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

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

The Climb to Equality

The Climb to Equality

Football Makes History spoke with Laura Youngson, co-founder of Equal Playing Field and co-owner of the world record for highest altitude official football match ever played. This is the story of why we wanted to retell this story, and how we did it....

LATEST POST  You may also be interested in

Football: A People’s History of Europe?

Football: A People’s History of Europe?

In cooperation with the festival “Forum on European Culture”, we spoke with author David Goldblatt about the value of football for Europe, taking historical perspectives.

Playing the game for peace

Playing the game for peace

On this day, 21 September, we look at how playing a game of football can contribute to peace by looking at the work of the NGO Childrens Football Alliance.

September in Football

September in Football

As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.

Football speaking out in perspective

Football speaking out in perspective

Football represents a large cultural space in society. It is not isolated from political developments. How have football players used this space to achieve their social goals?

Share This