NK Istra 1961
Nogometni Klub Istra 1961 (English: Istra 1961 Football Club), commonly referred to as NK Istra 1961 or simply Istra 1961, is a football club from Pula, Istria, Croatia, currently playing in the Croatian First Division. It's a common opinion amongst many people that Istra 1961 is founded in 1961 by merging two clubs from Pula, NK Uljanik and NK Pula, forming NK Istra. However, NK Istra is not the same club as NK Istra 1961. NK Istra was the best club from Pula for decades. NK Istra 1961, then named NK Uljanik, was founded in 1964. NK Istra were competing in Prva HNL since the first season, but were relegated in the 1996-97 season to Druga HNL. They were promoted back to Prva HNL in the 1998-99 season, but they were relegated again in the next season, never coming back to Prva HNL. Meanwhile, NK Uljanik was in the shadow of NK Istra, but they were promoted to Prva HNL in the 2003-04 season and are the best club in Pula since then. NK Istra, now under the name NK Istra Pula, is competing in Prva ŽNL, the 5th football level in Croatia. The greatest club success was in the 2002–03 season when they finished runners-up in the Croatian Cup, losing to Hajduk Split 5-0 on aggregate. In the 2004–05 season, the club changed its name into NK Pula 1856, because 1856 was the year that the Austro-Hungarian Empire made Pula the port of its arsenal and the shipyard Uljanik was opened. Also in the same year, it competed in the Prva Liga for the first time. In 2005, it was renamed again to NK Pula Staro Češko due to a sponsorship contract with the brewery Daruvarska pivovara (Staro Češko is a beer brand). Just one year later, the name was once again changed, this time to NK Pula. Again, just a year later in the middle of 2007, the name was changed for the fifth time in as many years, to NK Istra 1961. The change of name came after an ultimatum from the local fans Demons who said the club would have their support only if the club changed its name and club colours to the traditional city colours (yellow and green). After renaming club was sold in 2011 to a Russian who achieved promotion for the club and sold it in 2015. Nk Istra 1961 was bought by an American Investment group in 2015. The NK Istra academy system is very strong and consistently competes for top spots in the rankings. Nk Istra 1961 has a rich fan history. The group of die hard fans are referred to as the Demoni, and are known for their explosive chants and celebrations as well as their extreme pride for the club. In Summer 2018, club's ownership changed once again, this time to Basque consortium Baskonia - Alavés Group which acquired the majority share package and became sole owner of NK Istra 1961.