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“The Rules of the Game”: The Balkan Derbies – Bosnia and Herzegovina

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“The Rules of the Game”: The Balkan Derbies – Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Bosnia FlagIf there is one country that endured the most destruction and suffering during the desolation of Yugoslavia, that is Bosnia and Herzegovina. Situated between Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, the country is divided in to two autonomous areas – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. The population is just under 4 million inhabitants, of whom only around 50% state themselves as Bosniaks while the other half constitutes of a majority of Serbs and Croats.

After more than 20 years of being an independent country, Bosnia and Herzegovina is yet to fully recover from the consequences of the war. But even in such circumstances, the beautiful game of football remained an important part of public life. That was more than evident during the huge national celebrations after the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team qualified for the first time for a major tournament – the World Cup in Brazil. And although such success has not been achieved at a club level, there is one derby that ignites massive interest among the country’s football fans. This is the clash between the eternal rivals from the capital – FK Željezničar and FK Sarajevo.

Željezničar was founded in the year 1921 and prior to the independence of Bosnia, was competing in the Yugoslavian First Division. They were crowned champions on one occasion, in 1972, and are also famous for reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1984-1985, where they lost 4-3 on aggregate to the Hungarian side Videoton. Željezničaris the most successful club domestically, having won six Bosnian championships and five Bosnian cups.

The Maniacs

FK Sarajevo was established in 1946 and also formed part of the Yugoslavian First Division, winning the competition twice – in 1967 and 1985. The club has further been crowned twice champions of Bosnia, but has failed to reach any success in European competitions. An interesting fact is that FK Sarajevo is owned by the controversial Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan, who is also the owner of Cardiff City.

 The Sarajevo derby has gained its fame mainly because of the clashes between the ultra-supporters of both clubs – The Maniacs of Željezničar and Horde Zla (Evil Hordes) of FK Sarajevo. The fierce rivalry originates from the different background of the clubs – Željezničar represents the working class while FK Sarajevo is the upper and intellectual class favorite. In 102 derbies disputed throughout history, each team has won 30 games, while 42 have ended with a draw. That equality only adds to the incentive for both teams to take the edge over the eternal rival in the upcoming derby of Sarajevo – a match that could bring tears or celebration to each half of the Bosnian capital.