Yugoslav Flag set Afire during Hajduk-Partizan Soccer Game in Split

When the rioting of Red Star Belgrade’s Delije soccer fans prevented their club from playing a match against Dinamo at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on 13 May 1990, it was an indication that the democratic changes that gripped Yugoslavia would turn into open conflict. A few months later on 26 September 1990, with their team losing 2-0, members of Hajduk’s Torcida supporters interrupted a game between Hajduk and Partizan Belgrade played at Poljud Stadium in Split during the 8th round of the Yugoslav football league.

Hajduk soccer player Alen Bokšić in action

The incident was a fan epilogue to national passions that marked 1990. From the beginning of the match the atmosphere at Poljud Stadium was electric, full not only of national pride but also anger as Hajduk fans were dissatisfied with the disastrous entry of their team into what would be the last season of competition for the football championship of Yugoslavia. The first short break in play was caused by Torcida in the 2nd minute as thick and colourful fog created by smoke bombs forced a stoppage. Montenegrin referee Branko Bujić was forced to interrupt the match a second time for a longer time in the 25th minute because Torcida members lit approximately 100 flares, some of which were thrown onto the field.

In the 73rd minute of play, Torcida members stormed onto the field of play. The referees and the visiting team rushed to their locker rooms while Hajduk players tried to stop the escalation of the riot. This seemed unnecessary given that Partizan fans did not attend the match but it was not about confrontation. The Torcida wanted to express its desire for rebellion given the situation in Croatia at the time. While Hajduk players persuaded fans to return to the stands, Split Mayor Onesin Cvitan asked for peace over the loudspeakers and police forces passively watched all that was happening.

There was no chance for the match to continue or for the fans to return to the stands. Members of Torcida stayed on the field for a long time chanting slogans such as “Oh Croatia, oh Croatia, independent state”, “To battle, to battle for your people” and cheered for Dr. Franjo Tuđman, Croatia’s first president.

The removal of the Yugoslav flag from it mast in the stadium was met with the much enthusiasm. Shortly afterwards while chanting “It’s over, it’s over!”, the flag with its five-pointed red star was set afire and raised on the mast, a clear indication that the country’s days were numbered. The match itself was recorded as a 3-0 win for Partizan Belgrade.

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