Are you looking for a new adventure and want to visit the Sarajevo derby?
Look no further! The derby in Sarajevo is definitely one that I can recommend. It’s a great experience for every football fan.
In this post I’ll share my personal experience with you!
Famous Derbies in the Region
Of course, there are more great football derbies in the Balkans. One that stands out is the Eternal Derby between Red Star Belgrade vs. Partizan Belgrade in Serbia.
But you also have the derby in Croatia between Dinamo Zagreb vs. Hajduk Split. The most famous derby in Montenegro is between Buducnost Podgorica vs. Sutjeska Niksic.
Another great football derby takes place in Albania between KF Tirana vs. Partizani Tirana. Some of these are still on my bucket list! Even Central Europe has a great derby between Slavia Prague vs Sparta Prague.
But the derby in Sarajevo was a special experience for me.
FK Sarajevo vs FK Zeljeznicar
The two biggest clubs in Sarajevo are FK Zeljeznicar and FK Sarajevo. Zeljo – as the locals call it – play their home games in the Grbavica Stadium.
I lived in this neighborhood and the stadium was just a two-minute walk from my apartment. The stadium was heavily damaged during the war and required a huge amount of restoration.
Not only was the stadium partly destroyed; the whole neighborhood heavily suffered from incoming rockets and grenades. It was still clearly visible when you looked around. Hard to miss, to be honest.
You can see these marks of the war throughout the city, not only in Grbavica where I lived. This is one of the reasons Sarajevo is special, comparing it to other cities in Europe. I wrote another blog on Sarajevo and its uniqueness.
FK Sarajevo plays their homes games in the Kosevo Olympic Stadium (a.k.a. Asim Ferhatović-Hase Stadium). This stadium was also a venue during the Olympic Games in 1984. It’s also a place where a lot of concerts take place.
The club was bought in 2013 by Malaysian entrepeneur Vincent Tan. I wrote an article about his story for the online newspaper Sarajevo Times. He’s a flamboyant owner and has purchased more clubs in Europe.
The colours of FK Sarajevo are sort of burgundy-red while you can spot Zeljo fans in blue and white colours. When I with my walked towards the Kosevo Stadium with my Bosnian friend on derby day, I heard a lot of noise and singing around the corner.
When I came to the main street, I saw a huge group of FK Sarajevo fans marching through the city. They were surrounded by the riot squad but they seemed to be quite relaxed.
We didn’t want to pick sides, but we joined them on our walk to the stadium as we happened to bump into them. The city is completely under the spell of the match on this day. There is no way for cars or other traffic to get through.
A long twenty-minute walk later, we arrived at the stadium. On both sides there was some great Bosnian street food and the smells were amazing. We had a look at what they had to offer and we decided to go for some cevapi.
This is Bosnian dish with sausages made from different types of minced meat. It is served on special bread with onions and ajvar or kaymak. Ajvar is a relish based on sweet bell peppers and eggplants, while kaymak is comparable to clotted cream.
The Football Derby Experience
When we entered the stadium, we found out that the seats were mainly just decorative. Everyone was standing and no one, including us, even thought of sitting down. An athletics track surrounded the field.
I’m usually not a big fan of these tracks around the field, but it felt like it had a bigger purpose regarding safety. It served as a space where the riot squad, the fire brigade, ambulances and other special forces took place.
A couple of minutes before the start, the firework show from the stands started. It created so much smoke that the field wasn’t visible anymore.
The start of the match had to be postponed by a couple of minutes. As fanatical as the supporters standing next to me were, they all ordered a small pack of apple juice and a little bag of nuts from the vendors walking around in the stands.
Tough hooligans literally drinking apple juice with a tiny straw. I thought that was quite a funny contrast.
As soon as the smoke cleared a bit, the match took off. It was literally only ten minutes before the fire department had to put out the small fires in the stands. When FK Sarajevo took the lead after half an hour, things slowly started to get out of hand.
Several Zeljo fans started to throw fireworks at the opposing fans in the stand next to us. Two of them even managed to get into the home fans’ box. That turned out to be a suicide mission.. not the smartest move.
Just a few minutes later, the field is no longer visible again because of all the smoke. The match paused for another five minutes. It gave me some time to finish my apple juice and a hand full of nuts.
I had some great conversations with the fans next to me and I felt welcomed to Sarajevo.
At halftime, the riot squad and firefighters regrouped and more and more police vans drove in. Two ambulances are also parking in both corners of the stadium now.
I must say, the supporters in Bosnia were fanatical but it was also a great atmosphere, and football vibe. In the second half, the match paused once more due to fireworks.
Zeljo managed to equalise in the dying seconds of the match. It was an explosion of noise. At this point, even the army entered the stadium.
Our stand was relatively calm and we had a great view on all sides of the stadium. The match ended in a draw and that was a perfect score for me.
The Derby of Sarajevo Tickets
If you feel like being part of this experience and you are already in Sarajevo, you can buy your tickets at a small ticket stand on Ferhadija street in the city center a couple of days before the match.
You pay around 5 or 10 Bosnian Marks which equals 2,50 or five Euros per ticket. It’s definitely worth the experience!
The Wrap Up: The Football Derby of Sarajevo
The Sarajevo Derby, between FK Sarajevo and FK Zeljeznicar, is a match that every football fan should go to at least once in your life.
This blog post took you on a personal journey through this one-of-a-kind event, from the passionate fan walks through the city streets to the taste of real Bosnian street food to the passionate and intense atmosphere in the stadiums with their history and war scars.
A match day in Sarajevo is more than just the 90-minute game. It’s about community, shared hobbies, and a city that is proud of its scars.
Even though there were some rough spots, the fun and camaraderie made the whole thing very cool. And when tickets are so cheap, it’s hard to pass up a trip like that.
So, if you want a new adventure in the world of sports, pack your bags, buy your tickets on Ferhadija street, and set your sights on Sarajevo! The city, its people, and its football are all ready to give you an unforgettable experience.
I enjoyed every single minute of it!
Your restless voyager,