In the last edition of the aptly named Pyro On The Pitch series we finally got around to covering some Italo-pyro, although an Italian pitch was subject to flares in an early “modern” installment also – just not at the hands of Italians.
Like Italy, our main subjects in this episode have a rich history of football-related disobedience, and they just happen to be the Balkan “cousins” of those who caused a mess in Genoa in 2010. They were last seen back POTP#11 and, as promised then, we now return to take a closer look at those crazy and courageous Croatians (or Yugoslavs as they were then) of Hajduk Split (with a healthy dose of the southern France thrown in too).
The story begins way back at the 1950 World Cup, when among the 199,854 spectators in Maracana Stadium for the final were a group of Croat-Yugoslav sailors and students. Amazed by the colour, noise and co-ordination of the home Brazilian fanatics, the young men took inspiration and decided to borrow the Portuguese name for the supporter groups they had witnessed: ‘torcida’, meaning “crowd” in English.
Thusly, upon returning to their homeland, a “Torcida” for their own club – Hajduk Split – was organised, with the aim of replicating the passion of South American supporters to spur on the team. The league opener against Red Start Belgrade on October 29th, 1950, was the official debut of the group, making them the oldest of their kind in Europe.
The name fell out of use over the coming years, but was revived at the start of the 1980s by young supporters with a new verve for terrace culture. The revival was the culmination of the the previous decade, which had seen a new rise in flags, banners and chants on the east stand of Hajduk’s old Stadion Stari Place, soon to be replaced by the new Stadion Poljud in 1979.
Hajduk Split's Torcida in full-effect vs Dinamo Zagreb, Yugoslav First League, 09/05/80.
Meanwhile, only a year after Torcida formed in 1950, an equally-momentous event had occurred in Italy as Torino’s Fedelissimi Granata (“Maroon Loyalists”) were born – considered to be the godfathers of the ultras. The movement properly picked-up in the 70s with an explosion of tifo-action across the country, now with the “Ultras” moniker as a handy catch-all title for the like-minded groups.
Soon, the concept was adopted by supporters in other countries, as evident by the naming of Real Madrid’s Ultras Sur in 1980 (although Sevilla’s Biris Notre came first in Spain having been founded in 1975). With Italy and Spain now accounted for, it’s seems natural that the one people who bordered both – the French – wouldn’t be too far behind.
The characteristics of ultra-culture were already well established in France by the early 80s, but in 1984 Olympique Marseille would officially lead the way with the formation of Commando Ultra’ 84. As seen in our recent Football Special Report on Euro 84, the club’s Stade Veledrome was also used to passion and pyro on the international stage, as well as domestic.
Home fans celebrate the last minute extra-time winner in a packed Stade Veledrome at France vs Portugal, Euro 84 semi-final, 23/06/84.
That very same year, Hajduk Split had managed to put together their greatest European run of all-time and made it to the UEFA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur. In England at the time, awe-inspiring masses of flags weren’t uncommon on the terraces (although more and more limited to the Cup by the 80s), but the English players may have been less equipped to deal with the exoticism of the flares let off by the likes of Split supporters on big continental nights.
Flags and a flare from Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup semi final-1st leg, 25/04/84.
From this match can be seen several Yugoslav flags among the Split support, showing that Hajduk was still very much a Yugoslavian-identifying team. The tie is most notable, however, for one of the most bizarre non-football, football related incidents of all time – one which animal-lovers (specifically cockerel-lovers) may want to skip-past reading.
Hajduk Split fans displaying a Yugoslavia flag at the match vs Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup semi final-1st leg, 25/04/84.
Before kick-off at the first-leg in Split, a Torcida member ran on to the field clutching a live cockerel (grabbed from a local bar, which in itself tells it’s own story), as seen on the badge of their opponents, and proceeded to break it’s neck. Recounting events years later, the over-enthusiastic fan embodied a general sense of disgust with perceived English arrogance and had spontaneously (perhaps drunkenly) decided to make a symbolic point, while also manifesting his love for Hajduk through the majesty of bestial sacrifice.
UEFA were not at all impressed by the stunt, issuing a hefty fine to the club and banning the stadium from hosting international matches for three years, while Hadjuk themselves were forced to play in Osijek the following season against Dynamo Moscow. Now a lawyer and wracked with guilt, the supporter responsible has since apologised for his actions, having originally made it off the pitch unhampered (whether he left the poor bird laying on the grass or brought it back to the stands is unknown).
Over in France – by chance home of the cockerel – Marseille’s ultras had been making their presence felt in the stands, with a late 1986 home game against PSG being one of the earliest examples of the amazing colour and chaos created in the Velodrome. The game also gives us a good look at some unique numbering of the back of L’OM’s jerseys, which are also uniquely surrounded by “houses” due to the club’s property-based sponsors at the time Maison Bouygues.
CU'84 banner and flags followed by a huge pyro display from Marseille's ultras vs PSG, Division 1, 28/11/86.
The unusual numbering style seen on the back of Marseille's 86/87 Adidas shirt.
As the dynamic new supporter culture continue to grow, CU’84 were joined on the terraces of the Velodrome in 1987 by the groups “Yankee” in the north of the stadium and “South Winners” in the Command’s own Virage Sud tribune. More tremendous scenes from the stands greeted players as they emerged onto the pitch, such as the sea of white and blue flags ahead of Marseille’s 87/88 Cup Winners’ Cup first round-2nd leg match against East Germany’s Lokomotiv Leipzig (with the first leg having taken place in a stadium that could not have been more communist), in which a single goal was enough to give the French side an 1-0 aggregate win.
The view from the back of Virage Sud in Stade Velodrome, as Marseille prepare to take on Lokomotive Leipzig, Cup Winners' Cup, 30/09/87.
Elsewhere in the competition, none other than Hajduk Split had been entered as cup winners of Yugoslavia and were drawn against Denmark’s Aalborg BK for an all-round more civilised affair. There would be no flares or animal sacrifices when the two teams met on Danish soil, which obviously gave the home side an advantage as they took a suprising 1-0 lead going into the the return game.
Polite but enthused clapping as Danish cup winners Aalborg take the lead at home to Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup first round-1st leg, 16/09/87.
Torcida, who were de-facto now an ultras group, had also been joined by new factions in Stadion Poljud such as White Boys. Even this ominously named group must have been impressed by the design of the visitors’ shorts at the second leg, sublimely continuing the thick stirpes of the Aalborg shirt (for a Scandinavian team, it works) which itself displayed huge “Denmark-style” numbers on the back.
Aalborg's all-stripey shirt and shorts, and large Hummel numbering on back, away to Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup first round-2nd leg, 30/09/87.
Another single goal for the home team meant penalties, which the Croats won 4-2 to progress. For the second round, the draw threw up some interesting ties such as Hamburg vs Ajax and Den Haag vs Young Boys Berne, but the pick of the bunch as far as off the field antics went was Marseille vs Hajduk, with the first leg to be held in France.
It was Split’s fourth time taking on French opponents in Europe, after Saint-Éttiene (European Cup 74/75), Bordeaux (UEFA Cup 83/84) and Metz (UEFA Cup 85/86), while the only Yugoslav club that Marseille had played to date was Hadjuk’s great Croatian rivals Dinamo Zagreb, at the same stage of the same competition in 1969. What’s more, Dinamo had even defeated their Gallic opponents in the tie, but a repeat result seemed unlikely here as Marseille comfortably took the first leg 4-0, much to the delight of their flag and flare waving supporters.
Celebrations in Stade Veledrome as Marseille easily defeat Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup second round-1st leg, 22/10/87.
Although the tie seemed effectively over, the ever-active Hajduk supporters made the second-leg in Croatia essential viewing.
Split, 05/11/1987: 22,000 are in attendance at Stadion Poljud, located in the Poljud neighbourhood of the city, and as always the home end is draped in banners. After using a red and blue change shirt in the first leg, the hosts are back in their familiar white shirts and blue socks and shorts, while the visitors don the inverse with blue/white/white:
In the 9th minute, the passionate fans behind the goal – which is in inhabited by their own ‘keeper – throw some smoke bombs that land near the pitch. This isn’t so unusual but it quickly becomes clear that something is not quite right, as Zoran Varvodić in goal covers his mouth with his jersey while fans can be seen traveling across the stand in the background:
As orange and white mists plume, it turns out that the one of the bombs is not actually smoke but industrial grade tear gas, burning at 2000 degrees. As the gas spreads back up into the stands, the effected supporters begin to make their way out of the end and into the next section, with the terrifying threat of mass panic and crushing now a distinct possibility:
Whether this was a mix-up and the ultras had intended to use a regular smoke bomb, or the gas was intentional, we don’t know. The match goes on, but, as can be seen from the man that comes into shot below, soon those on the sideline can smell what is happening:
The white smoke can next be seen drifting on to the pitch…:
…before the referee finally realises what is going on and stops the game. The players run for the safety of the dressing loom, with some of the Frenchmen clearly in a far greater hurry than their Balkan counterparts:
Through the lethal fog, which is now an awe-inspiring sight, some supporters are clearly reveling in the mayhem as flags continue to be waved and more pyro lit:
At this point we get our first attempt to land a flare on the pitch, because “jebi ga“. It is an admirable effort, but just falls to the left:
With all the smoke, the gas, the flares, the flags, the streamers and the fleeing fans, it is quite the chaotic scene, and there is possibly clashes with police in there somewhere. It is probably just as many like it, to whom this is all far more fun than the match:
Another attempt is made to get a flare onto the grass, but the throw is just about lacking:
Meanwhile there is more mass movement along the terraces, with what may or may not (we’re really not sure) be a line of riot-cops moving in:
The camera man keeps himself busy with a nice, smooth panoramic shot of the “war-zone”:
In one section of the ground, perhaps where the wind was blowing, the gas seems to still be causing people to climb over fences and escape out of the stand:
Either for protection from the smoke or to conceal their identity in the unfolding riot, that is happening for no apparent reason, some young supporters below cover their faces with scarves as guards idly stand by:
More smoke bombs are also thrown, with their vivid yellow and orange clouds creating a striking artistic effect. Again, they have just about fallen short of the pitch:
Even though the tear gas alone would have qualified this whole incident for Pyro On The Pitch, we finally get the moment of truth as a flare is lit just as everything else seems to be settling down. First comes the wind-up…:
…And then (to be truthful, several seconds later) the throw. It’s good:
We officially have pyro on the pitch. Another supporter runs on to try and retrieve the flare, but it quickly burns out:
From a wide shot, we see that another one had nearly made it too:
The officials, a West German contingent (as can be seen by their Erima kits and a DFB badge on one of their shirts) led by referee Dieter Pauly, re-emerge to inspect the situation. The gas has dissipated, so they return to tell the cowering teams that it is ok to come out now:
We lastly see one stoic cameraman, who has been caught up in all this, retake his post position right in the middle of where the action had been. Business as usual:
Fifteen minutes after the interruption the game restarts, and a few minutes later Hajduk take the lead through a penalty. The score is doubled in the last ten minutes to give the home side a 2-0 win, but they still go out 2-4 on aggregate.
The gas had resulted in two male supporters ending up in hospital that night and UEFA, naturally even more furious than over the cockerel incident, decided to take drastic action. First, the result was declared void and Marseille awarded a 0-3 win (not that they really needed it), but more importantly Hajduk Split were banned from European competition for two seasons and not allowed use their own stadium for a season more when they did return.
Having served their suspension, the “Bili” (Whites) would next appear in continental competition again in the Cup Winners’ Cup of 91/92 playing in the neutral venue of Linzer Stadium, Linz, Austria, and who were their opponents only their old friends from Tottenham. It was somewhat of a momentous occasion, as the final time that Hajduk – the last winners of the Yugoslav “Marshal Tito Cup” in 1991 – would be playing in Europe representing Yugoslavia.
For since the dictator himself died in 1980, the Balkan superstate had been on an inexorable slide into fragmentation as the stability, peace and prosperity that Tito had brought, died with him. By the Spurs game in 91, the flags baring the red star of Yugoslavia were gone from the Split supporters, now replaced by their own standard which would soon, after many had paid the ultimate price, take it’s place among the flags of the nations of the world:
Hajduk Split vs Dinamo Zagreb, 1978/79
Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1984
Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1984
Marseille vs PSG, 1986/87
Lokomotiv Leipzig vs Marseille, 1987
Marseille vs Lokomotiv Leipzig, 1987
Aalborg vs Hajduk Split, 1987
Hadjuk Split vs Aalborg, 1987
Marseille vs Hajduk Split, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hadjuk Split vs Tottenham Hostpur, 1991