Nogometni Klub Zagreb (English: Football Club Zagreb) is a Croatian football club, from the Croatian capital of Zagreb, playing for the first time in Croatian Second Football League in their history since the establishment of Croatian First League in 1992 and its 22 seasons in top flight after which they were relegated at the end of 2012–13 season as the last team in league being defeated in 20 matches out of 33 with only 6 wins. The club was founded in 1903. Its colours are white and blue. NK Zagreb’s home since 1945 is the Stadion u Kranjčevićevoj with reduced capacity of 8,850. The nickname of the club is Pjesnici, meaning “The Poets”.
So far, NK Zagreb has won the Croatian Football Championship only once, in season 2001–02 which was for the first time (and only time) since its establishment in 1992 that the Croatian champion was not Dinamo Zagreb or Hajduk Split. Also, NK Zagreb participated several times in the European competitions like UEFA Champions League (2), UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (4), UEFA Intertoto Cup (10) and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (10).
The club was founded in 1903 as PNIŠK (Prvi nogometni i športski klub, translated First Football and Sports Club), being one of the first to be formed in Croatia. First secretary was Dragutin Baki, the president was Vilhelm Witte, and the captain of the team and instructor was Czech Jan Todl.
Since there weren’t any clubs to play with, the first official match was played between the club’s players divided into two groups in 1904. Ticket income from the match was 3 krone and 3 filirs.
The first international match was played in 1905. against Magyar champions Ferencváros on Magyar Athleticai Club’s pitch. Home team won with a high 11:1 score. The players who played for Zagreb were: Filipčić, Schwarz, Todl, Mutefelija, Slavnič, Ugrinić, Polivka, Uhrl, Višinger, Koruna, and Torbić.
However, after World War II, NK Zagreb has been overshadowed by several larger, more successful clubs, especially their local rival Dinamo Zagreb.
One of the most notable matches Zagreb played was on 19 July 1973 when “Great drama in Maksimir” took place – a match between NK Zagreb and NK Osijek on Maksimir stadium. It was a second of two qualifying matches for entering the first league; the first one in Osijek ended 0:0 with attendance of 25,000. The second match was played in Maksimir because of great demand for tickets – the attendance was 64,138 which broke the stadium record and stands to this day. Zagreb won the match after penalty kicks (4:3).
Lineup for this team was: Horvat, Gašparini, Tucak, Antolić, Ivanišević, Lipovac, Markulin, Čopor (Hušidić), Močibob, Rukljač, Smolek (Bakota).
Among NK Zagreb’s more notable players was Ivica Olić who led the club to its first championship of the Prva HNL in 2002 with 21 goals scored in 29 appearances for NK Zagreb. Also worth mentioning here is Joško Popović (who played in the 1990s), 2nd top-goalscorer ever in Prva HNL.
In the championship of 2002, NK Zagreb broke the duopoly of NK Dinamo and NK Hajduk for the first (and until today the only) time – and it was well deserved. NK Zagreb had the best coach of the season, the best player, the best assistant, the best scorer. They’ve won most points, the least losses, the most wins, scored more goals and received the least continually being the top team and in one moment had 11 points more than second best team.
Standard lineup for the champion team was: Vasilj, Stavrevski, Pirić, Ješe, Bulat, Poldrugač, Duro, Hasančić, Franja, Lovrek, Olić.
There are two other football competitions being played in Croatia – Cup and Supercup. NK Zagreb were finalist of Cup in 1997 and finalist of Supercup in 2002.