Maximising Maksimir (Dinamo Zagreb)

Građanski Nogometni Klub Dinamo Zagreb were formed in June 1945 and have won the Croatian Prva Liga championship for the last nine consecutive seasons. Interestingly the club are a “corporate personhood” which means there are no shareholders and they are a not-for- profit organisation. The club have played at the legendary Maksimir Stadium since 1949 after the old stadium had been rebuilt. Dinamo’s first game at the Maksimir took place on November 19th 1949 against FK Partizan Beograd.

Originally opened in May 1912 the stadium is opposite the urban park of the same name. The Maksimir’s original tenants were a club called HAŠK. This club and their cross town rivals, HŠK Građanski Zagreb, were both disbanded by a decree issued by the communist authorities. The new Dinamo club initially took over Građanski’s Stadion Koturaška for three seasons before moving into the rebuilt Maksimir.

The Maksimir’s original orientation had a horseshoe shaped stand around three sides of the pitch and small grandstand on the north side. In May 1941 a fascist government representative from the Independent State of Croatia addressed a large gathering of students from Zagreb. He ordered that the Croats, Serbs and Jews should be segregated from each other. The students refused his orders and with in days enraged youths burnt the Maksimir to the ground. The incident was turned into a motion picture called “Operation Stadium”.

Croat architects Vladimir Turina and Franjo Neidhard were engaged to rebuild the whole venue again and provide a capacity of 60,000. Improvements continued periodically, the new north stand was opened in 1955 and six years later the east stand was built. In July 1973 a match against NK Osijek attracted an all time record gate to the Maksimir of 64,138.

In May 1990 Dinamo Zagreb hosted Red Star Belgrade in a Yugoslavian League match. The build up to the game was shrouded in ethnic tensions and some 3,000 Delije (Red Star’s ultras group), led by Željko Ražnatović (later known as the warlord “Arkan”), made the trip north from Belgrade. Dinamo’s ultra group the Bad Blue Boys were also out in force and began stoning the Delije. The Serbs retaliated with nationalist chants like “Zagreb is Serbian” and “We’ll kill Tuđman”. The pitch was engulfed with fighting supporters. Red Star’s players returned to the dressing rooms but Dinamo’s remained on the pitch. Dinamo’s star player and captain Zvonimir Boban kicked a police officer who was seen attacking an innocent Dinamo fan. The game is generally cited as one of the major flashpoints in the build up to the horrendous Balkan War and the break up of the old Yugoslavia.

The current stadium dates from 1997 and the old north stand was replaced by the present one a year later. In 2008 there was a competition held to find a design for a new national stadium in the Kajzerica area of the city. The plan was to demolish the old Maksimir Stadium and replace it with a state of the art home for the Croatian national team as well as Croatia’s biggest club. The contest was won by architect Hrvoje Njirić whose stunning “Blue Volcano” design was widely lauded. The problem for the new project was funding and in 2011 the municipality spent a fortune, which proved to be a considerable strain on public resources, on upgrading the Maksimir. Undersoil heating and irrigation systems were installed and all surfaces were painted blue. Every seat in the stadium was also replaced. The Blue Volcano project was officially shelved in October 2012 when even a referendum to decide on staying at the Maksimir or moving to Kajzerica could not be organised effectively.

While Dinamo continue to dominate the domestic scene they have struggled for success in Europe. In this season’s qualification for the Champions League Dinamo easily beat Žalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania but surprisingly lost 2-1 on aggregate to Denmark’s AaB Aalborg. This saw the Croatians shunted into the Europa League and a group consisting of Celtic, the Romanian club Astra Giurgiu and tonight’s opponents FC Red Bull Salzburg. Having lost their last group game 4-2 in Salzburg, Dinamo were keen to celebrate their 100th European match with a win in the Maksimir.

Despite their best laid plans Salzburg took the lead through the impressive Jonathan Soriano and when Kevin Kampl doubled the lead the hosts lack of adventure seemed to hold them back. Even though Henriquez immediately reduced Dinamo’s arrears it was not to be and the Austrian’s cruised to an easy win. Soriano would score a hat-trick of real quality although Salzburg’s fourth and fifth goals were borne out of some shambolic defending by Dinamo. Even though it was a historic occasion the ground was less than a third full and the ultras group Bad Blue Boys were few in number. There has been a dispute between the club’s hierarchy and the ultras since 2010 which has seen periodic boycotting of matches. Interestingly the BBB have their own megastore in a unit at the stadium.

An iconic name in European football the Maksimir deserves full houses and great European nights, something the current team is failing to provide.

dinamologo

Thursday November 6th 2014 – Europa League Group D

GNK Dinamo Zagreb (0) 1 (Henriquez 60)

FC Red Bull Salzburg (1) 5 (Soriano 40,64,85, Kampl 59, Bruno 72)

Attendance: 10,769 (at Stadion Maksimir)

Dinamo:

34. Eduardo Carvalho, 6. Ivo Pinto, 5. Jozo Šimunović, 87. Jérémy Taravel, 3. Luis Ibáñez, 16. Arijan Ademi, 77. Marcelo Brozović, 8. Domagoj Antolić ©, 2. El Arbi Soudani, 90. Duje Čop, 9. Ángelo Henriquez.

Subs: 1. Antonijo Ježina, 7. Franko Andrijašević (for 8, 69 mins), 11. Junior Fernandes (for 90, 61 mins), 19. Josip Pivarić, 22. Leonardo Sigali, 28. Wilson Eduardo, 55. Ognjen Vukojević.

Salzburg:

1. Péter Gulacsi, 4. Peter Ankersen, 5. André Ramalho, 36. Martin Hinteregger, 17. Andreas Ulmer, 44. Kevin Kampl, 13. Stefan Ilsanker, 8. Naby Keita, 24. Christoph Leitgeb, 26. Jonathan Soriano ©, 7. Marcel Sabitzer.

Subs: 33. Alexander Walke, 2. Benno Schmitz, 15. Franz Schiemer (for 36, 88 mins), 41. Konrad Laimer (for 8, 77 mins), 45. Duje Ćaleta-Car, 77. Massimo Bruno (for 7, 31 mins).

Yellow Cards: Pinto, Brozović, Ademi, Šimunović (all Dinamo); Ilsanker, Ulmer, Laimer (all Salzburg)

Gallery

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No Undertones (Derry City)

Football had been played at Brandywell since the 19th Century and had been home to the short lived Derry Celtic before the newly formed Derry City were offered a lease by Londonderry Corporation (now Derry County Council) upon their formation in May 1928. The club applied to join the Irish League but their application was rejected having arrived two days late. They reapplied the following season and were elected at the expense of Queen’s Island. The club initially wore claret and blue shirts but changed in the 1930’s to the fabled red and white candy stripes in homage to manager Billie Gillespie and his long association with Sheffield United. Years later Derry’s finest band, the Undertones, would replicate the candy stripes on the cover of their hit single “My Perfect Cousin”.

The club had issues with security of tenure at Brandywell and were constrained, as they still are, with a charter covenant from the Honourable Irish City which declares Brandywell should be “available for the free recreation of the local population”. In the early 1930’s the Derry City board discussed several options to move to their own ground but indecision let no less than three options slip through their hands. Option one was to buy Celtic Park, previously used by the defunct Derry Celtic and adjacent to Brandywell. The club dithered and the local GAA club scooped up the option to buy the ground. The board were also offered Bond’s Field in Waterside but this was rejected as the board felt it was too far from their heartland of the Bogside. Finally they were offered Meenan Park for £1,500 but again decided to stay put.

The club has played at Brandywell ever since despite a tempestuous relationship with the City Council. The present main stand sweeps around the ovoid greyhound track, present at the site since the 1940’s, and was erected in 1991 replacing the fabled “Jungle”. Opposite is an elderly raised wooden stand of uncertain heritage. It’s known as the “Glentoran” stand having once stood at the Oval in Belfast and some even credit its modest construction to the legendary Archibald Leitch. This side of the ground is currently planned to be replaced with an all-seated stand which should once and for all end any issues around UEFA compliance.

The Foylesiders won the Irish League for the only time in 1964/65 and in the following seasons European Cup competition they became the first Irish side to win a European tie accounting for FK Lynn Oslo over two legs. The Irish FA then said Derry could not host the second round tie against Anderlecht at Brandywell and would have to play it in Belfast. The club refused and the second leg was never played, albeit somewhat academic as the Belgians had won 9-0 in the home leg. Relations with the Irish FA would never recover and deteriorated so badly that the club were effectively booted out of the League in 1972. The Irish FA had said that due to the Troubles the safety of visiting teams could not be guaranteed and all home games had to be played 30 miles away in Coleraine. Derry’s crowds predictably plummeted and the club had no choice but to leave senior football altogether.

City limped on in the Saturday Morning League and applied almost annually to rejoin the Irish League only to be rejected every time. In 1985 an unlikely door swung open, boosted by a 4,000 crowd for a Derry v Shamrock match, the Irish FA met with their League of Ireland counterparts and unanimously agreed to let Derry transfer to the expanding Republic leagues. The club took to their new surroundings with relish they became the first club to win the League, the FAI Cup and the League Cup in the same season when they swept the board during 1988/89. While they have won the cups numerous times since the League Championship has returned to Brandywell only once, in 1996/97.

That said the club have been European regulars and tonight’s game is the opening leg of this season’s Europa League. Welsh club, Aberystwyth Town are made very welcome to the Brandywell with a Welsh flag fluttering in the gently Foyleside wind. I had previously visited Derry in the 1990’s, although not to see a game. In those days I was ignorant but fascinated by the political murals and memorials but the somewhat notorious Bogside area was an intimidating place to be. Today there is no undertone of trouble and of a turbulent past, everyone is welcoming and just excited for the match and a promise of a bumper Brandywell crowd.

Opening exchanges see the home side on top and just 15 minutes in Pat McEleney opens the scoring. Ten minutes later the turning point comes in the form of the Danish referee. Patterson burst into the visitor’s penalty box to be upended by keeper Mike Lewis. A clear penalty but the red card seemed a tad harsh. Patterson picked himself up and slotted home the penalty kick. The Welsh side wilt visibly in the second half and Derry help themselves to two more courtesy of Timlin and McNamee. In truth but for profligate finishing, notably from Patterson, Derry could have clocked up double figures.

A great venue with passionate support, what a terrific place to visit.

Thursday July 3rd 2014 – Europa League 1st Qualifying Round, 1st Leg

Derry City (2) 4 (P.McEleney 15, Patterson pen 25, Timlin 47, McNamee 86)

Aberystwyth Town (0) 0

Att: 1,980 (at Brandywell)

Derry:

1. Gerard Doherty; 3. Dean Jarvis; 5. Ryan McBride; 26. Cliff Byrne (c); 30. Aaron Barry; 4. Barry Molloy; 7. Barry McNamee; 14. Michael Duffy; 19. Mark Timlin; 11. Rory Patterson; 10. Patrick McEleney.

Subs: 18. Philip Lowry (for 10,76 mins); 10. Nathan Byrne (for 11,82 mins); 23. Ryan Curran; 20. Ciaran Gallagher; 6. Shane McEleney; 8. Danny Ventre; 12. Joshua Tracey (for 19,68 mins)

Aberysthwyth:

1. Mike Lewis; 3. Cledan Davies; 4. Antonio Corbisiero; 5. Stuart Jones (c); 10. Chris Venables; 2. Chris Davis; 16. Wyn Thomas; 7. Geoff Kellaway; 8. Luke Sherborne; 9. Mark Jones; 11. Craig Williams.

Subs: 12. Sion James; 14. Bari Morgan (for 2,66 mins); 15. Rhydian Davies; 18. Jamie Butler; 6.Thomas Atyeo; 13. Philip Draper (for 11, 25 mins)

Yellow Cards: Barry (Derry); Kellaway (Aberystwyth)

Red Card: Lewis (Aberystwyth)

Gallery

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Derry ticket