On the 16th of July, 1950, before a massive home crowd of close to 200,000 in the Estádio do Maracanã Brazil only had to draw against Uruguay to win their first ever FIFA World Cup trophy.
But it was not to be. In one of the most memorable matches of all time, Brazil took the lead early into the second half only to go on and conceded two goals, the decider only 11 minutes from time. Alcides Ghiggia dashed Brazilian dreams of a first ever world cup win and to do it as a host nation.
The famous Brazilian capitulation even has its own name; the infamous loss referred to in Brazil as the Maracanazo – The Maracanã Blow.
It is a moment that will forever be remembered in Brazil for its infamy. However devout supporters of Croatian first division side HNK Hajduk Split will remember that same fateful day for a very different reason.
A group of students from Zagreb were so impressed with the style of supporting present at the world cup from the passionate Brazilian fans that they decided to form their own supporters group for the club they loved most of all – Hajduk.
That historic day was the 28th of October 1950, just a day before a vital game against fierce rivals Red Star Belgrade. Hajduk needed to win the game to win the championship, but even more importantly, to do it unbeaten – something which had never before been achieved in Yugoslavia.
A pact was made that from the day, every supporter who wanted to come and support the Bili (the Whites) with singing, chanting and any other expression of passion toward the club would stand together under the name Torcida – the name stemming from the Brazilian Portuguese word for supporters, out of respect for those that had inspired the firm.
That Sunday, only a day after the firm was formed, over 20,000 people squeezed into the Stari Plac, Hajduk’s stadium at the time, and created an atmosphere that etched itself into the history books of Eastern European football.
In the 86th minute of play Hajduk scored to make it 2-1 to the home side. Pandemonium ensued. On the same day that the oldest firm in Europe attended its first Hajduk match, the Torcida made its first of many pitch invasions to celebrate the goal.
After a small delay as the officials pushed to have the final minutes of the game completed, the final whistle blew. The 20,000 strong crowd spilled onto the streets of Split, celebrating the victory. During the celebrations, the fans jokingly announced the death of Red Star Belgrade.
Hajduk’s unbeaten season was the only one to ever occur in the 47 year span of the Yugoslavian First League and the first of seven JPL titles that the club would go on to win.
After the historic Red Star game, the Yugoslav Communist Party began with repressive measures against the Torcida. The name Torcida was forbidden and the badge that the students initially used to represent the Torcida by was also banned. Some of the founding members were detained and proceedings conducted against them. One of the founders, Vjenceslav Žuvela, was expelled from the Communist Party and sentenced to a prison term.
Despite all of this, the Torcida dangerously continued their fervent support of their beloved club, but it was forced underground. Around this time the group started chanting the slogan “Hajduk Živi Vječno” – Hajduk lives forever.
Not until the late 1970s did the Torcida officially resurface. In this new era for the Torcida, it began to adopt many customs from other supporters groups – such as the waving of many flags carrying the names Hajduk and Torcida, and presentation of banners carrying messages. Firm members began wearing scarves and increasing amounts of violence between firms was reported.
These days, Torcida members gather in the north stand at the stadium of Poljud, the renowned “sjever” and continue to this day to create an unmatchable atmosphere every time Hajduk takes to the pitch.
In recognition of the oldest football firm in Europe, happy 62nd birthday Torcida Split.