Football and the Railways are intrinsically linked even to this day. As a mode of travel the train, alongside cars and coaches, are used by fans all around the world to travel to away fixtures. In many countries the state railway system is used by teams to travel to away fixtures such is the level of comfort offered.
Football stadiums meanwhile were built near to railway and metro stations during Victorian times. The sheer ability to transport thousands of spectators easily to football stadiums hint at the close links of football with the themes of social class, leisure travel and industrialisation.
While the rail related prefix and suffix are particularly prevalent in Eastern European football – Lokomotiv Moscow, Lokomotive Leipzig, Lokomotiv Plovdiv being only a few, there are countless other examples globally where a trace of the railway systems can be noted even where the ‘Lokomotiv’ prefix is not used.
In Argentina there is Club Atlético del Ferrocarril Oeste de Buenos Aires founded by British rail workers likewise CFR Cluj (Caile Ferate Romane) started life as Kolozsvári Vasutas Sport Club (Kolozsvár Railway Sports Club).
In Željezničar Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzogovina has one of its top football clubs; one which was formed by a group of railway workers during the post WWI Yugoslavian Kingdom era.
Just outside the home stadia of Lokomotiv Moscow and Lech Poznan sit classical railway steam engines. Lech were established in 1922 but from 1930 until 1994, the club was closely linked to the Polish State Railways system (PKP).
As a result, its popular nickname is Kolejorz which means The Railwayman to locals.
While such a stark symbolic hint does not sit outside of the home of Lokomotiv Sofia the hints are just as stark if you look closely enough.
The main fan group are the ‘Iron Brigades’ while on the road leading to the stadium there are numerous examples of both used and currently in use railway track. The current stadium was not built until 1985 – during the communist era – but club roots stem from 2nd September 1929 when it was founded as the Railway Sports Club (RSC).
Since the 1980’s an significant amount of investment has been made in the infrastructure of the Lokomotiv Stadium both for fans and players. Recent multimedia upgrades have seen the stadium enter the VAR era fully equipped for the decisions of tomorrow.
Despite periods of severe onfield decline (the club have not been Bulgarian Champions since 1978 or Domestic Cup Winners since 1995) the ground is slowly getting a modern feel at least by Bulgarian standards.
Stadium development in the current First efbet Professional Football League still lags far behind that of neighbouring Romania. Once known for order, discipline and organisation during the communist era revolutionary thinking has not, as yet, arrived in Bulgarian football and you are hard pressed to find a single all covered stadium in the whole country. And, thanks to the lack of success enjoyed by the Bulgarian national team since 1994 it may be sometime before these open bowls become modern covered stadia.
Full Name: Football Club Lokomotiv 1929 Sofia, Локомотив 1929
Nickname: Железничарите (The Railwaymen)
Founded: 2 September 1929 (as Railway Sports Club)
First League Winners: 1939-40, 1945, 1963-64, 1977-78
Bulgarian Cup Winners: 1994-95