Dinamo Zagreb - Red Star Belgrade 1990 riots

dinamo zagreb red star 1990

The Dinamo Zagreb vs Red Star Belgrade match is marked as a famous riot that took place on May 13, 1990, at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, between the Bad Blue Boys (fans of Dinamo Zagreb) and the Delije (fans of Red Star Belgrade).

The incident took place just weeks after Croatia's first multi-party elections in almost 50 years in which the parties favoring Croatian independence won the majority of votes. The riots resulted in over 60 people wounded, including some stabbed, shot and poisoned by tear gas.

The tension between the two teams was always high as both teams were consistently placed at the top of the Yugoslav football league and often won the national championships. In 1990, things got even worse due to rising ethnic & national tensions in Yugoslavia.

The first multi-party elections were held in most of Yugoslavia and communism was ousted in favor of more national-oriented parties. The second round of voting in Croatia was held on May 6, when the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won under the guidance of Franjo Tuđman.

Slovenia and Croatia, under new leadership, were the leading forces behind a drive to reorganize Yugoslavia into a confederation. They were opposed by Serbia under Slobodan Milošević and the still powerful Communist system at state-level.

Approximately 3,000 Delije made the trip to Zagreb. They were led by Željko Ražnatović (also known as "Arkan"), a Serbian nationalist and war-criminal wanted by Interpol. Between 15.000 to 20.000 spectators were estimated to have attended the game.

Željko Ražnatović - Arkan

Up to several hours, before the game even began, there were already a number of fights in the streets between Dinamo and Red Star fans. However, the real trouble took place within the Maksimir stadium.

Delije were provoked by stones thrown at them by the Bad Blue Boys. Delije began to smash the advertising boards and eventually made their way towards the Dinamo fans. They attacked them by throwing stadium seats and sharp objects while they were singing Serbian nationalist chants like "Zagreb is Serbia" & "We'll kill Tuđman".

The Bad Blue Boys attempted to storm the field half an hour later, but they were quickly pushed back by the police. The restraint methods that were used by the police included tear gas.

Within minutes, the situation was beyond control. The BBB could no longer be held back by the police, and soon reached Delije fans. The police were quickly overwhelmed by the large numbers of fights but came back with reinforcements. Armored vans and water cannons were used to disperse the violence.

More than an hour later, with hundreds injured, the battle was over.

Amidst all the chaos, several Dinamo players still remained on the field, while the Red Star players already left for the locker rooms. Zvonimir Boban, Dinamo's team captain, kicked a police officer, Refik Ahmetović, who was attacking a Dinamo supporter.

Zvonimir Boban

The Bad Blue Boys soon came to Boban's defense, acting as bodyguards. For this act alone, Boban has been proclaimed as a national hero of Croatia but also attained a Croatian nationalist reputation in Serbia.

He was suspended by the Yugoslav Football Association for six months and had criminal charges filed against him. The officer who attacked Zvonimir Boban turned out to be a Bosnian Muslim and publicly forgiven him for his actions several years later.

The riot marked the beginning of the end for the Yugoslav League. After playing the entire 1990-91 season, the clubs from Slovenia and Croatia withdrew from the league. The league lasted for one more season after that, as by the end of the 1991-92 season the country disintegrated.

Though it occurred a full year-and-a-half before the start of hostilities in Croatia, the riot is also symbolically seen as the start of the Croatian War of Independence. In some sections of Croatian society, this is even celebrated...

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