Zvonimir Boban: Yugoslavia, Italy, Croatia

Jul 21, 2020

Life Stories

Zvonimir Boban


Zvonimir Boban was born in 1968 at Imotski, Dalmatia, now in Croatia but then part of Yugoslavia. He played youth football with Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb and was a star in senior football with Dinamo until 1991. By then, Yugoslavia was beginning to break up. He was at the famous riots at Maksimir stadium where he kicked a Yugoslav police man, on which reportedly commented: “Here I was, a public face prepared to risk his life, career, and everything that fame could have brought, all because of one ideal, one cause; the Croatian cause.” A brilliant attacking midfielder, Boban moved to AC Milan where he played until 2001.

Yugoslavia, Italy, Croatia

Zvonimir Boban had great success with AC Milan, winning four league titles and one European Cup.  He made his international debut for Yugoslavia in 1988, and then played 51 times for Croatia between 1990 and 1999. He was a key member of the Croatia squad that finished third in the 1998 World Cup in France. He retired from playing in 2002.

Academic, Pundit, Politician

Unlike many ex-players, Zvonimir Boban never turned to coaching, nor did he struggle with adjusting to a new life. He got a History degree from the University of Zagreb. His thesis was on “Christianity in the Roman Empire”. He became a sports commentator and an outspoken pundit on Croatian and Italian TV. In 2016, he moved into football politics as FIFA Deputy Secretary General. One of his main interests is implementing technology in football, especially VAR. In 2019 he took up a job at his old club AC Milan.

Thinking points

Zvonimir Boban was born a Yugoslav in Dalmatia and a player for Dinamo Zagreb. He was also loved in Italy, where he played for ten years. After the Fall of Yugoslavia, he was part of Croatia’s stunning performances in the 1998 World Cup.

Educators could look at the life story of Zvonimir Boban and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. How can the story of Zvonimir Boban inform us about national identity during and after Tito’s Yugoslavia?
  2. How does Bobab’s career illustrate football as an international organisation?

Find out more

Read more about the myths surrounding the Maksimit riots on Football Makes History. You can also read a narration exploring this on These Football Times.


Zvonimir Boban, Croatian soccer player in Moscow during the 2018 Russia World Cup (Source: www.kremlin.ru)

Zvonimir Boban, Croatian soccer player in Moscow during the 2018 Russia World Cup (Source: www.kremlin.ru).

Life Story

Zvonimir Boban played for Yugoslavia and later for Croatia. His story is one about identity.


Article Tags:   20th century  |   identity  |   nationalism

LIFE STORIES  To discover now

Mario Balotelli: Magnet for Controversy

Mario Balotelli: Magnet for Controversy

Mario Balotelli was bound to be a major star, but he faced a turbulent career as a young player. Racist abuse and many controversies are etched in his career. His story is one of racism, diversity and a reminder that Football has some way to go still.

Do you wanna know more?



Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.


Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.

Educational Resources

Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.

Trending Stories



In the wake of the 2015 migration peak, activists and volunteers across Europe have been involved in supporting refugees, sometimes with the simple act of offering space and friendship to participate in football through grassroots clubs to help newcomers integrate.

LATEST POST  You may also be interested in

Formation for Human Rights

Formation for Human Rights

A class of high school history students in Oslo was asked to create an ideal starting XI line-up based on Human Rights. Find out why and how it went.

Share This