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The Dirtiest Football Matches of All-Time (Part Six)

Continuing the series looking back at some o the dirtiest football matches in the history of football.

For Part One please click here; Part Two please click here; Part Three please click here; Part Four here; and Part Five here).

Whilst the World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 was credited with sparking armed conflict between the two countries, no match in European history had resulted in such dire consequences.

That was until the meeting between Dinamo Zagreb and their most bitter rivals, Red Star Belgrade, in May 1990.

It was played against the fragmentation of the country formed after the Second World War known as Yugoslavia, which had been ruled by Josip Tito until his death in 1980, but then saw nationalist sentiments being to foment between the separate groups, particularly the Serbs and the Croats.

With the fall of communism also precipitating political change, the match, between the two rivals, always a tense affair, could hardly have come at a less opportune time.

Trouble began before the match in Zagreb, with fighting in the streets between the ultras of both sides – the Bad Blue Boys backing Dinamo, and the Delije (meaning brave or hero) faction representing Red Star.

It continued into the stadium when, with ten minutes still to go before kick-off, Dinamo fans broke through the metal fences separating the stands form the pitch, and, in the words of one local journalist, what happened next was like a “circle of hell.

Fights erupted all over, and hundreds were injured, some seriously.

Perhaps the culmination of the violence came when Dinamo’s captain Zvonimir Boban, one of several players who had remained on the pitch despite the turmoil, waded into the crowd and kicked a police officer who was attacking a fan.

The Bad Blue Boys then came to his rescue, shielding him as things escalated into chaos.

The match was subsequently abandoned, and Boban was suspended by the Football Association of Yugoslavia, missing the 1990 World Cup.

It was the last tournament in which they would compete as a unified nation.

Within a year, Slovenia and Croatia had declared independence, and the Balkan Wars had begun, one of the deadliest conflicts seen in Europe  since the end of the Second World War.

Boban became a Croat hero, but many figures who came to prominence in the subsequent conflicts came to have been at that match on that fateful day, including Željko “Arkan” Ražnatović, the head of the Delije hooligans and later supreme commander of the Serb Volunteer Guard.

Even today, the match is commemorated outside the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, with a  monument to the Dinamo fans who would go on to sacrifice their lives for their Croatian homeland.

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