Slovenia – The Večni derbi

The former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia shares borders with Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary.   First settled by the slavs in the sixth century Slovenia became a Hungarian province in the 11th century.

It was Austria that gained control of the region in the sixteenth century when Slovenia was absorbed into the Austro Hungarian Empire.  At the end of the First World War another change happened when it became part of the Kingdom of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes which then became Yugoslavia.

With war in the region bubbling at nearby borders Slovenia became the first Yugoslav republic to declare independence in 1991.  After a short 10 day conflict Yugoslav forces withdrew ready for deeper conflict elsewhere.

Slovenia is very mountainous with the highest and most spectacular peaks located in the Slovenian Alps near its border with Austria. Almost half the country is densely forested with the most fertile region being the east. Slovenia has a huge tourist sector with many coming for the winter sports, alpine scenery (Mt.Triglav is the highest peak at 2,864m) and the coastal beaches.

The second largest city is Maribor in Styria, and it sits less than an hour from Graz in Austria. Maribor is also home to the best Slovenian team NK Maribor.  Lake Bled with its dream like surroundings in central Slovenia has a variety of underground cave destinations that offer a sense of calm to visitors away from the heated atmosphere often found at NK Maribor.

Being such a diverse alpine country the Slovenian national football team wear a playing shirt dedicated to those national characteristics – a neat distinctive kit with white, green and sky blue colours all representative of the Slovenian characteristics of snow, forest and water.

The Derby

Great colour often meets this fixture

Although it has changed in its importance in recent decades the most traditional football match in Slovenia is the eternal derby of Slovenian football which is simply known as the Večni derbi or Slovenski derbi in SloveneThis match takes place between NK Maribor and the Olimpija Ljubljana.

The club from the capital is a new club but consider themselves as the spiritual continuation of a club dissolved in 2004. However, legally, the current Olimpija Ljubljana is a distinct and separate club, and is not entitled to claim the history and honours won by the old Olimpija.

The Večni derbi is often better attended in Maribor than it is at the modern space ship like Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana.  At the derby we attended in 2012 the home Green Dragons group had a banner on display with the words ‘Nocoj Bo Nebo Obarvano Zeleno’ Belo’  or ‘Tonight the sky will be coloured Green and White’.  About 20 minutes into the game these words of warning came true.

Numerous green and yellow smoke bombs were set off in the home end as the game went on being watched by a live television audience.  In the middle of that a number of loud firecrackers were also thrown onto the field of play.  Such was the density of smoke many players backed off from standing at this end of the ground.

At the other end of the stadium a group of around 500 visiting Maribor fans also spent part of the game lighting flares singing and chanting.  Mirroring the colours of the club they follow, they threw purple and yellow smoke bombs onto empty seating nearby helping to create vivid scenes of colour for the fixture.

You can see some images from the Slovenian clash here.