Svetozar Đanić (photo: Wikipedia).
Svetozar Đanić (photo: Wikipedia).

Svetozar Đanić

Limits to representation

Igor Jovanović
Igor Jovanović Football Makes History Developer and History Teacher in Pula, Croatia


Svetozar Đanić (1917–1941) was a Croatian and Yugoslav footballer who played for Yugoslavia and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) national team. As a junior he played for SK Slavija – Novi Sad and at only 17-years of age he became a first team member at SK Vojvodina – Novi Sad (1934-1936). He would subsequently  move to Zagreb (to study together with his brother Miran) where he defended the colors of HŠK Građanski (1938-1939). Due to his education, he spent one year in Czechoslovakia and played for SK Viktorija – Plzen (1936/37), but once upon returning to Zagreb and continued to play for Građanski (1939-1941), with whom he played in 1939/40 and won the last championship in the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Just before the war

In Zagreb, he became one of Građanski’s main players, a favorite among his teammates and the audience. He also played for the Yugoslav national team in 1940. His debut came on 3 November 1940 versus Germany in Zagreb. He would only play in three matches before the Nazi Germany invasion and quick dismemberment of Yugoslavia which also put an end to Yugoslav football activities. Đanić’s last match in a Yugoslav jersey was also Yugoslavia’s last outing–a match versus Hungary on 23 March 1941 in Belgrade.

Representing the fascist state

With the outbreak of war and the establishment of the so-called NDH, Đanić, as a communist and a Serb, was targeted by the regime, but he was somewhat protected by his reputation as a popular Građanski player. That is why he was invited to play for the so-called national team of NDH, in Vienna on 15 June 1941 versus Nazi Germany.

Upon returning to Zagreb arrested immediately. Under what charges he was arrested unfortunately not known because his file from the Ustaša surveillance service was subsequently destroyed. After a swift show trial, Đanić was executed three days later on 18 June 1941 in the Dotrščina forest, where during the war around 7,000 anti-fascists, intellectuals, members of the Communist Party and “ordinary” people were killed.


Shortly after the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Croatian national football team defender  Dejan Lovren had been accused of singing “Za dom spremni”, a Nazi-collaborators’ fascist salute equated to ”Sieg heil”. Lovren and his teammate Marcelo Brozovic – who was seen making what appeared to be a gun gesture – were filmed partying back in their homeland after Croatia’s elimination from the World Cup, where they finished in third place.

“Za dom spremni!” was a salute used during World War II by the Croatian Ustaša movement. It was the Ustaša equivalent of the fascist or Nazi salute “Sieg Heil”. During World War II, the Ustaša, a movement of radical Croatian nationalists and fascists, which ruled the Axis puppet state Independent State of Croatia (NDH) (1941–45), created after the invasion of Yugoslavia, and conducted genocidal campaigns against Serbs, Jews and Romani people.

Before Lovren and Brozović, in 2013, Croatian international football player Josip Šimunić led the chant four times with the crowd in Zagreb after Croatia beat Iceland to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals. He was subsequently banned for ten matches and fined by FIFA, which barred him from participating in the 2014 World Cup finals. But in Croatia, Šimunić became the coach and selector of the U-21 national team.

Thinking points

Educators working with young people would engage in conversation departing from Đanić performance under a fascist coat of arms. Did he greet his teammates prior to kick-off with “Za Dom spremni!”? Did he stretch out his right hand in support of the Third Reich against whose national team he played? 

Đanić is almost forgotten in official history. Educators could work with young people to discuss why that might be the case. To date, the Croatian Football Association includes NDH matches as official matches of the national team. 

Find out more

Watch the controversial celebrations of the 2022 Croatia team on The Daily Mail. Dig into Đanić‘s stats on the website of the Serbian Football Association or the Croatian Football Association. More background on him can be read on Sportal or Vjesnikov Kalendar.

Svetozar Đanić, Croatia football team, Ustaša movement, execution.

Life Story 118

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Svetozar Đanić (photo: Wikipedia).
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