|Football in Croatia|
|Governing body||Croatian Football Federation|
|National team(s)||men's national team|
women's national team
Football in Croatia, called nogomet, is the most popular sport in the country and is led by the Croatian Football Federation. 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 and the final at the 2018 World Cup.
The governing body of football in Croatia is the Croatian Football Federation. 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.
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, with local Fiumans also taking part in the game. 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. In 1890 the first school-based football clubs are founded by high school students in Rijeka. The sport was further popularized in Croatia by Franjo Bučar in the 1890s. The Croatian translation of the sport's name, nogomet, was coined by the linguist Slavko Rutzner Radmilović in 1893 or 1894. 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, both multi-sport association that had also very popular football sections. 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. 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, won by Forza e Coraggio before being forced to change its name into U.S. Ragusa. Hajduk, Građanski and SK Opatija were all founded in the same year 1911. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
|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|
Main article: Croatian football clubs in European competitions
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||1972–73||SF||Leeds United||1–0||Hajduk Split||1–0||0–0|
|EC||1975–76||QF||Hajduk Split||2–3||PSV Eindhoven||2–0||0–3 (aet)|
|EC||1979–80||QF||Hamburger SV||3–3 (a)||Hajduk Split||1–0||2–3|
|UC||1983–84||SF||Hajduk Split||2–2 (a)||Tottenham Hotspur||2–1||0–1|
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. 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.
|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|
|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|
|Davor Šuker||Real Madrid||1998||1||0||0||0||0||1|
|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|
|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|
|Ivan Perišić||Bayern Munich||2020||1||0||0||0||0||0|
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.
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.