Since its founding in 1921 as the football club for the Workers’ Sports Society, Željezničar has always had to struggle to have a place to play.
After WWII authorities gave Željo permission to build its own stadium and the popular “Dolina Ćupova” was built by members of the Željezničar Sports Association during their community action.
The city’s first derby
Work was completed on September 13, 1953 and the stadium first opened during a Second League-West match, where Željo won 4-1 against Šibenik. This football “temple” hosted the city’s first derby between Željo and Sarajevo in 1954.
At first, the stadium only had west stands, which had been brought from 6. April Stadium on Marijin Dvor, and an athletic track, which was removed during the renovation (June 1968-April 1976).
Grbavica Stadium was closed during this period, so Željo played matches at Koševo Stadium, where it celebrated its first title during the 1972 Yugoslavian Championship.
The north stands were built in the 1980s and were to serve as the basis for further construction, but plans were cut short by the war.
In April 1992, Grbavica found itself on the front lines and on May 4, 1992 the stadium was mined and set on fire.
Grbavica was reintegrated with the rest of the city on March 16, 1996 and by May 2 a Željo-Sarajevo match was played in the gutted stadium.
Over the coming years, Željezničar gradually repaired its home by tapping into its own limited funds.
For long there was talk of how a foreign investor would be found and the stadium would be totally rebuilt, but since this never came to pass, faithful Željo fans got involved and started the project, Evropska Grbavica, and throughout 2016 they were busy raising enough money to renovate the west stands and install new seats. In this way they were able to meet the necessary requirements to host European games.
And then in 2017 a real miracle happened!
With the big fundraising project, Izgradimo Istok, fans and Željo sympathizers from around the world bought ten-year’s worth of tickets to raise the money needed to build the east stands with its 4,266 seats.
The team’s managers, with support from fans and sympathizers, plan to fully reconstruct the south stands. This is where Željo’s most devoted fans – known as the Maniacs – gather.
The east stands were unveiled in April 2017 during the Željezničar-Sloboda match. In February 2020, the works on the roof of the east stand were completed, after which the Grbavica stadium has 10,500 covered seats.
The Grbavica complex now has a stadium that can seat 13,449, as well as two auxiliary fields.
Grbavica Stadium has been built over the years with the hard work of Željo fans and it serves as an example of how even a seemingly insurmountable task can be accomplished when people come together out of true love.