The Dinamo Zagreb-Red Star Belgrade riot
was an infamous football riot
that took place on May 13, 1990 at Maksimir stadium
between the Bad Blue Boys
(fans of Dinamo Zagreb
) and the Delije
"; fans of Red Star Belgrade
). The incident is famous for taking place just weeks after Croatia's first multi-party elections
in almost 50 years in which the parties favouring Croatian independence had won the majority of the votes. The riots resulted in over 60 people hurt, including some stabbed, shot and poisoned by tear gas
Lead up to the match
Tension between these two clubs was always high as the two teams consistently placed at the top of the Yugoslav football league
and national championships were often won by one of them. In 1990, this took an even worse character due to rising tensions in Yugoslavia. The first free elections were held in most of Yugoslavia and Communism
was ousted in favour of more national-oriented parties. The second round of voting in Croatia was held on May 6
, when the Croatian Democratic Union
won under Franjo Tuđman
and Croatia, under new leadership, were the leading forces behind a drive to reorganize Yugoslavia into a confederation, but were opposed by Serbia
under Slobodan Milošević
and the still powerful Communist system at state-level.
Approximately 3,000 of the Delije made the trip to Zagreb. They were led by Željko Ražnatović (aka Arkan), a Serbian ultranationalist and later notorious warlord, who was said to be present at the game (though unconfirmed). There were between 15,000 to 20,000 spectators estimated to have been at the game.
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 itself. The Delije, in their segregated area, began to tear at the advertising hoardings and eventually made their way towards the Dinamo fans, attacking them with seats and knives, and singing Serbian
nationalist chants like "Zagreb is Serbia"
and "We'll kill Tuđman"
The BBB - incensed by the actions of their rivals - attempted to storm the field half an hour later, but were quickly attacked by the Serbian-dominated police who were lenient towards the visiting fans; restraint methods used by the police included baton striking and tear gas. Within minutes, the situation spiralled beyond control as the BBB could no longer be held back by the police, and soon took to the field to reach their Serbian counterparts. All the while, the police were quickly overwhelmed by the large numbers, but came back with reinforcements, armoured vans and water cannons to disperse the violence. More than an hour later, with hundreds injured, the running battles were all over.
Amidst all the chaos, several Dinamo players still remained on the field, the Red Star players having already left for the locker rooms. Zvonimir Boban
, the Dinamo captain, famously attacked a police officer who was attacking a Dinamo supporter with a kick that was later emulated by Eric Cantona
in 1995 against Crystal Palace
. The BBB soon came to Boban's defence, acting as bodyguards. For this act alone, Boban became a national hero, and was considered to be a Croatian nationalist
by the Serbs. He was suspended by the Yugoslav FA for six months and had criminal charges filed against him, although the officer he attacked (who turned out to be a Bosnian Muslim
) publicly forgave him for his actions several years later. Boban later said of his act: "Here I was, a public face prepared to risk his life, career, and everything that fame could have brought, all because of one ideal, one cause; the Croatian cause."
This riot marked the beginning of the end for the Yugoslav First League
. It lasted one more season before Slovenia
and Bosnia and Herzegovina
became independent from Yugoslavia and the region engulfed in war (the riot was also symbolically seen as the start of the Croatian War of Independence