The Bežigrad Stadium sits crumbling and sun-drenched on a warm summer evening.  

Colorful seating has been removed and there is no sign of any work being carried out.  

A murder of noisy black crows sit around inside in an urban space now more suitable for wildlife than sport. Trees have fallen and insects can be seen crawling from underneath the bricked walls.  Nearby a number of gardens are maintained by local residents and they sit all colorful and cared for, in almost total contrast to the stadium interiors.

On one side of the stadium 70’s apartment blocks look down onto the run-down, crumbling interiors. People are bemused by its current appearance and its future.

With the emergence of the modern Stozice Stadium as a home for Slovenian football, the Bezigrad Stadium now sits unused in the district of the same name just north of the city center.  Once a location for sport, concerts and competitive international football it was designed by the esteemed Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik.

The emergence of the Bežigrad goes back to the beginning of the 20th century.  

Slovenia had seen the emergence of a number of major gymnastic societies which promoted both sporting activity and political ideology. One of these was the Czechoslovak youth sports association the ‘Orel Society’; a Catholic organisation which focused on sporting gatherings.

The Orel Society’s stadium was built between 1925 and 1941 to a design outlined by Jože Plečnik and it soon became Ljubljana’s Central Stadium.

From a footballing perspective it became the home of NK Enotnost a club that would later become NK Olimpija Ljubljana in 1962.  

As part of Yugoslavia the ground was used mostly for football matches.  Later, after Slovenia became an independent country, it hosted matches of the Slovenian national team that included the successful campaign which culminated in the Slovenian team qualifying for Euro 2000.

The Bezigrad Stadium was characterized by open terraces and benched seating.  

The Stadium is enclosed by a distinctive brick wall and columns which reflected Plečnik’s distinctive style.

On one side an erected memorial column topped with a statue called The Windmill or Vetrnica vetrov still exists yet like the rest of the stadium this column is fading.  In truth, its near to collapse.

By the late 1990’s the stadium had become outdated for the needs of a modernizing football nation.

FIFA and UEFA, the international governing bodies of the game, began warning the Nogometna zveza Slovenije that the stadium no longer met the standard for international football.

By 2004 the stadium of NK Celje had replaced the Bežigrad Stadium as the venue for all competitive home matches of the Slovenian national football team.

Since 2008 the stadium has found itself empty, vandalized and awaiting signs of restoration.

A group of Slovenian businessmen have promised that the stadium would be modernized and its interiors developed while retaining Plečnik’s unique architecture shapes.  But firm plans and investment has never come to fruition and question marks remain of what will happen.

Moreover, the shape the ground were once noted for have crumbled even more as the years have progressed meaning its distinctive style, while still noticeable, is fading.

What the future holds for the Central Stadium almost certainly involves a programme of urban change with a recent view being that a public park will be created.  It is hoped that various aspects of the original stadium design will be built into any new park.

Any visitor today to the Bežigrad district will stumble upon a derelict stadium that has suffered years of neglect. But within that neglect ssits unique architectural forms featuring the most characteristic examples of the interwar years.

With communist forms disappearing and new modern design ideas coming to the fore a commitment to restoring classical architecture is high on the list of city aims. But this approach may be more relevant to the more familiar architectural creations of Plečnik’s most of which sit in the city center of Ljubljana.

Sadly what was once a unique urban form is now an out of date space that is in dire need of a programme of revitalization. But with fresh infrastructure and green landscapes surrounding it emerging, perhaps the Bezigrad Stadium can have a place in the city’s thoughts once again if not for footballing purposes.

You can see images from Ljubljana here.