Back in 2011 Split football team Hajduk spectacularly celebrated its centennial anniversary, confirming once more that no matter how succesfull it is, nothing can make their fans to stop believing in it.
This May another great Hajduk’s jubilee is commemorated, a 70th anniversary of Hajduk joining Yugoslav Liberation Army in World War 2. In the next few days, main celebration will take place on island Vis, where Hajduk landed after leaving Split, occupied first by Italian fascists, and then German Nazis. The rest is, as it is usually said, the history.
Story goes, in short, like this. After Axis forces occupied Yugoslavia, Split, together with most of Dalmatia was sold out by Nazi puppet so-called Independent State of Croatia, and became a part of Italy. Italian authorities knew how important Hajduk was, and tried to persuade leading people in club to join their national championship under name AC Spalato. In 1943 Italy capitulated, and Split was temporarily liberated by partisans lead by Marshall Tito. Only two weeks later, German forces came in, and granted city and the whole region to a Croatian-quisling regime. Attitude toward playing remained the same when they tried to include Hajduk in the Nazi-controlled national league. There was only one solution left. Secretly, complete team left city, and landed in Vis, the then only free part of Dalmatia, and the partisans and allies stronghold in the Adriatic, even with an air-force airport where ally bombers were landing on their return from combat missions.
On Split patron Saint Domnius day, May 7, Hajduk began the new episode in its history, as the official football team of the Yugoslav liberation forces, probably the strongest resistance movement in occupied Europe. They played dozens of matches with allies’ teams, including the mythical match versus Britisth army team in Bari, Italy, in front of 40,000 spectators, it was the biggest sport event in Europe during WW2. Here is the complete list of all the matches Hajduk played until the end of the war. During 1945, Hajduk embarked on a tourney through Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Malta. In Lebanon, the biggest recognition came, general Charles de Gaulle granted Hajduk the title of honorary team of Free France.
This is by far one of the most impressive out-of-sport episodes in Hajduk history, and another proof for something everyone in Split already know: Hajduk is much more than just a football team. Check out some really impressive photographies and (in case you speak Croatian nice history lesson) here.