Red Star Stadium

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Rajko Mitić Stadium
Marakana / Маракана
Fk Red Star stadium.jpg
Full name Rajko Mitić Stadium
Former names Red Star Stadium
Location Dedinje, Belgrade,  Serbia
Coordinates 44°47′00″N 20°27′54″E / 44.7832°N 20.4649°E / 44.7832; 20.4649Coordinates: 44°47′00″N 20°27′54″E / 44.7832°N 20.4649°E / 44.7832; 20.4649
Owner Red Star Belgrade
Operator Red Star Belgrade
Executive suites 5 (450 seats)
Capacity 55,538[1]
Field size 110 x 73 meters
Surface Grass
Scoreboard LED
Construction
Built 1960–1963
Opened September 1, 1963
Renovated 2017 (new grass)
Tenants
Red Star Belgrade

Rajko Mitić Stadium (Serbian: Стадион Рајко Митић / Stadion Rajko Mitić, Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [ˈstâdioːn ˈrâːjko ˈmǐːtit͡ɕ]), previously known as Red Star Stadium (Serbian: Стадион Црвена звезда / Stadion Crvena zvezda), also known as Marakana (Serbian Cyrillic: Маракана), is a multi-use stadium in Belgrade, Serbia which has been the home ground of Red Star Belgrade since 1963. The stadium is located in Dedinje, municipality of Savski Venac.

Rajko Mitić Stadium, renamed in 2014 in honour of Red Star former player and club legend Rajko Mitić has a seating capacity of 55,538,[2] and is currently the largest stadium in Serbia by capacity.

Marakana has hosted numerous international matches at a senior level, including European Cup final in 1973 and European Championship finals in 1976.

History[edit]

The first football stadium in this location was opened on 24 April 1927. It was the stadium of SK Jugoslavija, Yugoslav football champion in 1924 and 1925.[3] It consisted of a 30,000 capacity stadium with grass pitch, athletic track, training facility and club house. SK Jugoslavija played its matches on the stadium until the end of the Second World War when the club was disbanded by the new Yugoslav authorities. The ground was signed over to the newly founded club Red Star Belgrade.

Old ground Avala[edit]

The stadium was named "Avala". In 1945 it was seen as the stadium for the "Metalac" football club (former BSK, today OFK Beograd), but Vladimir Dedijer, president of the Yugoslav Gym Association at the time, granted it to the newly formed Red Star. In the summer of 1958, Red Star was to play against CDNA from Bulgaria (today CSKA Sofia). Municipal inspector from Stari Grad inspected the venue and declared it unusable, as the wooden beams were completely rotten. Until the new stadium was built, Red Star mostly played as the host at the JNA Stadium (today Partizan Stadium) while used some other smaller venues for the lesser important matches.[3]

On 27 December 1959, Red Star played its last match at the old ground. FK Novi Sad was the opposition in a farewell game at the dilapidated arena.

Together with the crumbling facility, a part of football history had left as well. At that stadium Moša Marjanović scored a famous goal on the Spanish keeper Ricardo Zamora, also František Plánička was defeated, and after World War II plenty of exciting games were played. These included the European Cup quarter-final second leg on 5 February 1958, in which Red Star took on the English league champions Manchester United, who had won the first leg in England 2-1. Despite fighting back to draw 3-3 after being 3-0 down, Red Star were eliminated from the competition by the English side.[4] The game is most memorable for being the last played by the Manchester United side before the Munich air disaster the following day, when the team's aeroplane crashed in the West German city on the return journey.[5] Eight Manchester United players were among the 23 people who died as a result of their injuries in the crash, while two of the surviving players were injured to such an extent that they never played again.[6]

After the farewell game, the stadium was demolished to be replaced by a modern new sporting facility on exactly the same spot. In order to prepare an adequate foundation for the construction of the new stadium, it was to be started 12 meters lower than the previous one. Over 350,000 cubic metres of soil and 15,000 cubic metres of stone had to be excavated.

Marakana[edit]

Delije Sever section at the north stand
South stand
View from roof above the south stand

To cut the costs, especially on the rebars, it was decided that the new venue will be partially dug into the ground. In order to prepare an adequate foundation for the construction, the stadium was to be started 12 m (39 ft) lower than the previous one. Over 350,000 m3 (12,000,000 cu ft) of soil and 15,000 m3 (530,000 cu ft) of stone had to be excavated. Soon, the problems occurred, as the digging threatened to trigger the landslide of the houses surrounding the site. At first, the experts suggested that the digging should stop and the project should be changed. The soil was probed, up to 8 m (26 ft) deep, and the formation called "Sarmatian limestone" was discovered, which meant that the deep foundation was possible on the west and south side and the project was continued. On the east side, the ground had to be filled.[3]

The project was very expensive. Small part came from the donations of the Red Star fans, but that wasn't nearly enough. Majority of funding came from the Executive Council, as the Government of Serbia was called at that time, which conditioned the funds with the construction of the athletic lanes. Construction was continued even after the inaugural match in 1963 and the costs amounted. Roof above the west stand was to be very expensive, with concrete arches, but prime minister Slobodan Penezić Krcun refused to grant that much money. Instead, an iron roof was built which was difficult to maintain. Because of the winds, the holes were left in the iron construction, but the auxiliary premises were built there even though they shouldn't have. Also, the workers' barracks at the auxiliary stadium were used by the club administration until the proper premises were build at the west stand in 1973. Administrative building also has a single room occupancy for the athletes. City wanted to buy the administrative building for its purposes, but the club refused and paid the building in full to the constructors.[3]

After three years of construction, the new stadium was ready to be unveiled. The official opening took place on 1 September 1963 with the Yugoslav First League match against NK Rijeka (2:1).[3] That day, some 55,000 spectators came through 9 entrance gates of 5 meters width each into the still unfinished stands. The very first visitor to the stadium is known to be Laza Petrović, a peasant from the Loznica vicinity. This fiery Red Star fan arrived to the new stadium early in the morning and took his place in the eastern stand. He took out cheese and a bannock from his bag, then ate his breakfast while he waited patiently until the late afternoon for the game to start.

The largest crowd was recorded that autumn at a derby against Partizan Belgrade – 108,000 people. Next year, after the stadium was fully completed its capacity increased to 110,000 spectators and it got the unofficial moniker - Marakana, in honour of the famous Brazilian stadium. Apart from the exciting look, the new stadium also featured a magnificent grass pitch with drainage, which made the overall playing experience much more enjoyable.

The first official goal at the stadium was scored by Trifun Mihailović in a youth match between Red Star and Jedinstvo from Zemun, a prelude to the first league match with NK Rijeka.[3] The first official top division goal was scored by Nedeljko Vukoje from Rijeka while Dušan Maravić scored Red Star's first ever goal at the stadium, which resulted in a draw in the same game.

Still on the subject of records, according to the number of tickets sold, the stadium saw its largest crowd on 23 April 1975 at the Cup Winners Cup semi-final home leg against the Hungarian side Ferencváros 2–2. There were officially 96,070 spectators in the stands that night with purchased tickets, but it is believed that the stadium was filled to the maximum allowable capacity which at the time was 110,000.

In the years since, the stadium's capacity has gradually decreased. Following different modernization touch-ups, more seats were added. During the mid-1990s, in order to meet UEFA demands for spectators' comfort and security, standing places at the stadium were completely done away with. Seats were installed on all 4 stands so that the stadium‘s maximum capacity was 60,000.

In 2008, the club announced the reconstruction of the pitch in the stadium. Under-soil grass heaters were installed and new modern turf has replaced the old playing surface. The training pitch will also be renovated by laying down synthetic turf and installing new lighting equipment.

In 2014, the Assembly of Red Star decided unanimously to rename the stadium from Red Star Stadium to Rajko Mitić Stadium [7][8][9] in honor to the late Red Star legend Rajko Mitić.

Proposed new stadium[edit]

In 2012, Red Stars executive board signed a memorandum for the reconstruction of the Rajko Mitić Stadium .[10] The current stadium is expected to be redesigned by Chinese company NCEC (Natong Construction Engineering Constructing Co.) in corporation with Portuguese holding company Sonae Sierra. The 34.8 hectares of land, named Zvezdani Grad (English: Star City or Starry City), will include the stadium with approximately 50,000 seats, fitness center, ambulance, shopping and spa center, office towers, a five-star hotel, modern apartment blocks and underground parking. The area between the stadium and the shopping center, which will allow a visit in the summer, and winter conditions, will be used for markets, cafes, restaurants, and provide space for temporary exhibitions and performances. Ticket office and club shop will also be placed in this covered area. On the roof of the shopping center will be a public garden with entrance from the shopping center, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Belgrade. The stadium will be covered with solar panels that will supplement the energy needs of the stadium, another areas will be used for collecting rainwater for irrigation of football fields and green areas of the complex. The new stadium will be recognized for the symbol of the club - the Red Star, then the main structure of the stadium will be in the form of five-pointed star. The cost of the project is estimated to be between €450-600 million.

Notable matches[edit]

Serbia plays Belgium at Rajko Mitić, 7 October 2006
  • European Champions Cup season 1972/1973 final between Ajax and Juventus (1:0) on 30 May 1973, is among the record attendances on Belgrade’s Marakana. There were 91,564 spectators in the stands (the third highest attendance on the stadium's official all-time list), who came out to see the European football stars of the day such as Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Johan Cruijff, Dino Zoff, Fabio Capello, José Altafini, Roberto Bettega, and others.[11]
  • Another major international football competition was played at Red Star’s stadium – 1976 UEFA European Football Championship. Marakana actually hosted two memorable matches: the semi-final, which Yugoslavia lost 2:4 in heartbreaking fashion to West Germany in extra-time after leading 2:0 for much of the game, and the final on 20 June 1976 that saw Czechoslovakia upset West Germany 5-3 on penalties, after the game was deadlocked a 2:2 tie following extra time. The winning penalty was scored by Antonín Panenka who cheekily sliced the ball down the middle.
  • On 24 April 1991, Red Star Belgrade and Bayern Munich contested a European Champions Cup semifinal tie. Since Red Star held a 2-1 advantage from the away game in Munich, atmosphere before the home leg was electric as fans could almost taste the big European final for the first time in club history. Naturally, the stadium was packed with about 100,000 people and when Siniša Mihajlović scored a trade mark free-kick goal for 1-0 on the night, progression to the big final seemed a foregone conclusion. But, in true German football style, Bayern came back with two quick second half goals to level the aggregate score. Finally, deep into injury time when the game seemed destined for extra period, a harmless looking Mihajlović cross into the box got deflected upwards by defender Klaus Augenthaler and subsequently misjudged by Bayern goalie Raimond Aumann - 2:2 on the night and Red Star goes through. The final whistle sparked off a huge celebration inside the stadium as well as a massive celebratory pitch invasion.
  • In the Autumn of 1996, Red Star hosted 1. FC Kaiserslautern and FC Barcelona as part of its round of 32 and round of 16, respectively, Cup Winners' Cup ties. The significance of the matches was in the fact that after more than four years of sporting embargo and almost six years since the historic European Champions Cup title, Red Star was again competing among the European elite. Against Kaiserslaturn, they were 0-1 down after first leg, but managed to go through in extra time at Marakana on 26 September 1996 due to an inspired display by 18-year-old Dejan Stanković and 19-year-old Perica Ognjenović. The next round brought powerhouse Barça team featuring the likes of Ronaldo, Hristo Stoichkov, and Luís Figo, and Red Star was simply hoping for a miracle in the pressure-free underdog role. First leg 1-3 defeat at Camp Nou provided some hope for the return leg at home, and Zoran Jovičić's diving header just after halftime for 1-0 further buyoed the large crowd. However, enthusiasm was quickly deflated due to quick Barça response one minute later through Giovanni. After that, confident Barça stars comfortably held on for a 1-1 draw. The match is remembered for its carnival atmosphere as well as the never before seen tifo display (fan choreography) that saw all four Marakana stands covered in retractable flags, banners and mosaics.
Serbia vs Georgia played on 9 October 2017, a 1-0 win that secured Serbia a spot at 2018 FIFA World Cup
  • On 12 October 2005, the national team of Serbia-Montenegro played a deciding match on the last matchday of 2006 World Cup qualifying versus Bosnia-Herzegovina. The circumstances and high stakes made this an extremely important clash for Serbia. Not to mention the fact that both nations were parts of SFR Yugoslavia, which further raised the tensions. Going into the last matchday, Serbia-Montenegro was top of the group - two points ahead of second placed Spain and three points in spare compared to the third placed Bosnia-Herzegovina. Spain, however, was to play the minnows of the group San Marino and was virtually assured a win. With such highly probable scenario in the Spanish game, Serbia-Bosnia clash in Belgrade gained extra significance. The points advantage on top seemingly gave Serbia an advantage, but they still almost certainly needed a win because the math was mind-boggling. If the Belgrade score was to be tied, Serbia and Spain would then be equal on points at the top of the group and their two previous matches would have to decide who gets the first spot and automatic qualification. However, both of those games ended in ties (0-0 in Belgrade, 1-1 in Madrid), and according to FIFA rules, unlike UEFA's, away goals count for nothing, so goal difference would be the next deciding factor. That meant that if Bosnia managed to get a tie in Belgrade and Spain beat San Marino by a 4-goal margin, the Spaniards would be on top and Serbia would go into the playoffs. Bosnia was also not without a chance - if it managed to beat Serbia by any score in Belgrade, it would've become tied on points with Serbia, but would overtake it because the first match in Sarajevo ended in a 0-0 tie. Right from the start the tensions were extremely high, the stadium was packed . Mateja Kežman put the Serbs up in 7th minute, and the lead was not relinquished until the end. Serbia-Montenegro qualified directly for Germany 2006, sparking jubilant scenes all over Serbia & Montenegro.
  • On 25 October 2007, Red Star hosted FC Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup Group F match. Red Star Belgrade supporters left the stadium with a feeling of great frustration, because although their team were a goal up twice, then they conceded two goals in the last minutes of the game and lost 2-3. Red Star Belgrade then went on to lose its remaining three matches and finished at the bottom of Group F with 0 points. The atmosphere on the "Marakana" was incredible, with the 55,000 fans present on the stadium resembling the atmosphere of 1990-91 European Cup semifinal between these two teams.

Concerts[edit]

Marakana has seldom been used as a concert venue in its 45-year history.

The most notable performer is Zdravko Čolić who held massive shows at Marakana on three separate occasions. The first was on 5 September 1978 as part of his famous Putujući Urnebes Tour - 70,000 people showed up. Then, almost twenty three years later on 30 June 2001, he made another appearance promoting his Okano album in front of 85,000 spectators. Finally, on 23 June 2007 he promoted his Zavičaj album with another huge concert, his third, in front of 70,000 spectators at Marakana.

Other concerts at the stadium included YU Rock Misija on 15 June 1985, a show that lasted 8 hours in front of a gathered crowd of 30,000 people though they were not allowed onto the stadium's pitch by the decision of Red Star's management. Serbian folk singer Ceca held a huge concert on 15 June 2002. Most recently, Aca Lukas played a show at the stadium on 8 June 2013 in front of 50,000 people.

Other[edit]

In addition to football matches and concerts, the stadium has hosted the following events:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
De Kuip
Rotterdam
European Cup
Final Venue

1973
Succeeded by
Heysel Stadium
Brussels
Preceded by
King Baudouin Stadium
Brussels
UEFA European Football Championship
Final Venue

1976
Succeeded by
Stadio Olimpico
Rome