Will Croatia National Team Play in Split? Latest Between HNS and Hajduk

Daniela Rogulj

The Croatia Football Federation announced on Wednesday that the Croatia national team would play the next Euro 2020 home qualifier against Hungary on October 10, 2019, at Poljud stadium in Split. The call was made after a unanimous decision by the HNS Executive Board.

Thus, after Croatia defeated Wales in Osijek and plays their next qualifiers in Slovakia and Azerbaijan in September, in October, the national team will return to Split after four years.

While this all seems fine and dandy and is precisely what Hajduk and the City of Split were hoping for in the end (give or take), one precious detail was left out – HNS failed to inform Hajduk and the City of Split of their final decision, leaving them to find out thanks to the slew of Croatian media reports on Wednesday. 

With a long tradition of tension already established between HNS and Hajduk and a relationship that blows hot and cold, you can imagine this wasn’t easy to swallow for the Split club. 

Namely, after announcements of the game in Split, Hajduk revealed on their official Facebook page that they learned of the Federation’s decision thanks to the media.

“We did not receive any official information on this news, we learned about it from the media.”

And then everyone started talking. 

Hajduk President Marin Brbić called this decision imprudent and assessed that it was an expression of disrespect towards Hajduk. 

“As a rule, the decision on who will host the national team should be a matter of agreement between the Federation as an organizer and Hajduk as a host (regardless of the fact that the formal host may be the City of Split as the stadium owner). For the first time, such a decision was made without any agreement with the club or, as far as it is known, the host city.

The fact is that the wider public is divided about the Federation’s relationship with Hajduk, and making a one-sided decision shows thoughtlessness, disrespect, and potent antagonism. Building an atmosphere of renewed confidence and creating preconditions for better and quality relations is in favor of all players of Croatian football, while making one-sided decisions makes it impossible and counterproductive because it discredits those people who are ready to talk and negotiate, and gives the right to those who are solely for the conflict. It is obvious that this is an assessment of the people in the Federation who think this is a good time to emphasize existing tensions.

Looking ahead, the Federation’s concrete measures that will shape the future of Croatian football will show whether this hasty one-sided decision was made under pressure from the term expiring to determine the host, or as the result of their poor assessment.

If this decision was made separately from topics that were or should only be the subject of talks and negotiations on the future of Croatian football and the fair and transparent relationship, for which Hajduk is very interested in, in that case, HNS assumes the sole responsibility for the organization of the match,” said Brbić.

The City of Split also confirmed they were not informed of this decision.

“The City of Split did not receive any official information on the decision of the Croatian Football Federation to hold the match between Croatia and Hungary at Poljud.

Since the meeting held in late April, which included the mayor, Hajduk president Marin Brbić and the president of the Supervisory Board, Benjamin Perasović, neither the mayor nor anyone in the city administration had any contact with the heads of HNS.”

Split Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara also commented on the matter on Thursday, reports Dalmatinski Portal

“Very surprising, even though it does not surprise me when such decisions are made by Šuker and Society. I have spent my life in diplomacy and administration and other bodies, I have been in numerous talks and negotiations, and to realize common goals, it is necessary to speak frankly.

It will still be held,” he continued. 

While HNS has not officially come out to comment on the matter, Index.hr was able to reach HNS Executive Director Marijan Kustić.

“In December 2018, Hajduk said they were interested in one of two matches, Slovakia or Hungary, and we made a unanimous decision that we would like to play the game, of course, in Split,” Kustić said, adding:

“The statement signed by HNK Hajduk and President Huljaj stands and we have accordingly decided to play in Split.

The leaders of Hajduk, the City of Split and HNS met in Zagreb in late April and this was a step towards improving relations, and now everything is in Split. They will soon respond if they want the match. We spoke about the relations between Hajduk and the Croatian Football Federation and I think that we should not make any ultimatums when it comes to the Croatia national team itself,” said Kustić. Recall, Hajduk sent a list of requests to HNS back in December last year when the two sides first discussed Split hosting a Euro qualifier. 

Kustić also spoke to Sportske Novosti on Wednesday evening.

“The Executive Committee unanimously accepted the candidacy of Split and Poljud to host the match against Hungary on October 10th. So, the candidacy exists and was signed by then-President Hajduk Jasmin Huljaj on December 7 last year. On this occasion, Hajduk also competed for the match against Slovakia in November.

We received requests from Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, and Osijek, but we chose Split. A few days ago, we were extremely well received in Split and Omiš, and the coach and players expressed the desire to welcome Hungary at Poljud, and the Executive Board accepted it.”

Has HNS already confirmed Split as a host to UEFA?

“We did not, because the next step is to talk to representatives of the City of Split and Hajduk. They were a candidate, we chose them, and now we have to arrange details about the organization of the match. I expect that we will in the next few days.”

Judging by the reaction from Poljud and the City of Split, they might refuse to host the game at all.

“I do not want to prejudge anything. After we decided on Poljud, we immediately received hundreds of ticket requests, as well as many congratulations. Everyone in the Federation wants Poljud, and the players want it as well as thousands of fans from Split and Dalmatia,” concluded Kustić.

So, what will happen next? Stay tuned.

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