‘A Tale of Two Croatias’: How Club Football (Soccer) Teams Produce Regional Divides in Croatia’s National Identity

Authors: Dustin Tsai*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, East Europe, Political Geography
Keywords: sports, soccer, regionalism, football, nationalism, Croatia, hooliganism, radical, Yugoslavia
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Croatia's monumental second-place finish at the 2018 FIFA World Cup represents the highest football achievement to date for the young nation. This victory, however, masks violent internal divisions between its domestic club football teams. This paper examines the most salient rivalry between Dinamo-Zagreb and Hajduk-Split, two teams that have evolved to represent the interests of Croatia’s north and south, respectively. Using interviews with radical football fans, I argue that the two teams act as reservoirs for regional identity-building while violence between their fans is a microcosm for political and economic tensions between Zagreb and Split. More importantly, this rivalry exposes the dividedness of the Croatian state, as it continues to grapple with the complexity of its regional identities in the wake of its independence from Yugoslavia. This paper contributes to the existing body of literature on sports identity and regionalisms/nationalism as well as how sporting teams shape the geographies of belonging.

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