup and some of their players made big transfers to the top European leagues – Dario Šimić, Silvio Marić and Mark Viduka were sold to Internazionale, Newcastle and Celtic respectively.

Most notable result was a 0:0 draw at Old Trafford against the reigning European champions Manchester United with Osvaldo Ardilles, the ex-Tottenham player, in charge of „Croatia“. Igor Bišćan (later of Liverpool) was the key player of that team.

After Franjo Tuđman died in 1999, the dark clouds over Maksimir showed up even if the fans had got what they had been asking for – the name „Dinamo“ finally restored. Players like Robert Prosinečki and Igor Cvitanović had sued the club in order to get the money they had earned but here comes one of the biggest irregularities in Croatian football ever – The Supreme Court of Croatia ruled that the debts „died“ with „Croatia“ and that „Dinamo“ were something completely new, a new-born club, clean of the sins from the past.  However, „Dinamo“ have kept bragging rights about results and the history of „Croatia Zagreb“.

Oh, and here is another bizarre thing. Dinamo did pay some debts in order to get their European licence – marginal players like Miroslav Dujmović and Kazuyoshi Miura got their money as FIFA had blocked „Dinamo“ from making transfers. Dujmović and Miura were lucky to be foreign players (from Bosnia Herzegovina and Japan respectively) so FIFA actually reacted to protect them. The Croatian players weren’t protected from the injustice.

That’s where the reign of Zdravko Mamić had its start. With a huge help from the City of Zagreb and their mayor Milan Bandić (who was arrested once for driving under the influence and an attempt to bribe the police officer during his first term as a mayor in 2002) who has granted millions of euros over the years from the Zagreb budget to Dinamo. Mamić even publicly stated that he had ordered his players to vote for Bandić as it would be „voting for the hand that feeds them“. After Croatia became an EU-member, City of Zagreb has cut down their help to Dinamo.

I find interesting to notice that Dinamo have made number of excellent sales from the league that is arguably one of the worst in Europe (don’t let yourself get tricked with UEFA coefficients) and from the club that haven’t had significant European victories in years. Ćorluka was sold to Manchester City, Dejan Lovren to Olympique Lyon, Alen Halilović to Barcelona, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović to Inter, Mario Mandžukić to Wolfsburg, Luka Modrić to Tottenham, Eduardo da Silva to Arsenal and Jozo Šimunović to Celtic.

So, there are a lot of things about „Dinamo“ that should have made their European rivals, never mind their domestic rivals, protest about, starting with their participation in European football based on a decade of domestic dominance:

1: A lot of money granted from the budget of City of Zagreb, mostly for the stadium and the youth academy,

2. A large tax-debt written off by the Croatian government,

3.  The fact „Dinamo II“ (Lokomotiva) compete with „Dinamo I“ in the same level even if the UEFA rules have forbidden such a thing,

4. A number of suspicious transfers that have been a subject of the criminal investigations in Croatia (Modrić),

5.  The Mamić agency participation in the transfers that include Dinamo,

6.  A contract between Zdravko Mamić and Eduardo da Silva that has been declared void by the Supreme Court of Croatia according to which Eduardo had obliged himself to pay 20 percent of his income to Mamić until the end of his career,

7. Connections between influential members of UEFA Damir Vrbanović and Davor Šuker with Dinamo,

8. etc, etc.

(Back in 2002, Ivica Olić was the best player in the Croatian league and was a driving force behind NK Zagreb’s only league title in the history of the club. He had been sought by Hajduk Split, the main rivals of Dinamo Zagreb, but instead of joining Hajduk, in a surprising turn of events, Olić signed for Dinamo instead. The rumours following the transfer included Olić’s agent being driven in the trunk of a car until he was „persuaded“ to sign the contract.“)

I will stop here and made my deepest regrets that we lost a brilliant talent of the late Adam Brogden as he would have been all over this case and would have covered the whole story better than I have done. If my effort was anywhere near his best pieces, I would like to dare to dedicate this piece to him.”


The anniversaries

24 November 2008: Arsène Wenger announced that Cesc Fàbregas was the new permanent Arsenal captain, following the dismissal of William Gallas who had fallen out with the squad following his complaints.

24 November 2009: Alex Song signed a new contract to last to 2014.  However after reported disagreements with the management he was sold to Barcelona after 2012, and after two years they loaned him for two seasons to West Ham.

The latest meanderings from the History Society….



21 Replies to “Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb; there are matters lurking beneath”

  1. Thanks for the mention Josif:) Indeed, Steaua and Dinamo Bucharest were both super-clubs in that era. Steaua was in fact supported by Nicolae Ceausescu’s brother, Valentin, who was directing its activity and facilitating transfers, bringing players from all over the country. In 1986, for instance, none of the base 11 players was born in Bucharest. Steaua and Dinamo were at that time the two biggest contributors to the Romanian National Team, with Universitatea Craiova a distant third.

    After 1989, both Steaua and Dinamo lost all their players to foreign clubs and had to rebuild (Steaua once, Dinamo twice). Steaua ended up being bankrolled by Gigi Becali, real estate magnate more or less by accident, rash and uneducated, thus making the delight of Romanian tabloids and low-quality TV. The Romanian Presidency was never involved in his project, the only State contribution was to keep Becali out of jail, illegally of course – Becali should have spent a long time there given the countless trials for libel and even physical aggression. Eventually he ended up in prison when being caught with a luggage full of cash due to a whistle blower. Since then, Steaua lost its playground and, like most of the Romanian clubs nowadays, is in dire financial state.

    Hope that makes the things a bit clearer. I’m not that familiar with the Croatian football, but it’s a common pattern of teams supported by highly placed political figures that end up winning (Franco’s Real Madrid to start with), so for me this chapter of Dinamo Zagreb’s history is hardly a surprise.

  2. Excellent and informative article, many thanks Joe. Great to see any article dedicated to the memory of Adam.Long may his memory be kept alive at UA.

  3. Joe, good morning, your article on Dinamo Zagreb history is educative. However, Arsenal MUST make Dinamo Zagreb pay for their cheating Arsenal as they used the Banned Performance Enhancing Substances to enhanced their Ucl game performance against Arsenal at Zagreb. The Gunners SHOULD not allow the Modri to get away with their sin against them. But CUT THEM ASUNDER!(that’s the Key) tonight at the Emirates Stadium. AFC 6-0 ZAG @full-time plus added time.

  4. Joe thanks for this interesting article… what a mess that is… amazing…

    but no problem for the completely clean Uefa and Platini of course… 🙂

    And thanks for dedicating this to Adam.

  5. Very interesting article Joe…thank you!!

    Makes one wonder; whats the point of being straight-up and honest when this type of carry on is acceptable to UEFA.

    Hold on…The fish does STINK from the head first!

  6. Thanks Joe, very interesting, and nice touch mentioning Adam.
    worrying this stuff happens, I wonder if a few jail sentences at FIFA and maybe UEFA will make any difference at all?
    This game this eve worries me, this ref, the fact that Wenger has directly accused the European body of tolerating doping, and the fact that ten anti doping inspectors trned up for Arsenals training recently, I am told this is an unprecedented visit. UEFA are clearly involved in the corruption with the rest, Platini stands accused. They want somethings like…clearly doping, kept quiet…perhaps as a reward for friends…who knows. Just as they wanted the Marselle scandal kept quiet, and went to lengths to do so, but the likes of Boro Primorac, our coach wouldnt let them keep it quiet
    Goes without saying, but those going, including those who choose to doubt aspects of AFC should just back the players, they may need it, especially should this ref signal any intentions.
    On another topic, not seems like the WBA grass was let grow beyond what was allowed, especially for us. And pundits saying a West Brom player was clearly offside when blocking off Per for our goal. The lord knows we fluffed enough of our own lines, but this sounds like a classic Pulis stitch up job, aided and abetted by a lenient ref. The same will happen when we visit Stoke, and other places. We need to learn from this, Arsene, the good guys dont always win, to succeed on this planet, sometimes , one needs to rise above, but at other times, a recognition and strategy to combat dirty tricks is needed.

  7. Hvala liepo Josif. RIP Adam Brogdan.

    There are always greedy where ever there is honesty. Sadly the greedy win more often. Honesty feeds the soul. Greed feeds the bank balance. I have great memories of Yogoslavia & Zagreb in particular. The great joy of life & beautiful sea shanties (songs) being sung in a restaurant by diners at the next table. The gypsy music that reaches within all emotions while eating fresh bread & drinking great wine.

    The football is a demonstration of friendly competition that has been destroyed by greed. It will always be the peoples game in its true form. Where it has been touched by money (root of evil) it will fester & maggots like septic, riley & platini will appear.

    Despite it all we will dream of honesty. COYG!!

  8. Pete,

    Viktor Kassai from Hungary. He is one of the worst refs in Europe and yet consistently given big games in Champions League.

    In my native language (Urdu) the word “kassai or qassai” means butcher. 🙂 And this is what this man exactly does, he butchers the match.

  9. Not good. Is it fair to say that the Hungarians and Croats have historically had warm relations…?

  10. Yes its Kassai Pete.
    I wont post our previous results under him, incase there is a ref review coming up, but suffice to say , we suffer under him, and thats an understatement.
    I would call him out Mike Dean in Europe, sent along with regularity, in the knowledge he will do anything he can to undermine our team.
    Lets see…up against a team …a suspicious team in terms of match fixing and doping….a place in the next round at stake, and Wenger just having directly accused UEFA of turning a blind eye to doping….
    Know what this looks like, the crowd must back the players, and show the world what this ref is should he try anything unfair….which on past conduct, he will

  11. Thank you all for kind words.

    I will try to cheer you up people with a few anecdotes from Dinamo’s aforementioned 1966-67 Fairs Cup campaign.

    1) Dinamo played first leg against Juventus in Torino. They got a decent result – 2:2 – but their striker (I think it was Krasnodar Rora) missed a huge chance at 2:1. Actually, a Juventus defender fouled him but the ref didn’t see it. Rora was called after the game to the office of Dinamo’s chairman. “You missed a great chance to secure us victory in Torino. Therefore, I fine you with _____ dinars.” Rora was confused and angry: “But, comrade president, I couldn’t score because it was a penalty!” The chairman looked at him, called his secretary and asked him: “Comrade secretary, was there a penalty given to us in Torino?” Secretary answered: “No.” The chairman looked back at Rora and said something like: “So, your fine stands. You may leave now.”

    2) Dinamo’s tie against Spartak Brno was more than controversial, to put it mildly. Spartak won the first leg 2:0, Dinamo won the second 2:0 so the referee had to toss the coin to decide the winner. Two captains were next to the referee, they picked their side of the coin and waited for the outcome. Due to muddy pitch, it had to be repeated. Now, there are different versions what happened next but there is a most common version that Slaven Zambata, Dinamo’s captain, looked to the position where coin felt and jumped in the air (all Dinamo players did it) without seeing the actual outcome. The referee was so confused that he declared Dinamo as the winners even if nobody could say for sure that the coin had felt on Dinamo’s side.

    3) Among teams Dinamo had kicked out of the competition before the big final against Leeds were Dunfermline for which certain Alex Ferguson played. Perhaps Zambata – who scored both goals for Dinamo in 2:0 victory – gave Ferguson a few tips how to scare the crap out of referees back then.

    4) Stjepan Lamza’s story is not that funny though. Dinamo had lost the first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt 3:0 but won in the second leg 4:0. Lamza was an artist on the pitch and, apparently, off the pitch. He got so drunk after the victory that Dinamo physio locked him – unconscious – in a hotel room so that he could get sober over night.

    Unfortunately, Lamza woke up and didn’t know where he was. When he couldn’t open the door, he tried to jump from the balcony of his room to the balcony of the room next to his. It didn’t go well – he felt on the metal chair, fractured his skull and got his career effectively ended.

    5) They won the thing against Leeds of Jackie Charlton. However, there is a European curse on Dinamo. They haven’t had a European spring since 1970.

  12. As long as benefits for UEFA outweigh any public outcry, then UEFA will probably do nothing about the doping and other infringements.

    From all the comments on the ref, expect a red card? Just hope no one else from our players are “targeted” injuries tonight.

    Still, we’re at home and now the crowd can be really our 12th man.

    Hope to see some youth performing well.

  13. I’m not sure connecting Hungary with Croatia is correct when considering the bias of the referee. He is probably more connected with green backs when it comes to bias. Only fraud squad can check financial doping. We need the quick accurate attack in the first few minutes to get a few goals & then a tight defence to nutralise any bias. Tough call but Arsenal can do it.

    Just hope we play well win & don’t suffer any injuries.

  14. @Josif

    You must be a “Hajdukovac” (fan of Hajduk Split), to have the time to uncover so much dirt against Dinamo (especially the Olic transfer). Not that there hasn’t been dirt, mind you. Just be careful mentioning such rumours about criminal behaviour, that’s all.

    You are a breath of fresh air, referring to Dinamo as… well, Dinamo, instead of as Zagreb, which seems to be the (unfortunate) general convention.

  15. A very nice article , Josif , and thanks for dedicating to the memory of Adam. I believe that throughout history there have always been a ‘blue eyed ‘ club in almost every country . Many along political , regional and racial lines .
    And almost have a history of the clock and dagger stuff , as well as being firmly adviced to toe the chosen party line .
    But as regimes change or fall , some of these clubs too have fallen . Just glad to be supporting a club that plays it as fair as it can.

  16. @Crovax- you couldn’t be more wrong. Dinamo are actually the one I like (it’s a family thing) in Croatia but as long as Mamic does his stuff, that sympathy is in a freezer. 🙂

    And, yes, the whole Zagreb thing is annoying and even Wenger does it. NK Zagreb are a totally different club (The Poets). I guess it would be fair if Croatian media refer to Arsenal as “London” or “Sjeverni London” (North London) next time Arsenal and Dinamo meet.

  17. Really good article very interesting, thanks. Also RIP to Adam, just checked that link you put up and it seems he was someone who would still be writing super valuable articles today.

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