In 1941 Hajduk won the championship of Croatia, with Yugoslav-level competition being cancelled due to political instability and the outbreak of war. The top goalscorer was Ratko Kacijan with seventeen to his name. Ironically, the Football Academy of Dinamo, Hajduk's archrival, bears his name nowadays.
According to its name Hajduk joined the antifascist movement and was proclaimed its official team. This period culminated with a game played against a selection of the British Army, held in liberated Bari, Italy, and attended by a crowd of over forty thousand. This is believed to be the highest attendance at any sporting event during WW2 in Europe.
Immediately after the war came one of the key moments in the club's history. The new Communist government of Yugoslavia tried to capitalize on Hajduk's popularity and well-known involvement in resisting the Nazis, publicly inviting the team to move to Belgrade, the capital, and become an official army club. Memorably and at great risk, the club's management turned the offer down.
In the postwar years, Hajduk continued to tour abroad, often visiting Africa and the Middle East. In 1945, general and future President of France Charles de Gaulle proclaimed Hajduk to be the Honorary Team of Free France. This unique recognition was awarded while the team was playing in Lebanon
Hajduk won the first postwar Croatian championship in 1946, and Frane Matošić, having scored 14, also won the top goalscorer award.
Matošić won the individual honour again in the 1948-49 season, scoring 16. Frane Matošić went on to become a legendary Hajduk captain and all-time top scorer, with an astonishing 729 goals.
In the early 1950, a new turf had been set on the pitch of the old Hajduk's stadium, so Hajduk played away all matches of the championship's first part. Nevertheless, team finishes competition with 10 wins and eight draws. Until now, it's the only case that any team in former Yugoslavia and Croatia became a national champion without any defeat. Decisive match was played in the second-to-last round, when the Whites won an iconic game against Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) 2:1, in front of the packed full stadium, with Bernard Vukas and Božo Broketa as scorers.
This match was played on October 29, 1950, and only a day before the oldest European football fan group Torcida was founded in Split. On October 28, 1950 fans organized for the first time to cheer for their Hajduk, on initiative of a few students from Split who attended the Zagreb University. Their role model were Brazilian fans, who delighted the world on a World Cup in Brazil.
Material from publications by Jurica Gizdić used with permission: Hajduk in Official Competitions, 100 Years of Hajduk, Hajduk's Presidents and Hajduk's Coaches. The History of Hajduk by decades was prepared by Dag Baldasar.