Diocletian built a palace which was a foundation of Split, Saint Domnio protects city for ages, its history goes from ancient Greeks to modern days, Marjan and sea hold it almost in the big hug. There is also a spirit, for every "Splićanin" (person from Split, pron. "spleechahneen") unique and incomparable with anything in the world. And then there is something which is almost like a separate Split religion. Its name is Hajduk FC. Isn't it an irony that - with all those truly unique things which exist in Split - this city is desperately in love with something that almost any city in the world has, a football club? Well, maybe at first sight. Hajduk is definitely one of those really big institutions in Split, and inseparable part of its spirit, heritage and urbanity.
On this day when I'm writing this blog Hajduk celebrates its 104 birthday, and it's not a coincidence that everyone is talking about birthday, and not anniversary, like it's a living entity. Club's results are way below those during that history. Even on business side, it's just a step away from financial abyss. However, religion lives on. It's been years since Hajduk won last national championship, others are - on a paper - way stronger and more successful, and yet, they just can't be compared. Hajduk's stadium is usually full for matches, and chanting can be heard even when team loses.
In 104 years of history Hajduk deserved such fidelity with results and performance, but even more for being such an inseparable part of the community where it exists. That history is full of magnificent moments, often bigger than sport, sometime even bigger than life itself. You don't know the story? Take a look. And it's only a surface.
Of course, football fans are loyal to their teams anywhere in the world. There is no single reason why those believing in Hajduk would be different than those of Liverpool, Juventus or Barcelona, etc. Nevertheless, this is not a story about fans, but about city. One can dislike what is happening sometime at stadium stand, one can has objections for the way club is lead, and it can break your nerve knowing that competition is dozens of points ahead. What Hajduk makes so close part of the city, and city making part of the club is beyond all that. Club which existed in four different countries is a synonym for Split in 20th century. After all, it's only football club anywhere with an operetta composed in its honour. Hajduk was the only team in Europe playing football as part of antifascist movement in WW2. Club's presidents were almost more important than Split mayors, sometime bigger than presidents and kings, and it's more unlikely you will find some other team's fan in Split, than to find a Real Madrid fan in Barcelona. When the story of Split in 20th century needs to be told, there is no better way but to do it through a story of Hajduk. After all, that's just what Split writer Miljenko Smoje did with his "Velo misto", TV series which emptied Split streets on broadcasting nights in early 1980s.
Happy 104th birthday to Hajduk. Be what you always were.