As soon as my plane touched the ground in Sarajevo, I was happy as a child. Not only because I was able to go back to the Bosnian capital after almost two years. Mainly because FK Željezničar is celebrating their 100th anniversary. A full weekend of craziness, friendship and fireworks. I did not know what to expect, as The Maniacs kept it all a secret. But one thing was for sure. This celebration would not go by unnoticed. It became much more than I hoped for. Forza Zeljo, this is FK Željezničar 100 years anniversary!
Already in the early 20th century football became populair in Sarajevo. The game was brought to the city from different places in Europe. The clubs at that time were all connected to particular populations, like the Croats and Serbs. The working class people were connected to Hajduk, but this club was not able to last. So different groups started informal teams to play friendly matches against other groups. There was one group with the ambition to take it a step further: the young Railway workers. They were supported by a couple of young working class men. This all happened in fall 1920. Because Winter was coming, the next step had to be taken in spring 1921.
FK Željezničar founded
One thing was for sure. The group lived for the Railway, so that connection had to been incorporated in the name of the new club. Unfortunately they had to face some challenges first. After they were able to purchase a football, there was no place to play. Eventually they found a military ground, Čengić Vila, to start the first activities. A couple of informal matches were played. But to be able to face the other Sarajevo clubs, they had to register themselves at the Football Federation. The application was done in July 1921.
Despite they were able to meet the requirements, the new club was seen as a threat. The existing clubs were anxious the new club would be a serious competitor.They were confronted with additional requirements. But they were persistent and on July 30th Željeznički športski klub Sarajevo got accepted. But only if they proved to be able to organize two football matches properly without any incidents. On September 17th the first match was played. Željezničar bought themselves white jersey’s and the locomotive wheel with wings was stitched on it. They played SAŠK, the best club in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time. Zeljo lost 1-5.
This match is still seen as the first match of FK Željezničar, despite they weren’t officially registered at the Football Federation yet. The next day they played the second match against Sarajevo SC. They lost 2-1. But the result was not important. They proved to be able to organize football matches without incidents. This resulted in acceptance by the Football Federation on Monday the 19th of September 1921. FK Željezničar was born!
FK Željezničar 100 years anniversary
FK Željezničar became a well known name in Yugoslavia football. After returning in the First League in 1962 the club became a regular in the top 5. In 1971 they became second, to win the league in 1972. It turned out to be the only Yugoslavic title for Plavi. Since the Bosnian football competition started in 1994, Željezničar won six league and cup titles.
Besides that, as the club was open for everyone it became one of the most social clubs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An identity which they cherish since the club have been founded. Day in, day out they are socially active within the community. Honestly, there is no other club where I felt so welcome. Their hospitality grabbed me immediately, making my heart turn blue as well. In the last five years my friends within Manijaci have made Sarajevo feel like my second home.
Anniversary match against Velez
Of course everyone wanted FK Željezničar to win the anniversary match against Velez Mostar. But eventually, the result did not matter today. The matched ended as it started, 0-0. All that counted were the celebrations and the club together with Manijaci proved to organize an amazing anniversary. Everyone in the stadium dressed up smart, proper anniversary clothing. After an energetic corteo to the stadium by the ultras, the stadium was buzzing since the first supporters walked in. Everyone, from young till old actively participated in the celebrations.
An ocean of white and blue by scarfs, jersey’s, balloons, flags and pyro while on the south side a huge anniversary display was shown followed by blue smoke. This went on for more than 90 minutes. I was so thrilled being part of this, it is hard to describe the feeling. Just way too much happened. As imaged say so much more than words, I let my photos do the talking for me.
Celebrations by The Maniacs
The Maniacs gave it all to make the celebrations something to remember for a lifetime.
Railway celebration and end show
After the match, we were invited to come to main railway station of Sarajevo. A place which must be part of celebrations no doubt. A couple of thousands supporters were lining up alongside the railway lighting it up with flares as an old locomotive would drive by. Much more people participated than Manijaci had expected, which took some time to organize. But it was definitely worth waiting for. The railway was lit over a few miles and I was there right in the middle to get the money shot. I’ll let you be the judge.
After this amazing day, the main event still had to take place. On Sunday the 19th, FK Željezničar lighted up the city of Sarajevo. Massive fireworks colored the sky of the city for minutes. They gave me a front seat on top of the Avaz Tower more than 100 meters above the city. It made me speechless. I did not want to miss this for the world. Therefore I would like to thank my friends, The Maniacs and of course FK Željezničar for their hospitality making me part of their anniversary. I will definitely still be talking about this years from now.
NOTE: if you are on one of the pictures of the FK Željezničar 100 years anniversary report, please contact me to send you the original photo: firstname.lastname@example.org