GNK Dinamo Zagreb
- City: Zagreb
- Founded: 1911 (as HŠK Građanski)
- Ground: Stadion Maksimir (35,123, although currently 25,000)
- Nicknames: Modri, Plavi (The Blues); Purgeri (The Citizens)
- Colours: All blue kit with white trim.
- 2022 League: Prva HNL
- Club Website: https://www.gnkdinamo.hr/EN
- Club Twitter: @gnkdinamo
- Best League Finish: 1st in the Prva HNL (23 times)
- Best Hrvatski Kup Finish: Winners (16 times)
- Prva HNL
- Champions (23): 1992–93, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2002–03, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22
- Hrvatski Kup
- Winners (16): 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2000–01, 2001–02, 2003–04, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2020–21
- Croatian Super Cup
- Winners (7): 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2019, 2022
- Independent State of Croatia League
- Champions (1): 1943
- Yugoslav First League
- Champions (9): 1923, 1926, 1928, 1936–37, 1939–40, 1947–48, 1953–54, 1957–58, 1981–82
- Yugoslav Cup
- Winners (7): 1951, 1959–60, 1962–63, 1964–65, 1968–69, 1979–80, 1982–83
- Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
- Winners (1): 1966-67
- Balkans Cup
- Winners (1): 1976-77
Građanski nogometni klub Dinamo Zagreb, also known as GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb, or just GNK Dinamo, is a Croatian football team that currently plays in the Prva HNL, the top tier of the Croatian football pyramid. They are the most successful club in Croatian football history having won twenty-three Prva HNL titles (which includes last season’s triumph), sixteen Croatian Cups, six Croatian Super Cups, and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, as well as being an ever-present fixture in the Prva HNL since the league’s foundation in 1993. The club plays its home games at the historic and atmospheric 35,123-capacity Stadion Maksimir, which is also the home stadium of the Croatian national team, and takes its name from the surrounding Zagreb neighbourhood of Maksimir. Sadly, the stadium suffered damage during a 2020 earthquake and saw the eastern stand closed for safety reasons. Resultantly, the capacity of the Maksimir is currently reduced to 25,000 for football games.
Dinamo has its origins in the multi-sports club HŠK Građanski Zagreb, which was founded in April 1911 during the time when the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide a club which had a distinctly Croatian identity for citizens of Zagreb. The club would become one of the most successful during the interwar Kingdom of Yugoslavia era, winning five championships and achieving some impressive results in international tours. However, following the end of the Second World War, the new communist government of Yugoslavia formally disbanded the club in retribution for competing in the wartime fascist-sponsored football league. As a result, in 1945 Dinamo Zagreb was established to take its place as Zagreb’s main club with the newly established Dinamo club adopting Građanski’s colours and nickname, and inheriting its pre-war fan base as well as its players, and in 1969 even introduced a club badge which strongly resembled Građanski’s old emblem.
Following Dinamo’s formation, the club were a founding member of the Yugoslav First League, playing in the inaugural season of 1946-47, and would remain in the Yugoslav top flight for its entire history until the brutal breakup of the country in the early 1990s. They would be regarded as one of the “big four” clubs within the league (alongside the Belgrade-based clubs Red Star and FK Partizan and fierce ‘eternal’ rivals Hajduk Split), winning the First League on four occasions, whilst finishing as runners-up a record eleven times, as well as winning seven Yugoslav Cup finals. Dinamo were also the first Yugoslav team (and to date, only Croatian club) to win a European trophy when they clinched the 1966-67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the precursor to the old UEFA Cup) when they defeated Leeds United 2-0 on aggregate in the two-legged final.
The club joined the Croatian Prva HNL in 1992 following the country’s independence from Yugoslavia and endured a couple of name changes, controversially becoming HAŠK Građanski to reflect their origins with the initial iteration of the club, then changing their name to Croatia Zagreb in 1993, before reverting to their current name in February 2000. As mentioned previously, Dinamo are the most successful team in Croatian football having won a record 23 league titles, and a record 16 Croatian Cups, and have regularly appeared in the group stages of European competitions, most recently in this season’s UEFA Champions League where they defeated Chelsea 1-0 at the Maksimir.
To talk about the most successful Croatian team of all time and the current defending Prva HNL champions, we spoke to the excellent Branko Belan. Branko is a Croatian who is based on the South Korean island of Jeju and supports Dinamo Zagreb and Jeju United. He regularly contributes to the English-language South Korean football website and podcast, K League United, often producing articles or talking about Jeju United (and other teams) and the Korean men’s national team. To read Branko’s superbly-written articles, you can find the KLU website link, as well as his social media channels at the links below:
Q. Who would you say is Dinamo Zagreb’s best player, and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
This one may come as a bit of a surprise, but I am going to have to say [29-year-old forward] Mislav Oršić. After finishing out his time in the K League with Ulsan Hyundai [whom he played for between 2017 and 2018], he decided it was time to come home and has since become the club’s all-time leading scorer. A lot of Dinamo’s success in Europe in recent seasons is because of him, as he has been the reason for some of the biggest wins in the club’s history. He scored a hat-trick against Atalanta in his UEFA Champions League debut in 2019, and followed that up with another hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur in 2021 in the Round of 16 in the Europa League, putting Dinamo in the quarter-finals for the first time ever.
As for the best manager in team history, that one is a bit more difficult to choose, as there have been so many managerial changes through the years, and several of them have had several stints at the club. Some notable names include Miroslav “Ćiro” Blažević, Marijan Vlak, and Zlatko “Cico” Kranjčar, all for their own reasons.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?
As for cult hero status, that would most certainly go to Zvonimir Boban. He was a key figure at the club at the beginning of the 1990’s, and is now well known for the incident in which he retaliated against a Yugoslav police officer who was beating fans during the riot which broke out before the match between Dinamo and Crvena Zvezda, which ended up being a precursor to war.
Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the Plavi and why?
It’s Oršić for sure. When he first arrived at the club, he said it was his dream to play for his childhood club, and he continues to produce top performances week in and week out, and was called up to the national team for the World Cup coming up in Qatar, and has a realistic chance of being a starting eleven player, which I feel he deserves.
He’s quickly become a fan favourite, which should come as no surprise, considering how much he is still loved and regarded by fans in Korea. To hear some of the things said about him by fellow Croatian fans in recent years is also special, considering I had a chance to see him play before he made the decision to return home. Upon arriving in Croatia, not a lot of people knew all that much about him, but now he is one of the most talked about players at the club.
Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?
The first name that comes to mind for me is midfielder Martin Baturina. He was given the number ten shirt at the beginning of the season and has put in some great performances thus far. Scoring in the Eternal Derby against Hajduk Split has already put him in the good graces of the fans and there is much more to come from him not only this season but well into the future.
He’s still just nineteen years old and is also a member of Croatia’s U-21 side, so the future for him is looking very bright, and it won’t be long before he becomes a fixture for the senior national team. I would say it would be best for him to stay at Dinamo for another three or four years so that his development can progress consistently. An early move to Europe could set him back, and a player with his potential cannot afford that.
Q. Who would you regard as Dinamo’s biggest or historical rivals?
Hajduk Split, of course. The two biggest clubs from the two biggest cities in the country and the two most recognized sets of fans. It has been a tense rivalry through the years and that is something that is not going to change anytime soon. They love to hate us and we love to hate them as well. It’s always a matter of bragging rights when the two sides meet, regardless of what is going on in the standings.
Dinamo has dominated in recent years, but that is no excuse to take the fixture lightly. Both teams are always up for it whether it’s a league match or in the cup – there is always something on the line.
- COPA90 Documentary on the “Eternal Derby“: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_FUh2ZUCQY
- FIFA Documentary on the “Eternal Derby“: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDMzaG13pbk
Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this season has gone?
Things have mostly gone according to plan in the league. Six points in front with a match in hand as the league pauses for the World Cup, a far superior goal difference compared to all the other teams in the league, and by all accounts, another league title in the near future, so that side of the coin is good, even though it is the expectation every year.
Things did not go so well in Europe, however, as Dinamo have been knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League where they were in a group with some tough competition in the likes of Chelsea, AC Milan, and Red Bull Salzburg. After the shock win over Chelsea, not much else went right. They only managed to secure a single point against the Austrian club, and that was supposed to be our ticket to at least see out spring in the Europa League, but the execution just wasn’t there and there are questions arising as to whether Ante Čačić is the right man on the touchline, or if the club will choose to go in a different direction following the end of the season, which I think they should.
Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?
The best result I can think of takes me back to the summer of 1997, when the club was known as Croatia Zagreb. They faced off with Serbian side Partizan Belgrade in the qualifying round for the Champions League and it was a night to remember. Partizan had won the first leg by a single goal even though our guys dominated the match from the first whistle, setting up the return in Zagreb perfectly.
The city was abuzz in the lead-up to the match and the radio shows covered every angle, with listeners calling in with score predictions, the whole bit. Robert Prosinečki boldly predicted that we would score five goals in the second leg, and that was the catalyst to set everything off. Silvio Marić scored twice, Igor Cvitanović also scored a pair of goals, and Mark Viduka added one in what is still considered to be one of the greatest nights of football in the city’s history. We were up 3-0 after just 24 minutes and a fourth goal was added just before halftime. The celebrations that night were immense – something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the history of Dinamo?
The Croatia Zagreb kits with the red and white checkered collar stand out for me in that regard.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?
The best thing about being a fan of the club is knowing that we will be in contention for the title every single year. Fans of the club are both passionate and knowledgeable; we’re all coaches to some degree. We love our club and we represent our colours with the utmost pride, regardless of age. There is a lot of respect amongst supporters and those of us who are still on the young side look to the elders to uphold the traditions of the club.
The worst thing? Well, it used to be the whole situation with Zdravko Mamić. He’s definitely an eccentric but he turned the club into a success, sending our top talents all over Europe for considerable fees. He’s no longer in the picture, so now we can look to the future and hope to continue to produce players through the academy as we have done with a great deal of success for decades.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of GNK Dinamo Zagreb?
The first thing that comes to mind for me is more success at the European level. We have done much better in recent years and I would like to see that continue. We need a better manager and better execution in attack for that to happen. A shrewd transfer might help to spice things up, so we will see what happens over the winter. There is not all that much that I would change at the moment, but for Dinamo to be competitive on the continent, things at all levels need to be taken up a notch or two.
A massive thank you to Branko for answering our questions on the current Croatian champions GNK Dinamo Zagreb. Remember you can find his social media accounts in the links towards the top of the blogpage.
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