About the Stadion Poljud The Poljud Stadion is the second biggest in Croatia, behind Dinamo Zagreb’s Maksimir Stadium. It was originally opened to host the 1979 Mediterranean Games by the Yugoslavian President Tito. The original capacity was 55,000, and was seen as a perfect venue for local side Hajduk Split to build on their championship success of the same year. In the next few years the capacity was increased to 62,000 during the 1980’s.
The stadium is located just north of the old town close to the port area and is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. It is a huge bowl structure, with two elliptical roofs that cover the main stands, leaving the end stands open. Views are good from the main stands, whilst from behind the goals they are quite distant.
In 1980 during a game between Hajduk and Red Star Belgrade in front of a sell out 50,000 crowd, an announcement was made that Josip Broz Tito, the Yugoslavian President had died. In a very moving moment the game was abandoned as the players and crowd alike were overcome with grief. The stadium was also one of the venues pencilled in for the joint Croatia/Hungary bid to host Euro 2012 championships that was awarded to Poland and Ukraine in April 2007.
The area around the stadium is full of supporters’ bars and restaurants, and visitors get a real feeling of the history of both the city and the football club from the walk from the city centre. Who plays there? The Poljud is home to Hajduk Split, one of the most famous clubs to have come out of the Balkans as well as one of the oldest having been originally formed in February 1911. The club was actually founded in a pub in Prague by a group of Croatian students who had been to see the Prague derby between Sparta and Slavia. The name they chose reflects the local name for the bandits who fought the Ottoman Turks.
The team were one of the founder members of the Yugoslav league in 1923, and swiftly became one of the most successful by capturing the Championship in 1927 and 1929. However, during the war years, the city fell into the hands of the Italians and was forced to withdraw from the Yugoslav league, although the club did reject the proposition of joining Serie A. After the war the club won the Yugoslav Championship again in 1950, 1952 and 1955. President Tito was so impressed with the resistance of the club during the war, and how it bounced back that he invited the club to move to Belgrade and become the official army team.
In the 1970’s the club became the top team in Yugoslavia as they won four Championships and four Yugoslavian Cup Final victories. During this period they also reached the Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final, only to lose to Leeds United. However, the more success the club enjoyed on a domestic level, the more foreign teams came a-calling with their cheque books. Apart from three more Yugoslavian Cup victories in the mid-1980’s, and another Semi-Final defeat in Europe to Spurs in the 1984 UEFA Cup final, the trophy cabinet stayed locked until independence was taken in 1991.
The team were the fist winners of the Croatian championship in 1992, and followed this up in 1994 and the domestic double in 1995. The team at the time included such worldwide stars as Alen Bokšic, Slaven Bilić, Igor Štimac and Robert Jarni. Some of these stars did get the opportunity to play on the biggest European club stage as the team qualified for the 1994/95 Champions League. The club nervously made it through a group with Steaua Bucherest, Benfica and Anderlecht before losing 3-0 to Ajax in the Quarter-Final. The following season they lost on away goals to Panathinaikos in the qualifying round.
Since the turn of the century the club have won the Championship on three occasions, the last being in 2005. However, their last two Champions League campaigns have been nothing more than an embarrassment for the team. In 2004 they lost to Irish part-timers Shelbourne, and the following season they were thrashed at the same stage by Debrecen.
In 2007/08 the club performed miserably and it was only through the fact that Dinamo had already sewn up the league that Split were able to qualify for the UEFA Cup, after losing 3-0 on aggregate to their rivals in the Croatin cup final. A fifth place finish in the league, was as embarrassing as it sounds.
How to get there The easiest way to reach the stadium is actually by foot. Simply follow the crowds along Zrinjsko-Frankopanska. Journey time on foot should be no more than 15 minutes from the train station. If it is raining then you can catch bus 3 or 17 from the station. A single ticket for any bus trip in the city centre is HRK10.
For a more detailed view on football in Split and where to find the stadiums, go to Footiemap.com to see their Football map on the Split page. Getting a ticket Despite the passion of the Torcida – the loyal hardcore Hajduk fans who sit behind the goal, attendances at the Poljud reflect the current situation in Croatian football – disappointing. Hajduk’s average attendance over the past few seasons has just been above 5,000. With the biggest game of the season versus Dinamo Zagreb only attracting 20,000 at a push, getting a ticket on the day of any match is not a problem.
Occasionally the team have progressed in European competition and at that point it may be worth purchasing a ticket in advance from http://www.hnkhajduk.hr. Tickets for normal league matches cost HRK70 for a place behind the goal, rising to HRK150 for one of the best seats in the house in the main stand. On the odd occasion that the national team play games here then tickets can be purchased via the http://www.hns-cff.hr
Getting around The city centre is very compact, jutting out into the Adriatic Sea. This means that the centre is easily transversed on foot, although if you need to go further a field local buses run from the central rail station.
The airport is located around 25 kilometres from Split city centre and handles around 1million passengers a year, making it Croatia’s third largest. The best way to reach the city centre from the airport is to catch Bus 37 which leaves from just outside the airport arrivals hall and runs to Split’s main bus station every 20 minutes. The fare is HRK22 each way. A taxi should cost no more than HRK140.
Easyjet currently fly here daily from London Gatwick, as do Croatian Airlines who also fly from London Heathrow. British Airways fly up to three times a day from London Gatwick. Finally, Wizzair fly here from London Luton.