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Off To Partizan – the NK Maribor Preview
On September 29th, Birmingham City travel to their first away fixture of the Group Stage of the Europa League. With this in mind, I’ve put this article together to help people who want to travel and to give a little more information on our opponents.
Where the hell is Maribor anyway?
Maribor lies in the North East of Slovenia, at just over a thousand mile drive from Birmingham. It’s the second city of Slovenia, which was the first republic to break away from Yugoslavia when it disintegrated in the nineties. It’s not the biggest town, with a population just over 100,000, and as such is considerably smaller than Brum.
For those of you who wish to fly to Maribor, there are a few options available – although flights are being snapped up quick. Graz is probably the close “large” airport to Maribor (which does have an airport of it’s own); there is also Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana and Zagreb all within a few hours drive of Maribor.
What’s it like there?
As mentioned before, it’s a small town of 110,000 people. It’s also an old town, with mentions of a settlement there since the 12th century. From the pictures I’ve seen of Maribor it appears that the town didn’t get too badly damaged architecturally whilst under Communist rule, and as such looks quite pretty.
In saying that, it doesn’t appear that there is much to do there. As you’d expect from a small town, the choice of nightlife is limited and it’s in no way a “party city” like Prague, Riga or Tallinn. No doubt there will be local hostelries eager to serve thirsty Brits ale, but I doubt there will be much more than that.
Enough about the place, what’s the team like?
NK Maribor have played two games in the Europa League so far, knocking out Rangers after beating them 2-1 at home and drawing 1-1 at Ibrox. The Slovenes did go behind against Rangers at home, but goals from Macedonian international Agim Ibraimi and then Slovene international Etien Velikonja in injury time saw Maribor beat them. The team doesn’t have any names that stand out as well known to me; they do have a smattering of Slovene internationals, a couple of Brazilians and an unfortunate player with the surname of Viler.
In the league, they’ve played three games, drawing two and losing heavily to Olimpija Ljubljana 4-1 in their last game before the international break.
Will I be able to get a ticket?
This is the big question. The ground holds 12,994, which means the minimum allocation Blues should receive is 649 tickets. The Rangers game saw 10,900 in the ground, of which 300 came from Rangers. There has been no ticket allocation yet given by BCFC, which doesn’t help but my gut instinct is that I think ticket sales should at minimum reach season ticket holders – maybe even general sale. The fact that they rarely if ever get 10,000 in for league matches does give me the idea that there is every chance if you go you’ll get a ticket.
I want to go – how can I get there?
Some fans are quick off the mark, and I know of plenty of fans who have booked up flights, car rental and hotels to ensure that they will be in Slovenia to cheer on the Blues. However, there are still packages available – if you’re looking for a cheaper option, Sport Options are doing a day trip package, flying direct from Birmingham into Maribor for £295 per person; alternatively, if you’re looking to make a couple of days of it Sutton Travel are offering a deal at £369 per person, flying from Gatwick to Vienna, and with car rental and accommodation thrown in.
I’d like to wish bon voyage to all those Bluenoses that do go to Slovenia, and let’s hope we can continue our unbeaten stint in Europe.