Football in Croatia
Home stadium of club Hajduk Split
Governing bodyCroatian Football Federation
National team(s)men's national team
women's national team
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions

Football in Croatia, called nogomet, is the most popular sport in the country and is led by the Croatian Football Federation.[1] It is played in four official components; the domestic league consists of three hierarchical echelons, and a single national team represents the entire state.

The first Croat clubs were founded prior to the First World War and participated in the Yugoslavian league structure after Croatia became a part of Yugoslavia following the war. From 1940 to 1944, nineteen friendly matches were played by a Croatia national side representing the Second World War-era puppet states of the Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia. After the war, most of the prominent Yugoslavian clubs, including clubs in Croatia, were dissolved and replaced with new sides by Marshal Tito's Communist regime.

Today, club football in Croatia is dominated by Dinamo Zagreb. Since independence, the country has produced a string of players who have performed well in many of Europe's most highly regarded leagues and who took the national team to third place at the 1998 World Cup[1] and the final at the 2018 World Cup.


The governing body of football in Croatia is the Croatian Football Federation.[2] It oversees the organization of:

Note: the aforementioned competitions are for men if not stated differently. Women's football exists but is much less developed or popular.


Main article: List of football clubs in Croatia

According to many surveys conducted by multiple newspapers, the most popular club in Croatia is Dinamo Zagreb which is also the most successful club. Their main rivals are Hajduk Split, followed by HNK Rijeka and NK Osijek.


The following articles detail major results and events in each footballing season since the early 1990s, when the Croatian First Football League was established. Each article provides final league standings for that season, as well as details on cup results, Croatia national football team results, and a summary of any other important events during the season.

01990s0 1990–910 1991–920 1992–930 1993–940 1994–950 1995–960 1996–970 1997–980 1998–990 1999–20000
02000s0 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10
02010s0 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20
02020s0 2020–21


A plaque in Rijeka marking the site of the 1873 football game
A plaque in Rijeka marking the site of the 1873 football game

The earliest record of football in Croatia dates from 1873, when English engineers and technicians of Stabilimento tecnico Fiumano played in Rijeka against the engineers building the local railway line,[3] with local Fiumans also taking part in the game.[4] The first recorded football match played in the Kingdom of Croatia was played in 1880 in Županja, between English workers of The Oak Extract Company and local youths.[3] In 1890 the first school-based football clubs are founded by high school students in Rijeka.[4] The sport was further popularized in Croatia by Franjo Bučar in the 1890s.[5] The Croatian translation of the sport's name, nogomet, was coined by the linguist Slavko Rutzner Radmilović in 1893 or 1894.[6] The name was accepted into Slovenian as well.

The earliest officially registered clubs were founded in Pula before the turn of the century, when in August 1899 the locals founded Club Iris and later in the same year Veloce Club,[7] both multi-sport association that had also very popular football sections.[8] The first clubs to be founded in the then Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia were HAŠK and PNIŠK, in 1903. In Rijeka Fiumei Atletikai was founded in 1905 and CS Olimpia in 1904, but its football section may have had its first seating only in 1906, which is stil debated. That same year Giovine Fiume started its activities in Rijeka and HŠK Concordia in Zagreb. Among the earliest clubs also Victoria and Olimpija Karlovac were created in 1908. In 1908 also the first win against an English side comes when CS Olimpia beats 1-0 the football team of the Cunard Line ship RMS Brescia.[4] In 1909 GŠK Marsonia started playing in Slavonski Brod and the Fiumei AC is invited to the Hungarian Championship, where it decides not to play. In 1910 the club Forza e Coraggio was founded in Dubrovnik and the Società Ginnastica e Scherma in Zadar opens officially its football section, and these will battle in the first Dalmatian Championship in 1911,[9] won by Forza e Coraggio before being forced to change its name into U.S. Ragusa.[10] Hajduk, Građanski and SK Opatija were all founded in the same year 1911.[11] The first football club to be founded with Croat involvement as a minority was Bačka in Subotica in 1901, in what was then the Kingdom of Hungary and is today Serbia. In Bosnia and Herzegovina Zrinjski Mostar was founded by Croats in 1905 and was the first club to be founded in that country. The Croatian Football Federation itself was created in 1912 which is also the year of the first Croatia and Slavonia championship, won by HAŠK.[12] In 1912 the Dalmatian championship is won by Società Bersaglieri and in its third edition is won by Calcio Spalato, who then played and lost to the best club from the Trieste region, Edera.[13]

Zagreb clubs:
Zagreb clubs:
Teams from the Republic of Croatia which competed in the Yugoslavian football championship from 1923–1940

After World War I, Croats played a major part in the founding of the first football federation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later named Football Association of Yugoslavia. Its headquarters were initially in Zagreb before moving to Belgrade in 1929.These are the times when talented Ico Hitrec played football. In 1927, Hajduk Split took part in the inaugural Mitropa Cup for Central European clubs.

Croatia had its first international football match on April 2, 1940 against Switzerland. During World War II, the Croatian Football Federation joined FIFA as a representative of the Independent State of Croatia, but this was contentious and short-lived as was the fascist puppet-state. After the war, football was resumed in the second Yugoslavia. The communist regime in the new state quickly moved to ban all club names who had either participated in the Croatian or Italian championships or bore Croatian national names.

The new regime formally dissolved all football clubs to copy Moscow's stalinist sport model merging all clubs into extensive sport unions – often undergoing a heavy rebranding more in line with the communist ideals.[14] So Građanski was renamed NK Dinamo Zagreb, Fiumana became S.C.F. Quarnero, ŽŠK Victoria became NK Lokomotiva, to name a few. Most clubs had to explicitly show loyalty to the regime, and it was common for them to have a communist red star as part of their new emblems, apart from a proletarian sounding identity.[15] Many of clubs were considered to have moral links to the Ustaše or the Italian fascists. Among the victims completely disbanded clubs included top-sides Concordia, PNIŠK and HAŠK, as well as the major Croatian clubs in today's Bosnia and Herzegovina SAŠK and HŠK Zrinjski Mostar. The largest club to avoid rebranding was Hajduk Split who had refused to participate in the Croatian competition and had strong links with the partizan army of Tito.

As Tito broke up with Stalin, most sport union reverted back to being football clubs in the following years. Over the following decades, the Croatian clubs performed well in the Yugoslav First League and the Yugoslav Cup. Hajduk and Dinamo formed one half of the Big Four of Yugoslav football (the other two being FK Partizan and Red Star Belgrade). Rijeka won 2 Yugoslav cups. In 1967, Zlatko Čajkovski of German club Bayern Munich became the only Croatian manager to win the European Cup Winners' Cup.

After Croatia gained independence in the 1990s, the football federation was reconstituted and joined the international associations.[16] The Croatian internationals from the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship-winning team went on to achieve more success, spawning the Golden Generation who won third place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.[17] Since then, Croatia has continued to produce top players. At the more recent Euro 2008, they famously beat 2006 FIFA World Cup bronze medalists Germany 2–1 in a shock win but exited the tournament courtesy of a penalty shoot-out against Turkey in the quarterfinals.

Earliest clubs in Croatia

Club Year City, Region Description Dissolution
Club Iris 1899 Pula, Austrian Littoral Football section opened in august 1899. Dissolution date unknown. /
Veloce Club Polese 1899 Pula, Austrian Littoral Football section of cycling club. Dissolution date unknown. /
PNIŠK 1903 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1909
HAŠK 1903 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1945
Club Sportivo Olimpia 1904 Rijeka, Corpus Separatum Later renamed to NK Rijeka. Still Active
Fiumei Atletikai Club 1905 Rijeka, Corpus Separatum Dissolution date unknown. /
Giovine Fiume 1906 Rijeka, Corpus Separatum 1912
HŠK Concordia 1906 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1945
Törekves SE 1907 Rijeka, Corpus Separatum Dissolution date unknown. /
AŠK Croatia 1907 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1945
HŠK Victoria Sušak 1908 Sušak, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1948
GŠK Marsonia 1909 Slavonski Brod, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia Still Active
Associazione Sportiva Edera 1910 Pula, Austrian Littoral 1926
Forza e Coraggio 1910 Dubrovnik, Kingdom of Dalmatia In 1912 renamed Unione Sportiva di Ragusa. Dissolution date unknown. /
Società Ginnastica e Scherma Zara 1910 Zadar, Kingdom of Dalmatia Dissolution date unknown. /
NK Zmaj 1910 Zadar, Kingdom of Dalmatia Later renamed in NK Arbanasi. Still Active
Calcio Spalato 1910 Split, Kingdom of Dalmatia Dissolved in the '20s '20s
Nogometni Odjel Sokola Opatija - Volosko 1911 Opatija, Austrian Littoral Later renamed NK Opatija. Still Active
1. HŠK Građanski 1911 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia Later renamed to NK Dinamo. Still Active
Unione Sportiva 1911 Dubrovnik, Kingdom of Dalmatia Dissolution date unknown. /
NK DAVOR 1911 Dubrovnik, Kingdom of Dalmatia Dissolution date unknown. /
HŠK Hajduk 1911 Split, Kingdom of Dalmatia Still Active
DFV Vorwärts Abbazia 1912 Opatija, Austrian Littoral German minority club. Official dissolution date unknown. /
Tornai SE 1912 Rijeka, Corpus Separatum Hungarian minority club. Official dissolution date unknown. /
HRŠD Anarh 1912 Split, Kingdom of Dalmatia Later renamed to RNK Split. Still Active
HŠK Slaven 1912 Koprivnica, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia Still Active
Olimpija Suhopolje 1912 Suhopolje, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia 1916
SK Lav 1913 Knin, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia Later renamed to HNK Dinara. Still Active
HŠK Šparta 1913 Zagreb, Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia Later renamed to NK Šparta-Elektra. Still Active

Clubs in European competitions

Main article: Croatian football clubs in European competitions

Best results

The table below lists Croatian clubs' best results in elimination rounds of European club competitions:

Competition Season Round Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
UCWC 1960–61 SF Fiorentina Italy 4–2 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Dinamo Zagreb 3–0 1–2
UCWC 1972–73 SF Leeds United England 1–0 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Hajduk Split 1–0 0–0
EC 1975–76 QF Hajduk Split Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2–3 Netherlands PSV Eindhoven 2–0 0–3 (aet)
EC 1979–80 QF Hamburger SV Germany 3–3 (a) Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Hajduk Split 1–0 2–3
UC 1983–84 SF Hajduk Split Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2–2 (a) England Tottenham Hotspur 2–1 0–1
UCL 1994–95 QF Hajduk Split Croatia 0–3 Netherlands Ajax 0–0 0–3
EL 2020–21 QF Dinamo Zagreb Croatia 1–3 Spain Villarreal 0–1 1–2
UCWC 1998–99 QF Varteks Croatia 1–3 Spain Mallorca 0–0 1–3

Footballers in international club competitions

The following table lists all Croatian players who are credited to win an international final (either appeared in the final, being unused substitutes or were in the squad in earlier rounds of the tournament). It does not include Croatians who were considered Yugoslav players prior to Croatia's independence in 1991.

As of 2021 a total of eleven Croatian players are credited as winning the Champions League: Alen Bokšić, Zvonimir Boban, Davor Šuker, Dario Šimić, Igor Bišćan, Mario Mandžukić, Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Mateo Kovačić, Dejan Lovren and Ivan Perišić, although Šimić, Bišćan and Lovren did not appear in the finals.[18] In terms of appearances, fourteen players have played in the final (Bokšić, Boban, Šuker, Boris Živković, Marko Babić, Igor Tudor, Dado Pršo, Ivica Olić, Mandžukić, Modrić, Rakitić, Lovren, Perišić and Kovačić), but only five players appeared more than once – Bokšić (1993, 1997), Boban (1994, 1995), Olić (2010, 2012), Mandžukić (2013, 2017) and Modrić (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018). Two Croatian players have scored a goal in the final match, Mandžukić in the 2013 and 2017 final, and Rakitić in the 2015 final.

As of 2019 a total of seven Croatian players are credited as winning the Europa League: Mario Stanić, Ivica Olić, Ivica Križanac, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitić, Šime Vrsaljko and Mateo Kovačić – although Stanić did not appear for his club in the final. The only Croatian player to have scored a goal in the final match was Nikola Kalinić in the 2015 final.[19]

Ranking Name Team(s) Years CL EL SC FCWC CWC IC Total
1 Luka Modrić Real Madrid 2014–2018 4 0 3 3 0 0 10
Mateo Kovačić Real Madrid, Chelsea 2016–2021 4 1 3 2 0 0
3 Dario Šimić Milan 2003–2007 2 0 1 1 0 0 4
Ivan Rakitić Sevilla, Barcelona 2014–2015 1 1 1 1 0 0
5 Alen Bokšić Marseille, Juventus, Lazio 1993–1999 1 0 0 0 1 1 3
Mario Mandžukić Bayern Munich 2013 1 0 1 1 0 0
7 Zvonimir Boban Milan 1994 1 0 1 0 0 0 2
Davor Šuker Real Madrid 1998 1 0 0 0 0 1
Igor Bišćan Liverpool 2001–2005 1 0 1 0 0 0
Ivica Križanac Zenit Saint Petersburg 2008 0 1 1 0 0 0
11 Robert Jarni Real Madrid 1998 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Mario Stanić Parma 1999 0 1 0 0 0 0
Niko Kovač Bayern Munich 2001 0 0 0 0 0 1
Robert Kovač Bayern Munich 2001 0 0 0 0 0 1
Ivica Olić CSKA Moscow 2005 0 1 0 0 0 0
Darijo Srna Shakhtar Donetsk 2009 0 1 0 0 0 0
Šime Vrsaljko Atlético Madrid 2018 0 1 0 0 0 0
Nikola Kalinić Atlético Madrid 2018 0 0 1 0 0 0
Dejan Lovren Liverpool 2019 1 0 0 0 0 0
Ivan Perišić Bayern Munich 2020 1 0 0 0 0 0
  Abolished competition


Futsal, called mali nogomet (lit. "small football") in Croatia, is also widely played and is sometimes considered as a mini football league. It is often taught in schools and also played by football professionals as a pastime.

The Croatian First League of Futsal is the top-tier futsal competition.


See also: List of Croatian football supporters' associations

The Croatian football fans organize in various fan groups such as the Torcida (Hajduk), Bad Blue Boys (Dinamo), Armada (Rijeka), Kohorta (Osijek), etc.

On the international games, the Croatian fans usually wear the checkerboard colors red and white, as they are on the Croatian coat of arms.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Croatia Is Basking In Its Surprising Soccer Success The Team, Toughened By War, Has Advanced To The Semifinals In Its First Trip To The Tournament. -". 1998-07-09. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  2. ^ "When Saturday Comes – Power shifts at the top of Croatian football". 2012-07-09. Archived from the original on 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  3. ^ a b Marković 2012, p. 307.
  4. ^ a b c Moranjak, Zlatko; Burburan, Ferruccio (2006). Rijeka Nogometa. Rijeka: VSDR. pp. 27–28, 42, 44, 46. ISBN 9537070107.
  5. ^ Marković 2012, pp. 308–309.
  6. ^ Marković 2012, pp. 309, 328.
  7. ^ Percan, Anton (2011). Nogomet u Puli. Pula: Pula : Histria Croatica C.A.S.H. ISBN 978-953-255-029-0.
  8. ^ "VIRTUAL MUSEUM". NK Istra 1961. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  9. ^ "Zara, le prime disfide contro ragusei e spalatini (1 e continua)". Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  10. ^ "Croatia - Dalmatia 1910-1919". Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  11. ^ "POVIJEST". NK OPATIJA - nogometni klub. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  12. ^ "Povijest - Hrvatski nogometni savez". Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  13. ^ "Zara, le prime disfide contro ragusei e spalatini (1 e continua)". Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  14. ^ Mills, Richard (2018). The Politics of Football in Yugoslavia: Sport, Nationalism and the State. London, U.K.: I.B. Tauris. pp. 77, 80, 82, 87–89. ISBN 9781784539139.
  15. ^ Mills, Richard Mervyn Stanley (2019). Nogomet i politika u Jugoslaviji : sport, nacionalizam i država. Ivana Karabaić (1. izd ed.). Zagreb: Profil. ISBN 978-953-313-719-3. OCLC 1159069330.
  16. ^ Jamie Jackson. "Football: Why are they all better than us? | Football | The Observer". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  17. ^ Launey, Guy De (2013-05-02). "BBC News – What is Croatia's secret to sporting success?". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  18. ^ "Olić osmi hrvatski igrač u finalu Lige prvaka". (in Croatian). HINA. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  19. ^ Bariša, Mladen (20 May 2009). "Finale Kupa UEFA: Torcida će u Istanbulu nagovarati Srnu da se vrati u Hajduk". Slobodna Dalmacija (in Croatian). Retrieved 16 March 2011.