FK Vardar (Macedonian: ФК Вардар), commonly referred to as Vardar, is a Macedonianfootball club based in the capital city of Skopje. Founded in 1947, they have been members of the Macedonian First Football League since its inception in 1992. Vardar (named after the eponymous river) is the most popular and renowned Macedonian football club both domestically and abroad, winning 7 national championships and 5 national cups. Its home venue is the Philip II Arena, with a capacity of 33,460.
FK Vardar was created with the merger of city rivals FK Pobeda and FK Makedonija, in the hall of cinema "Vardar" on 22 July 1947. The foundation assembly had decided the club color to be blue and it was, but already at the next assembly the decision was changed to red and white. FK Pobeda has competed in the first season of the Yugoslav First Federal League after the World War II, finished at the 8th place and won the relegation play-offs against FK Sloga from Novi Sad, so Vardar was a member of the Yugoslav First League from the very beginning. However, during the following decade they were several times relegated and promoted back again. The present recognizable red and black color was adopted after the 1963 Skopje earthquake.
The club won its first major trophy in the 1961 Yugoslav Cup. Many famous players from the region started their careers at Vardar, and their triumph in the Yugoslavian Cup was a highlight. The leader of that particular generation of players was Andon Dončevski, who would later find success as coach of the 1987 title winners. Due to massive irregularities during the last 34th week of fixtures, the 1985-86 Yugoslav First League season ended notoriously. Yugoslav Football Association headed by Slavko Šajber voided the last week results ordering a replay of all 9 fixtures. Twelve clubs were docked 6 points due to alleged participation in the match-fixing scandal. All teams agreed to replay their games with the exception of FK Partizan who refused. That decision would eventually cost them the championship. The league title was awarded to Red Star Belgrade. What followed is a series of lawsuits on behalf of FK Partizan and the case was taken to the Yugoslav Constitutional Court. The following 1986-87 Yugoslav First League season saw 10 teams starting with -6 points. Vardar would go on to win the league title that year with 38 points. After the completion of the 1986-87 season, following strong pressure from politicians supporting Partizan, the court ruled that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the week 34 of the previous season. The title was given back to FK Partizan and that also meant that there was no merit for the 6-point docking thus the final standings were re-counted. Partizan became the new champion with 42 points. The UEFA didn't recognize this politically motivated decision, hence Vardar went on to represent SFR Yugoslavia in the 1987-88 European Cup. The 1987 championship team brought together a group of wonderful players, led by the talented Darko Pančev and including Ilija Najdoski, Dragan Kanatlarovski and Vujadin Stanojković. FK Vardar went on to spend 33 seasons in the Yugoslav top flight from 1947 to 1992 and is ranked 11th on the all time table.
All-Time Federal First League Table (1945-1992)
Vardar celebrated Macedonia's independence by winning three consecutive titles including going unbeaten in the inaugural season. During the 90's they remained at the top of Macedonian football reaching five Cup finals (winning four) and have always been the team to beat. After a lean spell by their standards, they won the league again in 2002 and the following season just missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage. A remarkable achievement, in the 2nd round of qualifying they eliminated CSKA Moscow and came within a goal of getting past Sparta Prague. In 2011, Vardar was originally relegated from the First League, but after a merger with Miravci it stayed. The following season they won the league after nine years. To date they have 13 major honors to their name. In 2012, with the new transformation football club Vardar became the first team in Macedonia organized as a joint stock company incorporated under the companies act.
All-Time First Macedonian League Table (1992-2014)
In their history, Vardar has had many memorable matches. Among those, the one that stands out the most was defeating Partizan Belgrade by a score of 5:0. In early history, the 2:1 victory over Varteks in the Marshal Tito Cup final is remembered by the club as its first major trophy win. A game that had the highest attendance was a match up against FC Trepca where Vardar won 2:1 and earned promotion to the Federal First League. Other matches to remember came against the great four : Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split. At the beginning of the Macedonian First League the most memorable matches were all the wins against rival FK Pelister, including the first ever Macedonian Cup final in 1993 where Vardar won 1-0 at the old Skopje City Stadium. The biggest international achievement of the club came in 2003 when Vardar came one goal short of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage.Matches against Sparta Prague, CSKA Moscow, Roma, Bordo,Schalke in their European campaign in the laet 90s and all over 2000 are the best ever moments of the clubs History. Glorious moments for Vardar happened in the new century and big affirmation on international level for Macedonian sport as well.
FK Vardar's home venue is Philip II Arena. Its current capacity is 33,460 spectators which puts it among 10 largest stadiums on the Balkans. The pitch is 105 x 68 m. Two big scoreboards, 18 x 6 m are installed on both East and West stands. There are 494 VIP boxes and 386 media seats, all of them on the North stand. Philip II Arena is an all-seater ground with 80% of the seats covered from inclement weather.
FK Vardar Skopje vs. Pelister Bitola is the biggest and most violent match in Macedonia. An important aspect of this match-up is the intense rivalry in the Macedonian Tifo scene between the clubs supporters Komiti Skopje and Čkembari Bitola. The rivalry began in the season 1989/1990 at a match in Skopje, between FK Vardar Skopje and Red Star Belgrade. A conflict occurred between the "Skopje fans" and a few Bitola fans who went to cheer for Vardar, who at that time was the most popular Macedonian football club in the former Yugoslavia. On 8 March 1991 in Bitola, Pelister and Vardar met in the Yugoslav second league and the first incident occurred. From that day forward, started the big rivalry between Komiti and Čkembari along with the Vardar-Pelister match becoming the Eternal derby of Macedonia. At the moment the Bitola club isn't very successful and therefore the biggest match has now become the Skopje city derby between FK Vardar Skopje and Rabotnički. This is only a football rivalry on the pitch because Rabotnički does not have organized supporters.
FK Vardar supporters are known as Komiti (Macedonian: Комити). Komiti are the first organized supporters group of Vardar and they were founded on 4 June 1987 in Skopje, at the match between Vardar and Crvena Zvezda. Throughout their existence, they left significant seal in the history of Vardar and with their support becoming the 12th player of the team. FK Vardar as a club is supported by most Macedonians worldwide. The team has always been a symbol of the Macedonians and Macedonia in the world. Komiti have great relations with Teteks fans Vojvodi and Schalke 04 fans Ultras Gelsenkirchen.
Soborna Church Skopje, place where 'Komiti Skopje' are gathered before FK Vardar matches