Along with other social aspects, the connection of sports and politics was one of the seminal features of the breakup of Yugoslavia. For more than 30 years, football served as a means for the development of Yugoslav socialism, whereas in the last decade of the country’s existence, it contributed to its dissolution. Socialism was primarily not broken down by sportsmen themselves, but the process of dissolution was carried out by the spectators, that is in the second half of the Eighties by groups of fans of determined football clubs. Partial chauvinist incidents on the tribunes had happened earlier as well. It had all begun with a “marginally” complicated political context when Torcida was born during the Hajduk vs. Crvena zvezda match in 1950, followed by minor chauvinist outbursts during the Sixties, happening at matches where Croatian clubs would play against Serbian clubs. A follow up of these incidents were the disturbing national slogans after the match Hajduk vs. OFK Beograd in 1970, which took place within the context of a tense political stage during the Croatian spring (Hrvatsko proljeće, MASPOK). During the Seventies of the XX century, when the first “louder” supporters’ choirs originated, socialist Yugoslavia did not register an increase of chauvinist manifestations on its stadiums, which can possibly be justified with the political purges of the leaders of the Croatian spring in Croatia and with that of the “liberals” in Serbia; moreover, the exceptionally stable economy of the country in those years accounts for the lack of discontent among people. The authorities of those times, under the strong control of Josip Broz Tito, tried to preserve the balance within the country; any potentially dangerous situation would be solved with repression measures (here we mean the crisis with Informbiro in 1948, the 1966 Ranković affair, the Croatian spring / MASPOK 1971): hence, disorders on the sport fields could not gain ground. The beginning of the Eighties means a major change for the above mentioned context: repression measures diminish and this paves the way to a series of changes both on the political scene as well as in sports and among sport supporters. Taking into consideration what has been said above and considering the conditions in socialist Yugoslavia, above all in Croatia and Serbia, in the period from 1980, that is after the death of Josip Broz Tito, which triggered an economic, social and political crisis, until the breakup of the federation in 1991, the main aim of this dissertation is to explore the influence of daily social and political events on the frequency of inter-national (inter-ethnic) and violent incidents on football stadiums. This will be done by a reconstruction of events during particular football matches and by a deconstruction of the media narrative of those times. On the other hand, the dissertation intends to show to what extent and how the supporters’ slogans and songs as well as their violent outbursts, along with other social factors, influenced the creation of social patterns aiming at spreading the popularity of national ideologies and of diverse political parties and their leaders at the turn of the decade from the Eighties into the Nineties. In other words, the following question will be answered: Was the behaviour of football spectators in Yugoslavia a mere reflection of the actual political and social context as the object of a oneway influence that was imposed from above, or were spectators rather an active carrier of nationalism as the subject of social and political turbulence that was affecting the Yugoslav federation in those years? In the Eighties, national tensions were felt within the field of economy, culture, literature as well as science and the arts, but it seems they were much more evident and massive on the tribunes of stadiums, where riots were started by football supporters, first and foremost by those coming from Croatia and Serbia. Back at the beginning of the Eighties, the national antagonism did not originate directly on the basis of ethnicity, but of religion (Isus, Marija, Hajdukova armija / Neka splitska riva čuje da je peder sv. Duje). This can be explained if we consider that religion and religious symbols were not very “popular” among communist structures: football fans had thus found an acceptable frame within which they could attack their opponents and express their own national opinion without major consequences. In the city of Vinkovci, which could be called the “Stalingrad” of Serbian football fans, both the supporters of Crvena zvezda and those of Partizan experienced many physical fights with locals, due to club and national reasons. Incidents would take place only when the local first league club was playing against a Serbian club, whereas no problems were noticed when the Vinkovci club was playing against another Croatian club. All these incidents prove that Yugoslav society was pervaded by national intolerance and in the Eighties they were mainly noticeable on a scene that was predominantly unpolitical: the world of sport. The year 1984 marked a widening of the “nationalistic” repertoire from religious vocabulary to patriotic songs (“Marjane, Marjane” / “Igrale se Delije na sred zemlje Srbije”), which one could hear only during matches between Serbian and Croatian clubs. This was also when the trend of bringing along republican flags started: in the football supporters’ hands, these flags represented a “threat” for the country, above all during matches between clubs from the two major Yugoslav republics. Political forums, security services and the wide public begin to worry about those facts. Official party meetings and the media address more and more often the topic of nationalism at sporting events. Except for sporadic moments of punishment of the riotous supporters (slapping, striking with nightsticks, insulting), a more thorough reaction of government and the police did not happen: this can be explained by the fact that after Tito’s death the party’s strictness was flagging and the young fans, as pioneers of big changes, recognised the dissolution of the country’s institutions and as an instinctive result they started using provoking slogans for which they would not be punished adequately. A small peak of nationalistic riots on Yugoslav stadiums, just before the beginning of a serious political crisis that would eventually break up the Yugoslav integrity, took place in 1985 and 1986. That was the period when, along with a pervasive economic and social crisis, Belgrade intellectuals discussed the “Serbian question” regarding Kosovo, which contaminated the discourse of idyllic national relations in the country. In such an atmosphere, military cadets of Serbian ethnicity were assaulted in Split after the match Hajduk vs. Crvena zvezda in October 1985; likewise, in August 1986 in Belgrade, Albanian sellers of corn and seeds were attacked by Crvena zvezda supporters after the match of an Albanian football club and OFK Beograd. The participants in both incidents were arrested due to national and religious intolerance and were sentenced to a couple of months’ imprisonment: this was the first and only time when the country decided to settle accounts with nationalism outbursts on sport fields. That action had a strong, but relatively short impact: as for stadium riots, the year 1987 can be called with reason a year of “calm before the storm”, when there was not a single incident due to nationalistic intolerance, but there was an increase in the number of violent riots in which supporters of opponent clubs were involved. To conclude, it can be said that in the period that goes from Tito’s death in 1980 until 1987, football fields and their surroundings started to host moderate national feelings that appeared combined with rare chauvinist outbursts. Even thou it can be claimed that national slogans and physical fights on the tribunes can be seen as a consequence of a several-decadelong repression of national feelings, but also as a counterpart of the political, social and economic situation in the country, they were not linked to particular events occurring in the everyday life of the socialist federation: they rather supported the general conscience of the people. This was the basis onto which football fans would shout slogans originating from the social background and back in those times this makes them objects of political moves: a process that fits into the penetration of nationalism into mainstream Yugoslav society. These facts prove that what could not be said on the official political scene and in everyday life, would be heard in the domain of sport. Information on problematic incidents happening on the tribunes in the first half of the Eighties would be mentioned implicitly in the public media. As catalysers of the social reality, in the years from 1980 to 1987, in the entire country the media were ideologically homogeneous when accusing the aggressive nationalistic riots of crowds of young supporters, but the media would also reduce the number of “problematic” cases and that of participants involved; moreover, newspapers avoided reporting the contents of verbal slogans, hiding thus such details from the public. In that period, most probably, many more slogans could be heard, but they were not recorded by the media reports and the official documents and thus remain unknown to us. This was the way the Yugoslav communist system survived for years: a combination of repression, operated by the police with the aim of eliminating national and religious intolerance, and censorship, so that only limited amounts of news regarding “undesirable” incidents would be shared with the public. By preventing explicit details from becoming public, authorities believed that they could hide their own weakness and thus avoid the spreading of unpleasant topics and ideas in other social spheres. Because of fear, incompetence, lack of firmness and political willingness, mainstream politics ended up in a kind of paralysis: it did not approve of repression, but was not willing to grant total freedom either. Already during the second half of the Eighties, such politics had lost any perspective and sense, and eventually turned out to be a complete failure. A process that ran parallel to the increase of nationalism on the tribunes of major Yugoslav stadiums was the birth of fan groups. At the beginning of the Eighties, the first groups of supporters gathered around Hajduk and Partizan; in the mid-Eighties, Crvena zvezda and Dinamo also had their own groups of fans, whereas in 1987/1988 almost every first league football club had its own group of organised supporters. As time went by, the nationalistic repertoire was becoming more and more frequent in the rooting of Serbian and Croatian supporters. Spectators of matches in the Sixties and Seventies would not come up with such provoking and nationalistic slogans as those that one could come across in the stadiums during the Eighties. Backed up by a firm hierarchy, they had all predispositions necessary for organised actions: own leaders, songs, banners and flags, scarves, and each group of supporters had its unique name. When their repertoire, beyond consisting of standard club songs, started featuring national slogans, insults towards members of other fan groups and republic flags, such social formations became a prime example of a small social resistance, due to the fact that similar mass organisations putting forward such explicit controversial contents did neither exist nor were they allowed. Thus, a platform was created and now it lacked its “contents”: the list of its contents started to fill up with the eruption of aggressive outbursts in 1988, which was merely the first step towards the escalation of furious verbal attacks due to ethnic reasons in the period that followed. As I have already mentioned, nationalism was most common among Croatian and Serbian football fans. While in 1986 Crvena zvezda fans did not only sing Serbian national songs, but even Chetnik songs, it was not a problem for them to carry the Yugoslav flag and to sing the Yugoslav national anthem at international matches of their club. These facts prove that to the Serbs, who undoubtedly had a strong national sense of belonging, the idea of Yugoslavia was not unacceptable. They had adopted the Yugoslav perspective also within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and then in socialist Yugoslavia too, and interpreted it as the frame that held together all the diverse nations it consisted of; from a symbolic point of view, it was a way to control them all too. On the other hand, the performed research did not come across similar Yugoslav feelings and symbols among Croatian football fan groups. As early as in spring 1987, besides club flags, the newly formed Bad Blue Boys had a few dozens of Croatian republican flags and it was common to hear them sing the national anthem of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, “Lijepa naša domovino”. A similar trend was recorded among Hajduk fans, who likewise used neither verbal nor visual symbols of Yugoslavia. Part of the answer is due to the fact that both in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as well as in the socialist federation Croats had always been striving for a higher degree of independence or even dreaming of complete independence. This is how two opponent nationalistic ideas came into conflict on football tribunes: the (great) Serbian idea that wanted to impose itself on the other states of the federation, and the Croats longing for an own independent country, very precisely enacted within clear sport frames, which reflected the actual political trends at the end of the Eighties and the beginning of the Nineties. This was, roughly, the premise that led the fan groups into the final period of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. In 1988, Slobodan Milošević started a series of meetings to spread nationalism among the broad masses in Serbia. In the same year, despite the turbulent situation on the daily political scene, violence between fan groups became more and more frequent on the stadiums. Except for exposing republican flags, shouting the names of the republics and a few chauvinist slogans, politically coloured riots were still rather moderate in that year. Nationalism exploded at the beginning of the spring session of season 1988/89, that is in February 1989, after which no match of a Croatian club against a Serbian club was to be held without severe insults based on national and religious differences. Back in the first half of the Eighties, stadium events had taken place according to a proper rhythm as a reflection of the actual social situation; similar incidents were now to be understood as a direct consequence of happenings in politics. Here, we can primarily refer to the “antibureaucratic” revolution, that is the subjugation of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro under the direct control of Belgrade authorities, and other turbulent political situations, which soon escalated into a deep political crisis and lack of security. The rest of the country homogenised, and Slovenia took over the role of the main opponent of the Serbian leader; however, there were no brisk reactions in other parts of the country, which were to expect first and foremost in Croatia. Due to the lack of a firm answer by the Croatian republican leadership to the increasing Serbian nationalism, Croatian football fans slowly started taking over the role of opponents and thus became themselves the heralds of the galloping Croatian nationalism. In such a context, at the beginning of 1989, crowds on the tribunes started shouting slogans to communist politicians: in Serbia, Slobodan Milošević was seen as the “protector” of Serbian national interests, whereas Croatian fans worship Stipe Šuvar, who had been the only politician to oppose Milošević’s politics, which he did not do on a national basis, but on an ideological basis. Even though Šuvar was an orthodox communist, that move was sufficient for Croatian people to tag him as “their” representative. Apart from the support to politicians, the year 1989 also means some other extremes: new insulting songs full of national hatred were composed and ardently exchanged between Croatian and Serbian fans. Such songs became more and more frequent in the stadium repertoires. Politics had pervaded all pores of society, and tension had moved to the stadiums, making these venues become a mirror of social circumstances and a real indicator of changes going on in the relations and the way of thinking. Changes can also be noticed in the media and the news they reported. As of 1989, the media ended their overall and superficial reporting on violent and chauvinist outbursts of the fans and started bringing up accusations on account of the “other”: this marks the beginning of a “war” between Belgrade and Zagreb media companies, which persisted until the breakup of the country. The escalation of nationalism on Yugoslav stadiums can be tracked with the continuing support offered to politicians; the support, however, was now in favour of politicians outside the communist milieu. In the spring of 1990, the Serbian tribunes stopped cheering for Milošević and start supporting the leader of the opposition, Vuk Drašković, a declared nationalist; likewise, in Croatia, after the dawn of Šugar, the foreground is taken by Franjo Tuđman, the HDZ leader, with an explicit national programme. Later that same year, Serbian people started showing their support to the extremist Vojislav Šešelj, whereas in Croatia popularity is gained by Šime Đodan, a right-wing extremist within the HDZ party: this was a clear sign that football fans preferred radical supporters of their own national option. Similar aspects were not recorded in the other republics of the federation, with an exception for Bosnia and Herzegovina, where football fans did sporadically turn to national parties, but as late as in spring 1991; this trend, however, had no repercussions on the social circumstances and their intensity cannot be compared with the strength of nationalism in Croatia and Serbia. In 1989 and later, all matches between Croatian and Serbian clubs turned out to be loud outdoor demonstrations spreading controversial messages, with millions of viewers in front of their home screens. Similar slogans and a huge amount of people could only be seen during Milošević’s meetings from 1988 on and Tuđman’s election rallies in 1990. Political leaders of the Serbian opposition, Vuk Draškovićč and Vojislav Šešelj, would hire the most prominent fans for their personal bodyguards and they would coquet with them so as to get their sympathy and support and in order to reach a broad electorate at the upcoming first multi-party elections. In Croatia, politics pursued the same target when it motivated the members of fan groups to support the “most national” Croatian political party, by expressing their option on banners (BBB for HDZ, Torcida for HDZ). All things considered, at the end of the Eighties and at the beginning of the Nineties, football fans, besides being the objects, also became the subjects of the spread of nationalism in Yugoslavia. Starting in February 1989, during football matches, they endorsed their own right-wing politicians, called out the names of the republics, from spring 1990 also exposed the republican flags with national symbols, sang patriotic and chauvinist songs and shouted slogans in front of tens of thousands of spectators on the stadiums, which was then broadcast by TV channels and thus such messages reached millions of followers of the most popular sport. This confirms the supposition that football fans were active creators of the public opinion and an important factor in the creation of social patterns with the aim of spreading the popularity of national ideologies and of political parties as well as of their leaders in the transition period from the Eighties to the Nineties, and not merely an object of daily politics.