At the beginning of Summer 2017 I met my new girlfriend. She had no connection whatsoever with football. So I told her to get prepared for my way of life meaning the football way of life. I expected the worst, but got the best! She got the proper introduction. A turbulent, many-sided summer taking us from Germany to several countries in former Yugoslavia. A good start of the season!
Authentic footballculture. The real Leipzig football clubs and not that homunculus called RB Leizip what is a poor apology for proper football. Chemie and Lok, both sides with passionate support. They hate each other that much the local authorities decided to present an army of police officers, a couple of water canons and several helicopters in the sky. You’d expect such numbers at the Belgrade derby, not a 4th Division derby with 5.000 spectators (of which 750 away fans).
What a way to start the season. Bad football on the pitch, great atmosphere on the stands. A fierce rivalry leading to several attempts of getting a fight between both sides. Several Lok ultras took their moment for a short pitch invasion to try to reach their rivals. Unlucky.
Eventually Lok won the derby 0-1. And my girlfriend? She became infected my passion shooting more pictures of the football passion than I did. Proud of her.
In August, my girlfriend and I, went on a holiday to former Yugoslavia. The Balkans are one of my favourite European holiday areas, especially when it comes to football culture. So I had three derby’s in mind to spice up our holiday. Destinations: Podgorica, Sarajevo and Ljubljana.
We started our road trip in Croatia going to Montenegro via Bosnia. Driving through the beautiful mountains passing stunning scenery. The people are very friendly and hospitable. They know exactly how to threat people and let them feel welcome. After spending to time at the see side, it was time for our first football destination: Podgorica.
Podgorica got Punished
To be honest, Podgorica is not the touristic place to visit in Montenegro. People rather spend time in the mountains or at the beach. The capital has neither. What they do have is a proper derby. Rivals Buducnost and Mladost are two of the top teams of the country, after splitting from Serbia in 2006.
Arriving at the stadium I got very nervous. Not because I was scared, not at all. There was just nothing to see. No supporters, no police, nothing! On forehand I carefully monitored the schedule. Did I miss anything? Football Associations in Balkan countries are not very active when it comes to communication. Announcing fixtures is usually done just days before the match.
As we walked around the stadium, a local asked us what we were looking for. I explained him we wanted to visit the derby. The disbelieve on his face was priceless. He couldn’t understand that some Dutch people travelled all the way to Podgorica for the derby. Yeah, I know, I am a bit crazy.
Apparantly Buducnost got punished because of trouble at their championship game last season. The verdict: 7 home games without supporters. You got to be kidding me. That information was nowhere to be found on the internet. Is doesn’t help my Yugoslavic language skills are none to zero. But my new local friend helped us out getting us two free press cards. So there we were, sitting in an empty stadium watching a derby which supposed to have a fierce rivalry. Well, we can cross that one of our list.
Best for Last
After a few days of enjoying Montenegro we went back to Bosnia, to my friends in Sarajevo. It was already my fourth visit in just one year time. I love being in this city. It has so much to offer. A couple of Manijaci, Zeljeznicar ultras, became my closest friends. I am grateful for their hospitality every time again.
It would be my thirth Sarajevo derby, the second away day. Always great to see thousands in blue march through the city to support Zeljo against their rivals. This time we took a seat in the section next to Manijaci, so we had a great view on the passion of both sides. And both Manijaci as Horde Zla did not dissapoint. Massive pyro shows, loud support, proper derby days.
The match itself was not good, but they fought on every inch of the pitch. Zeljo got an early lead after a penalty and red card for Sarajevo. They forgot to increase the lead keeping their rivals alive. Don’t ask me how, but they managed to keep the lead, so I could celebrate my first Zeljo victory in a Sarajevo derby as the previous two were a draw.
Ljubljana supposed to be the final football destination of our summer road trip. Unfortunately, the match was rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday evening. For us unable to make a change as well, so the Sarajevo derby eventually became “saving best for last”.