THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM
HNK HAJDUK SPLIT
2-1 A.C. MILAN
- CARDIFF, WALES
And they didn't even choke.
A squad hugely experienced with the Champions League final, more specifically, losing it, have finally debunked everything that was ever holding them back, as Jurica Buljat, who has been with the club for 11 years, lifted the massive trophy over his head to the roar of the capacity crowd in Cardiff. It wasn't so much Hajduk fans, although that was a huge percentage of the crowd, but really, just cheering for the underdog that made the difference.
And, as was expected, the match started early, when the Slovakian, Peter Zajac, got injured in the 7th minute, only to be replaced by the equally prolific Ante Vukuši?. Although Hajduk didn't stop, and the breakaway came just two minutes later, in the 9th. Oremuš took the ball from the sidelines, and made a simple pass to Duje ?op. ?op, getting closed down well, backed off and gave the ball back, to which Mirko Oremuš swung the ball in front of the net, for the massive Ton?i Kuko? to appear from nowhere and get his head onto the ball, and into the net. Valentin Stocker, who was tasked with marking the winger this evening, had his head in shame, but didn't make another mistake for the rest of the game.
Hajduk and Milan both had their share of chances, but none of them clear-cut, as Thiago Silva and Jurica Buljat were very vocal on both sides of the pitch organizing the defenses well. There were a few headed chances for both Ton?i Kuko? and Duje ?op, but David Ospina managed to keep them out of the net. Matias Ezequiel Schellotto received the first card of the night in the 48th minute, and the last minute of the first half.
Then, it was Milan's turn. While Hajduk went into the break stronger, it took, again, 9 minutes before Javi Martinez rushed into the box and connected on Alessandro Pato's cross to take it to 1-1. But, again, the match was reduced to a stale-mate. Milan relied on it's enormous midfield (5) while Hajduk was trying to get up the wings. But it wasn't happening, until, that is, Schellotto went in late on Ondrej Kušnír, who had just come in for the tiring Gianluca Tacconi. Schellotto picked up his red, and that was it for Milan, who desperately tried to park the bus, after playing so attackingly until then.
It didn't work. Frano Mlinar became the hero of Split, after a bit of scruffy play outside of the box gave him the opportunity to split Milan's defense, and find the onside Ondrej Kušnír to an open goal in the 85th. The final whistle was blown 7 minutes later, and, for the first time, the city of Split, more than 1 500 kilometers away from Cardiff, erupted, as the team who they had followed, who they had loved, and who loved them back, was coming back with the biggest trophy for the first time ever.
MEANWHILE... LEAK FROM CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS, 2012
In 2012, Hajduk was in important negotiations with Duje ?op, Ante Vukuši?, and Mirko Oremuš, as they tried desperately to keep their most important players at the club. It is rumoured that Bendiš had each of the players in his office, and, not 10 minutes, later, the three came out and all signed long contract extensions with the club, to the dismay of every other team in Europe.
Apparently, this is how it happened:
"You three are all young, and playing in the city you grew up in. This is where you are from, this is the club you loved, trained in, and know everyone at. Duje (?op), you had a year in Portugal where you had a miserable time, and came back. Mirko (Oremuš), you went to Israel and did nothing for a year, only to come back. But now, you're here. And, I have to ask you, why would you ever leave.
"You see, I never transferred clubs. I stayed with GOŠK for my entire, short career. And, let me tell you something. Those guys in Manchester City don't care for the city they live in. Why would they, it's Manchester. They went for the money. But they don't like what they do. They live in a city they don't know, with people they don't love, to play in a club that doesn't win very often anyway
. So, on the off chance that you do go and follow Arab money, what are you walking into.
"Your family lives here. Your friends. In fact, every single person you've ever known lives in this beautiful city, where the waves crash in the summer, and the beach is right next door. Hell, I take you guys to train on the beach when I'm not feeling up to it. But the people. They love you here. They don't follow you because of the trophies, because, let's face it, we've never won anything big. But they love you because of the fact that you are at home, fighting for them. That when you go to some far-off freezing municipality in Iceland, you are fighting for all the people you know, everyone you've ever met, everyone you've ever loved.
"And you love them for it, you honestly love them back. You vault into the stands after big matches, and you settle in the embrace of this beautiful city that you are a part of. You can't do that in England, in Spain, in Russia. Because there, you aren't part of them. They follow the team as an entity there. Here, they care for each, and every one of you. That's why there is a collective gasp when you fall on the pitch. That's why the stadium moves as you do, why there are people there, every single week, watching you beat yourself over the smallest things to make them happy.
"And you do that, because you care for them. It's a vicious circle. The trick is, if you start fighting for a new club, the fans won't be there to cheer you on, because you won't be at their stadium. So, when you are fighting for the new fans, they won't care when you fall. You're just another player to them. Here, you're a member of the family. No. Here, you are their hero. And, when you win here, you bring home memories to the people that love you.
we win the Champions League, would you prefer to be dancing in the streets of Manchester, Barcelona, Milan, London, Moscow, or anywhere really... or would you prefer doing it here?"