Split, May 3, 2020 - By decision of Split City Council, legendary Hajduk football player Ivan Gudelj received this year’s the City of Split Award. Gudelj is laureate in the competition of awards for personal achievement, where the awards for group and lifetime achievement are also given.
He was born in Imotski on April 21st, 1960. He began his football career in the club Mračaj from Runović, the most serious club in the Imotski region. Back in 1975, as a pioneer, he went to play for the club Hajduk on the recommendation of Hajduk’s youth group chief Andrija Anković. A year later Josip Duvančić puts him in the national team. He made his debut for Hajduk at the Marjan Trophy in 1977 and he scored his first goal for Hajduk's senior team in 1978, in the championships game against Budućnost.
He played 362 games for Hajduk's senior team and scored 93 goals. He played for the Yugoslav National A team from 1980 to 1986 as member of Hajduk 33 times and scored 3 goals.
As captain of the youth team, he had the honour of raising the 1979 European Cup in Vienna, where he was also named the Best Player. A year earlier, at the same competition in Warsaw, he was a member of the under-19 team that won a silver medal, and at the European Under-21 Championships in 1980, he was a member of the team that shared the third place. He participated at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
In 1982, he became the youngest captain of the Yugoslav national team in the history, wearing the armband - for the first time - in a match against Bulgaria in Sofia. Yugoslavia won 1-0.
He reached the peak of his football career 1982. In the poll conducted by Slobodna Dalmacija, he was named the Best Dalmatian Athlete, and in most newspaper polls the Best Yugoslavian Football Player. He made his appearance at the 1982 World Cup in Spain and – in selection of the French magazine L’ Equipe – he was proclaimed a member of the ideal team at the 1982 Championships. He performed for the national team at European Championships in France in 1984. In all age groups, he was leading his Hajduk by performing in almost all positions in the team. Despite a short football career, he felt the pleasure of winning the Championships with Hajduk in the 1978/79 season and winning the Cup in the 1983/84 and 1986/87 seasons.
At the age of 25, he could choose between numerous European clubs which one he will go to when he turns 28, as the players were not allowed to go abroad earlier. The most persistent was Madrid's Real, offering him a pre-contract that he refused.
He played in historic European matches: in quarterfinals of the 1980 Champions Cup, quarterfinals of the 1978 Cup and in the semifinals of the 1984 UEFA Cup. His last match in the Hajduk jersey took place on October 13th, 1986.
After completion of his active career due to illness, he returned to football as a coach after a short break. On the recommendation of Miljan Miljanić, at the age of twenty-seven, he became the coach of the Yugoslav Olympic team. Then he coached Primorac from Stobreč and introduced it to the first league, and after that Zadar, Austria's Vorwärts Steyr and Dubrovnik. After completing a higher coaching school, he dedicated himself to working in Croatian Football Federation as coach for the Dalmatian region and a coach of categories U-16 and U-17. He led the young Croatian U-21 team. He was also a part of the championship period of the 2005–06 season as the coach of Hajduk.
He graduated from the Faculty of Kinesiology in Zagreb, gaining the title of professor of kinesiology. In his home region, he served as President of the Choir of Football Coaches of Split-Dalmatia County and the Vice President of the Football Association of Split-Dalmatia County.
A book was written about his life and a film was made.
The co-proponent of Ivan Gudelj's candidacy for the City of Split Award for Personal Achievement was the HNK Hajduk.
Congratulations to our Ivan! (COC/JG)