By Manuel Veth –
On Tuesday November 24 Dinamo Zagreb will face London’s Arsenal Football Club at the Emirates for an all-important Champions League encounter. Arsenal had a rough start to the group stage of the Champions League as the Gunners lost their first two matches in Group F against the above-mentioned Dinamo Zagreb (2:1), and the Greek club Olympiakos FC (2:3).
Arsenal was able to collect three points against Bayern Munich on match day three, but a heavy 5-1 loss in Arsenal’s return against Bayern in Munich means that Arsenal are in extreme danger of failing to qualify for the round of 16 of the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Dinamo Zagreb’s win against Arsenal remain the only three points that the club has picked up this Champions League seasons. Both Arsenal and Dinamo are even on points, but Arsenal are firm favourites to win the match at the Emirates on Tuesday as Sports Betting Dime predicts a clear Arsenal victory.
Dinamo Zagreb Injury Crisis
As the Croatian football writer Aleksandar Holiga explained to Futbolgrad, Dinamo are indeed unlikely to repeat their surprise victory against Arsenal as Dinamo has a bit of “an injury crisis, with players like [Domagoj] Antolić, [Marko] Rog and [El Arbi Hillel] Soudani recovering from their respective injuries, while some others … are completely off form. Finally, the absence of their holder [Arijan] Ademi—their key player without any doubt, who is suspended for having failed doping test and [has since been banned by UEFA for four years]—is likely to prove a major factor for the way they must try to play if they want to get away with something from this game.”
Even on a good day Dinamo’s squad would have a tough time to compete with a star studded team like Arsenal, which transfermarkt.de considers to be worth €402 million, a sum that significantly outweighs Dinamo’s overall transfer market value of €59.2 million. Yet while these factors on their own already make Tuesday match a difficult proposition for Dinamo there are also other factors that will make the Croatian club’s encounter against Arsenal a difficult match.
Dinamo Zagreb’s Scandalous Club Management
Dinamo has also been recently been shaken by various scandals as the club’s president Zdravko Mamić has been arrested over transfer irregularities at Dinamo Zagreb. Both Dinamo’s CEO Zdravko and his brother Zoran, who currently coaches Dinamo, have been under investigation in connection with alleged corruption and organised crime. Both brothers were arrested in July, and Germany’s 11Freunde Magazine called the Mamić brothers a cancer that could permanently damage Croatia’s football before Dinamo’s Champions League encounter against Bayern Munich on September 29.
Bayern easily dispatched Dinamo 5-0, but what stood out more on that particular day was the fact that Bayern Munich fans joined in with Dinamo Zagreb fans to stage a mass protest against the rule of the Mamić brothers at Dinamo. According to the Guardian they are alleged to have taken at least £11.1 from the club since 2008, and further have failed to pay £1.1m to the Croatian tax authorities.
The recent arrest of Zdravko Mamić might only be the first step in the housecleaning at Dinamo Zagreb, as coach Zoran could potentially be in the crosshairs of the Croatian law authorities as well, which makes Zoran a bit of a lame duck in Dinamo’s dressing room.
As Holiga explains, the arrest of Zdravko Mamić “will have a negative impact. It just adds to the feeling the club is sinking into disarray and facing a very uncertain future. Holiga points out that even though Zdravko “doesn’t own [Dinamo], Zdravko is the complete boss of the club in every conceivable aspect and new details about his criminal deeds are continuing to surface, casting a major doubt on the club’s day-to-day functioning.
Holiga statest that Zdravko would most likely be “allowed to walk out on another bail and he probably will, but it is becoming increasingly certain that he will soon face criminal charges—as well as his brother [Zoran]. All this can’t have a good influence on the atmosphere in and around the team itself, especially given that the players lack true character and sense of togetherness.”
The recent political turmoil at the club will therefore add further to Dinamo Zagreb’s obstacles before the all important Champions League tie against Arsenal London in which the club needs a win in order to stay in the race for third place that would see Dinamo Zagreb go on to the first playoff round of the Europa League.
Zdravko Mamić’s Arrest Could Lead to Much Needed Changes
But while Zdravko’s arrest has brought disarray to Dinamo Zagreb Holiga believes that Zdravko Mamić’s arrest and removal from the leadership of the club could lead to much needed changes not just to Dinamo but Croatian football in general. “[Zdravko has] been in total control not only of Dinamo, but of Croatian football in general—when he leaves, the system will crumble because he pretty much is the system.”
Hence, while the current turmoil at Dinamo might lead to a negative result against Arsenal on Tuesday, the arrest of Zdravko Mamić may lead to a significant cultural change at Croatia’s most storied club that could also clean Croatian football of political corruption that in many ways has stifled the growth of the country’s club football.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and PhD candidate at King’s College London. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. His thesis is entitled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be defended in November. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.