Bosnia

Capital: Sarajevo
Population: 4.1 million
Currency: Maraka
Official Language: Serbo-Croat
Borders: Croatia (North and West), Serbia (South and East)
GNP per Capita: $228 (179th in world)
Main Airport: Sarajevo International – Sarajevo

Bosnia is a mountainous country with a few miles of coast on the Adriatic Sea, bordered by other former Yugoslav republics, Croatia and Serbia.  Between 1943 and 1990 the Yugoslavian regime prevented the conflict between the Muslims, Croats and Serbs but with the dissolution of the state in 1990 the ethnic populations fought over Bosnia resulting in over 250,000 deaths.  The climate is characterised by warm summers and very harsh winters.

The Premier League is the top football league in Bosnia and Herzegovina.The league is composed of 16 teams. Two teams are relegated at the end of every season. The winner of the Premier League is seeded into the Champions League. The winner of the Football Cup of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Premier League runners up are seeded into the UEFA Cup.

Right: NC Celik’s Bilino Polje Stadium

At the end of the season last two teams are relegated, and winners of First League of Republika Srpska and First League of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina are promoted to Premier League.  The league is operated by the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For an up to date list of fixtures, click here.

Right: Mostar’s Gradksi Stadium – home of the 2005 Premier League Champions

Premier League Champions
2008/2009 – NK Zrinjski
2007/2008 – Modrica
2006/2007 – FK Sarajevo
2005/2006 – NK Široki Brijeg
2004/2005 – HŠK Zrinjski Mostar
2003/2004 – NK Široki Brijeg
2002/2003 – FK Leotar Trebinje
2001/2002 – FK Željezničar
2000/2001 – FK Željezničar
1999/2000 – FK Sarajevo
1997/1998 – NK Željezničar

Slavija won the cup final.

Until 2000, there were three separate championships on ethnic principles (Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats). Every entity had its own champions and cup winners. In 1998. Željezničar became first official champion of Bosnia-Herzegovina after the play-off organized by UEFA and Football Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2000. second play-off was held, and since 2000/2001 season regular league started (but without Bosnian Serbs’ clubs who continued their separated league for two more seasons). Since the 2002/2003 season Premijer liga is being played in the entire country.

The following clubs will be competing in the Bosnian top league in 2009/10

NK Čelik Zenica – Zenica – Bilino Polje Stadium
FK Laktaši – Laktaši – Laktasi Gradski Stadium
FK Leotar Trebinje – Trebinje – The Police Stadium
FK Modriča – Modriča (Last seasons Champions) – The Maxima Stadium
NK Posušje – Posušje – Mokri Dolac Stadium
FK Sarajevo -Sarajevo (See below for section on Sarajevo) – Asim Ferhativic Hase Stadium
Slavija Sarajevo – Sarajevo – Gradski SRC Slavija Stadium
FK Sloboda Tuzla –  Tuzla – Tusanj Stadium
NK Široki Brijeg – Široki Brijeg – Pecara Stadium
NK Travnik – Travnik – Stadion Pirota
FK Velež Mostar – Mostar – Vrapcici Stadium
FK Željezničar – Sarajevo (See below for section on Sarajevo) – Grbavica Stadium
Borac Banja Luka – Banja Luka – Gradski Stadium
NK Zvijezda – Zvijezda – Gradski Stadium
NK Travnik – Travnik – Pirota Stadium
HSK Zrinjski Mostar – Mostar – Bijeli Brijeg Stadium

FOOTBALL IN SARAJEVO

FK SARAJEVO – THE ASIM FERHATOVIC HASE STADIUM – 37,500 ALL SEATER

About the Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium
The Asim Ferhatovic Hase, or Kosevo Stadium is the national stadium of one of Europe’s newest countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The stadium is a classic eastern European structure – an impractical open bowl, with athletics track and huge floodlights that dominate the surrounding skyline.  The stadium was the host venue for the 1984 Winter Olympics, and is now named after FK Sarajevo’s most famous every former player – Asim Ferhatovic who retired in 1967.  In 2004 the stadium hosted one of the most hostile games Europe has ever seen when the national team played Serbia and Montenegro in a qualifying match for the 2006 World Cup finals.  Tensions had been high between the two countries since the end of the Balkans conflict when Sarajevo and Belgrade were often seen as the home of the two sides of the conflict.  The game passed off without many major incidents, although the huge police and military presence may have been a factor in the calm.

Sarajevo can be a very cold place during the winter months, as well as quite wet.  Therefore, along with some of the stadiums in Russia the absence of a roof is hard to explain.  Add to the unfriendly factors such as the athletics track and you have a ground that for parts of the year is quite uncomfortable to watch a game in.  However, on the reverse during the spring and early summer the stadium is a great place to sit back and watch some decent football (on occasions!).

Who plays there?
The Kosevo is currently home to the National team as well as FK Sarajevo who are Bosnia’s most successful club side.  They were originally formed in 1949 through an amalgamation of a number of teams who played in the post war leagues in Yugolsavia.  It took them a few years to actually get going, and after suffering a couple of relegations during the 1950’s they bounced back to the top of the Yugoslavian First division to capture the first title by a Bosnian team in 1967, after finishing as runners up just two years before.

The club had to wait another decade before they reached the same heights again.  It has to be remembered how strong the Yugoslavian leagues were in those days with teams such as Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split and Maribor competing for the top spots every year.  In 1980 they finished runners up again, this time to Red Star Belgrade.  A few years later they reached their second ever Yugoslavian Cup Final, losing 3-2 to Dinamo Zagreb.

Just two years later the club found the form that they knew they had by leading the league from Hadjuk Split for most of the season before capturing the title on the last day.  Unfortunately their subsequent European Cup campaign lasted two games as they lost on aggregate to Finnish champions Lahti.

The start of the Bosnian war, and the subsequent siege of Sarajevo ultimately put football back decades in the city and the club effectively disbanded for over three years.  It was during this period that the clubs more fanatical fans became known as the Horde Zla – “the hordes of evil”.

The last few season have been a bit barren in terms of success.  The club expected some immediate success on the formation of the Bosnian league in 1998 and actually reached the cup final in that first season, beating HNK 1-0 on aggregate.  The club have gone on to win the cup on three more occasions, but it has been the league title that has eluded them.  Much to the chargrin of the club and their supporters, their bitter rivals FK Željezničar from across the city have finished in the top two in every season.

The club did win the title at last in 2007, beating their local rivals in a tightly fought contest.  This did give them entry into the Champions League again, albeit at the qualifying stages.  They lost 4-0 to Dynamo Kiev over two legs, but had a second bite of the cherry in the UEFA Cup.  In an unfortunate draw they played Swiss runners-up FC Basel, losing over two legs.

How to get there
The Kosevo is located in the north of the city, around about 3km from the main railway station.  Around the stadium you will find plenty of countryside – in fact it is hard to believe sometimes that you are watching a game in a capital city with the Dinaric Alps so close to the stadium.  To the west of the stadium are the hills of Sarajevo, as well as one of the major graveyards, full of Bosnia’s war heroes.  Red bus line 16b runs to Kosevsko Brdo every 15 minutes from the city centre, which is a 5 minute walk from the stadium.  Alternatively any buses that run towards Ljejevo and Ilijai pass within a couple of minutes walk from the stadium.

Getting a ticket
The average attendance in the Bosnian league is just over 2,000, so you will not have any problems getting a ticket to see a game on the day.  In fact at the time of going to press none of the top flight clubs offered online booking facilities.  FK Sarajevo are the best supported team in the league, but even so attendances that barely fill a quarter of the Kosevo are common place.  Tickets can be bought from the windows around the ground starting from 5KM.

FC Željezničar – The Grbavica – 20,000 Capacity

About the Grbavica Stadium
Located in the former Serb controlled part of Sarajevo, the Grbavoca is one of the most modern stadiums in Bosnia – although that does not say a lot.  It is now a neat and tidy stadium, with one large covered stand at the north end of the stadium, and three open terraces completing the picture.  The area around the stadium is far from luxurious.  It was once the home to snipers and land mines, some of which still haven’t been cleared so tread carefully.  The stadium was reconstructed in 1976, although most of the stadium was destroyed by Serbian troops in 1992.  The new north stand was opened in 2004, and is part of a major plan to redevelop the whole stadium into an all seater and all covered ground once funding is in place.

Who plays there?
In the old Yugoslavian leagues, the name FK Željezničar was not one of the most well known but they did have their fair share of success.  They were originally formed in 1921 as the railway workers team although they soon became the team of the Serbs in Sarajevo.  In 1971/72 season the club won their only Yugoslavian championship, holding off challenges from Red Star and Hadjuk Split after finishing runners up in the previous season.   In their first season in the European Cup they lost to Derby County 4-1.  They next came to prominence in the 1981 season when they lost in the Yugoslavian cup final to fellow Bosnians Velez Mostar 3-2.  They did also reach the semi-final of the 1984/85 UEFA Cup losing on aggregate to Fehervar of Hungary.

Since the start of the Bosnian National League the club have dominated proceedings.  Three times champions, and runners up in three more seasons along with three Bosnian cup successes make them the most successful club in the country.

How to get there
If you are in the city to watch a game at FK Sarajevo’s rivals FK Željezničar, then their stadium – the Grbavica – is located in the south west of the city close to the river.  The stadium is walk able from the centre – simply follow the river westwards along Vilsonovošetalište until you reach the Topal Osman bridge.  Simply head south and you will see the stadium straight ahead.  Bus line 37 terminates outside the north entrance to the stadium.  Alternatively, take trolleybuses 101, 102 and 103 to Zvornicka.

Getting a ticket
The average attendance in the Bosnian league is just over 2,000, so you will not have any problems getting a ticket to see a game on the day.  In fact at the time of going to press none of the top flight clubs offered online booking facilities.  If you are heading for the Grbavica, the ticket office is on the north side of the stadium and tickets start from 4KM for a covered seat.  The south stand is home to the “Maniacs”.

Getting around
Public transport in Sarajevo hasn’t really moved on since the end of the war.  The major form of transport is trolley-bus that runs around the city centre.  Tickets (1.60KM) can be purchased from kiosks on the street labelled tisak or from the driver but they cost slightly more.  The ticket is valid for a single journey only.  A daily travel card costs 5.30KM.  Remember to validate all tickets on boarding the bus or tram.

Nearest Airport – Sarajevo Airport (SJJ)
Telephone:              +387 33 457 858
Website:                  http://www.sarajevo-airport.ba

Sarajevo has grown massively in the past decade to become one of the biggest in the Balkans.  It handles over 500,000 passengers a year now – up from less than 5,000 a decade ago.  It is located in the western suburb of Butmir.  Currently only British Airwaysoffer a direct flight to Sarajevo on a daily basis from London Gatwick.

The airport does not have any public transport links, and so the only real option you have is to catch a taxi either all of the way into the city centre, or to the tram stop at Ilidza where you can board a tram to the main train station.


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