Football Murals – Slovan Bratislava

In 1919 just after the conclusion of hostilities in Europe Bratislava rechristened itself for about the fourth time. Not so much an identity crisis more a convergent semi-resurrection of previous names without the Hungarianization or Germanization themes so common to its past.

This is now a modern European capital city known as Bratislava but the Slovakian capital has been known by various names over the centuries including Uratislaburgium, Istropolis, Prešporok, Posonium, Prešpurk, Pressburg and Pozsony.

A gloriously cultural city with numerous outstanding monuments and churches it eventually became Bratislava in 1919 with the rationale as to why not that easy to define.

One theory is that Bratislava comes from the slavic words ‘brethren-glory’ namely the words “Bratia” (brothers) and “sláva” (glory). In Slavic linguistic origins ‘Brat’ equates to relative or brother while slava can also mean fame as well as glory.

If this is a city that has gone through a variety of names so the same cultural change contexts exist for the football club naming conventions. SK Slovan Bratislava has changed names depending on the historical era and political ownership.

Founded in 1919 as ČSŠK Bratislava (First CzechoSlovak Sports Club Bratislava) they were founded as a product of the new state of Czechoslovakia, a nation established at the collapse of the Hungarian Empire.

The club later became Sokol Bratislava in 1948, ‘Sokol’ being a Czech sporting movement based on the principle of being strong in mind when sound in body. The Sokol movement – through lectures, discussions, and group outings – provided physical, moral, and intellectual training for males during the communist era.

Post WWII the club changed names on no less than six occasions seeing numerous mergers (including with another Slovan club) and a period of backing by the then state chemical corporation during the communist era:

  • ZSJ Sokol NV Bratislava (1948–1952)
  • DŠO Slovan ÚNV Bratislava (1953–1956)
  • TJ Slovan ÚNV Bratislava (1957–1961)
  • TJ Slovan Bratislava Dimitrov (1961)
  • TJ Slovan CHZJD Bratislava (1961–1990)
  • ŠK Slovan Bratislava (1990–present)

The numerous names of the club have seen it having numerous badges over the years. Central to the crest today are the kit colours of the team (sky blue) and the same core symbolism that exists on the Slovakian national flag – the double cross symbol of the coat of arms of the Slovak Republic. It consists of a red (gules) shield, in early Gothic style, charged with a silver (argent) double cross standing on the middle peak of a dark blue mountain consisting of three peaks. The three peaks are a reference to the hills which represent three symbolic mountain ranges of the country – Tatra, Fatra and Matra.

The first chair of Bratislava’s main club was a policeman who engaged a playing surface for the team in Pasienky, a suburb in the shadow of the little Carpathian mountains. Soon after the club soon moved to Petržalka – a suburb in the south west of the city – and more known today for Artmedia Bratislava or as they are now known FC Petržalka.

The former Tehelne Pole was a crumbling edifice until well into the 2010’s, benefitting perhaps for an area known locally as the ‘brick field’. From 1944 it has been the home ground of the club with a new Tehelne Pole Stadium ‘Národný futbalový štadión’ opening in 2019.

Not only was this a new home for Slovan but the central base for the national side.

Like many central European cities Bratislava is a hub of urban creativity.

From huge, overwhelming paintings on buildings to street corner murals done by local artists these pieces of work bring colour, symbolism and identity to a city dominated by new concrete edifice, glass plated high rise business towers and modern multi media corporate advertising.

Despite being new, and modern the fan murals at Tehelne Pole demand us to just stop and gaze and consider meaning.

The orbicular shaped design of the stadium means it is now the ‘Národný futbalový štadión’ rather than simply the ‘Tehelne Pole’. Covered with an illuminated white membrane – its appearance and style fits all the modern needs of top class stadium you might comes to expect and see in England, Germany or Hungary.

But this is also a stadium where ordinary long standing Slovan fan culture could have become lost in the splendour of shape, cost and design.

If the bends, heights and light effects that now dominate the Tehelne Pole provide an amazing experience for the modern middle class spectator so the simple murals at the Kalinčiakova end of the ground exhibit what this club means to ordinary football fans.

Father and son together looking out over modernity and watching over the new Slovan Bratislava; a modern club with a long and successful history across Czechoslovak, UEFA and Slovakian football.