When Hajduk fans are found in unlikely places.
While there were many highlights of my Hajduk-driven trip to Liverpool to watch them face Everton in the Europa League playoffs last month, meeting Sean Staunton, Hajduk’s biggest supporter from Ireland, was one of the most memorable. You might remember him from this video below.
Sean and I remained in touch after meeting for a just a few minutes at the Richmond Pub, and after following his love of Hajduk through his many Facebook posts and chats we’d have about the players and games since then, it was only fair to give Sean’s passion for Hajduk the spotlight.
Here is TCN’s interview with Sean on September 10, 2017.
Hey, Sean! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us at Total Croatia News. Why don’t we start off with the basics? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sean, an Irishman currently living in Wrexham Wales, UK. I am a former soldier in the Royal Engineers, and formerly a music journalist and photographer.
You and I met in Liverpool when Everton and Hajduk faced off in the Europa League playoffs last month. I have to say; you are one of the last people I expected to be a massive Hajduk supporter. I’m sure a lot of people are wondering – how were you first introduced to Hajduk?
I saw Hajduk for the first time in October 1972. It was Wrexham versus Hajduk in the old Cup Winner’s Cup, and Hajduk won on away goals. I recently got introduced to the captain of Wrexham from those two games, and he said it was the best experience of his life.
Did you follow a football club before Hajduk?
I never followed football before my love for Hajduk. I was a rugby league player and supporter. In Wigan, where I grew up, rugby is King. Frano Botica, an ex New Zealand All Blacks and Croatian Rugby Union player played at Wigan, as did Josip Skoko, the ex Hajduk captain, who played for Wigan Athletic, the town’s ex Premier League football club. I met him after the Croatia Cup final in Šibenik a few years ago after he saw my flag.
What was it about Hajduk that made you know you wanted to be a fan forever?
After making friends at the Shelbourne versus Hajduk match, I was invited to visit the beautiful Poljud for Hajduk versus Dinamo. I never felt so alive at a sporting event. After spending time down in Makarska with the legendary Nedo and my new brother Pero Vrca who let me stay at his home in Split, I was addicted to the passion.
What was the first Hajduk match you went to?
The first time I saw Hajduk was when I was first introduced to them, at the Wrexham game, but the first time seeing them as an adult was between Fulham and Hajduk.
How many Hajduk matches have you gone to?
I have lost count of the number of games I have been to. I can’t even begin to count. I’m getting old now, 50!
How many hours do you think you’ve traveled for Hajduk?
Sometimes it has taken days each way. It was harder to get to Split before easyJet and Ryanair flew into Croatia, and it’s still hard in the winter. I’ve flown into Ancona, Italy before and got the boat, to Trieste and got the bus, to Zagreb and then by bus – any way possible.
In Ancona, I was shot at from a car after my first trip. The bullet missed me by centimetres and hit the wall behind me. I slept in a rubbish bin in Pescara, Italy.
You’ve done it all for the love of Hajduk. That must not have been cheap.
I’ve lost count of the cost, it’s not important, but I could have possibly bought a fine car, or more importantly an incredible camera and lenses. Sometimes, it cost less than the ticket on the train to the airport, but money is not important if I HAVE to be at a particular game.
What is your most memorable Hajduk match?
My favourite game without a doubt was Inter Milan versus Hajduk. It was a nightmare of a journey from North Wales to London by bus, then a flight to Milan. A wonderful day and we won 0:2. Then a bus overnight to Split where we beat Lokomotiva 5:0. Then I flew back to London and took a bus back to where I live. I don’t stay home because home is where the heart is – in Split.
And your most memorable Hajduk story?
The 100th birthday weekend. Every moment of it – from my arrival to my departure, being kidnapped by a random guy and taken to Dugopolje for a party where I met Ante Miše. Midnight was unbelievable. The result the next day against Slavia Prague was not important, but being there was.
Let’s talk Torcida. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with them?
I first got involved with a guy named Mate Prlić who interviewed me for the Torcida Magazine. I gradually became accepted and became friends with Stipe Lekić and Žan. Stipe always arranged tickets for me for the games and even took me to the Croatian Cup final in Šibenik. He even got me back in time for my flight home from Dubrovnik.
When we met in person, I was introduced to your many Hajduk tattoos. Let’s hear about them.
My tattoos. On my left shoulder is just my club crest with Wigan Torcirda.
On my right shoulder is a yin yang and “ljubav” and “mir” – just a thing I did on every letter (remember those days) for my ex-wife, Franka from Sucidar, when she was my girlfriend.
And I have Žan on my calf. It is my proudest tattoo – a strong image of a great man and beautiful friend.
I’m sure you’ve sung with Hajduk hundreds of times – what are your favorite Hajduk songs?
‘Oluja sa Sjevera’ or ‘Dalmacijo’. Oluja gives me goosebumps.
And your favorite Hajduk players of all time?
That’s a tough call. Probably Milan Rapaić, Nikola Vlašić, and Josip Skoko. Ante Erceg is my current favourite.
If you could tell the Hajduk players and the club anything, what would it be?
Play with pride for the badge and the shirt that you are honoured to wear. Look at the history of your club as you walk into the changing room. Remember some people gave up food to see you play, I know I have. Never give up. HŽV.
And your message to Hajduk fans around the world?
We are one family no matter how many miles or kilometres separate us.
Last but not least: Your advice to Hajduk for winning the championship this year?
Kidnap Mamić. That was a joke (or was it?)
Look at what you did against Everton, whose striker cost more than our entire team and stadium. We can beat anyone because we are Hajduk, masters of the sea.
Thank you, Sean! HŽV.