Since its foundation in 1921, Željezničar has always grappled with the problem of having its own playground. After the Egzercir military training ground at Čengić Villa, and the first playground at Pofalići, from which they were expelled in 1938 because they became a serious competitor to the more powerful Sarajevo clubs, the Railwaymen decided to build their own football temple where they could play their matches.
In 1949, determined members of the Željezničar Workers’ Sports Association started a labor action for the construction of today’s Grbavica stadium, which was completed on September 13, 1953. In the first match, during the opening, Željezničar defeated Šibenik 4-1.
At that time, it was impossible to imagine that the home of our club would be almost completely destroyed some forty years later.
During the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina, the stadium Grbavica, popularly known as “Dolina Ćupova”, became the first battle line. The western stand, which had been transferred from the stadium “6. April” in Marijin Dvor during the stadium’s construction, was set on fire, and part of the stadium was mined. Along with the grandstand, 316 trophies were burned and disappeared. Of those trophies, 42 belonged to football players, and the rest were awarded to other clubs from the Željezničar Sports Association, which at the time had 14 clubs. However, some trophies that were in the club’s premises at Marijin Dvor have been preserved and now adorn the showcases of the “blue salon.”
The stadium underwent its first major renovation on June 30, 1968, during which it was closed for matches. The “athletic track” that had been installed during the original construction in 1949 was removed. The renovation lasted for almost eight years and was completed on April 25, 1976, when Željo officially “returned home.”
Stadium Grbavica underwent renovation in 2017, with the construction of a new eastern stand. Most of the construction costs were covered by FK Željezničar fans through the ten-year ticket project. In the following year, 2018, the field at Grbavica was also changed, with the installation of a hybrid lawn, irrigation system, and heaters. At the beginning of 2019, the eastern stand was covered.
However, everything that had been built with love since 1921 was destroyed when the stand was torn down and burned. We watched the destruction from the battle lines while imagining the future, imagining watching the first derby to come, the scoreboard, chairs, floodlights which will be turned on for evening matches played on “Dolina Ćupova”, and European matches. We knew that one day we would return to our own, back home.
Stadium name: Grbavica
Nickname: Dolina ćupova (Valley of Jars)
Built: September 13, 1953