Today is the day. An unique chance to get the ultimate revenge against your arch rivals. Becoming Champions against Olimpija. Last season Maribor lost its lead which resulted in losing the title on goal difference against the club from the capital. Now with a comprehensive lead and five rounds to play, NK Maribor can’t miss the league title. Right?
That afternoon we arrived in the relatively small city of Maribor. Close to one hundred thousand inhabitants. Despite its size they are Slovenia’s second city. We expected to walk into an town which is ready to celebrate, a buzzing atmosphere. You can’t win your 15th title every day. Instead I was astonished. The city center was relatively quiet just hours before the match. Some lost tourists, couple of locals, that’s it.
Meat and Beer
First we grab something to eat. Like in whole former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is know for BBQ grilled meat. So we look for the best place in town. The restaurant is full with locals, so this is definitely the right spot. Most of them wearing the colors of the club. Their way of preparing for the match is having meat, bear and friends. Great plan, we follow their example.
In the meantime it gets more crowded on the street as well. With a full storage we decide to walk around a bit and taste the atmosphere in town. The stadium lies close to the city center, just in walking distance. So we have still plenty of time left. Small groups of supporters gather all around city center. In a park nearby are the ultras of Viole Maribor. With large beers they are in a good mood. They are ready for what is coming.
From Friendly to Passion
We decide to have a look around the stadium. Its getting more crowded by the minute. An accordeon player arranges the musical addition. There is some kind of friendly Sunday afternoon atmosphere. If we weren’t next to the stadium, it could easily be the neighborhood BBQ. It looked like the supporters didn’t have any Championship stress whatsoever.
A Big Bang disturbs the peace. In the distance we hear the ultras chant. There we go! We walk back to the crossing to welcome Viole Maribor. When their corteo comes around the corner they have flares, smoke and loud chants. Great passion. If this is a sign for what it will be during the derby, we are totally ready for it.
The Maribor Deception
Twenty minutes after kick off I look at the score board like being hit by lightning. In the away section the guys go crazy. Until that moment, there was not much excitement, both on the field as on the stands. But right at the time Viole Maribor shows a great display, Olimpija scores via an own goal. Hardly one minute later, they score a second. Disbelieve all around me. Is this really happening?
The Pirates are more like scared little boys today. Mistake after mistake. Every duel gets easily lost. The Green and Whites are definitely in charge today. Ten minutes before halftime de disasters gets even bigger. Olimpija scores their third. All hope of having a Championship party is shot too pieces. The chapel on the hills between the vineyards behind the stadium wasn’t much helpful today.
The fanatics clearly show their frustration of the teams performance today. The beating by the rivals has stopped for now. Maribor should feel lucky the first half didn’t end in like a 0-5 or 0-6 score line. That was definitely possible. Hopefully the second half they can repair the damage. But for Viole Maribor they are done for today. They lit a great pyro show, flares are thrown on the pitch. The match needs to be stopped. The ultras are in charge.
The players look hopeless. They know they have failed their supporters today, especially the guys behind the goal. They are Viole, they are Maribor. No goals are scored anymore. The away section have a provocative way of celebrating the victory. Surprised they did not present full support. At the other side, Maribor eventually gets the respect from their fanatics. Maribor Champion! The league title will be welcomed no doubt. They have full confidence.
Update is 16th of May: NK Maribor became Champions yesterday. They won 1-3 away at NK Celje, while Olimpija lost 1-4 at home against number 3 Domzale.