🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina 🇧🇦
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Championship was established in 1992 but will not be played throughout the country until 2002-2003. Between 1997 and 2002, three championships were played: one for Serbs, one for Croats and one for Muslims. This rivalry can be seen in the teams’ coats of arms with the use of the red and white checkerboard for the Croats, the fleur-de-lys for the Muslims and the Cyrillic alphabet for the Serbs. The Bosnia and Herzegovina championship is notably the scene of magnificent matches with the Sarajevo derby between FK Željezničar and FK Sarajevo, as well as the Mostar derby between HŠK Zrinjski and Velež.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina championship is contested in two phases. The twelve best teams meet twice in the first phase. At the end of this phase, the twelve teams are divided into two groups. The first six play for the title and the last six for the relegation group. Next, the teams meet again twice and the points from both phases are accumulated. The team with the most points at the end of the two phases is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Cup of Bosnia and Herzegovina go to the Europa League. Finally, the bottom two in the Bosnia and Herzegovina championship are relegated to the second division.
Football in Bosnia and Herzegovina can look to the future with great optimism. Progress is being made on and off the field in this new nation that emerged after the collapse of old political and geographical structures in this part of Europe.
Football first appeared in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 20th century, in Mostar in 1905. Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, Zenica and Bihac followed, as did many smaller towns as the new sport spread. The country was still under Austro-Hungarian rule when an official championship was established in 1908, although it was fragmented and played in each of the territories.
When the First World War broke out, there were four clubs in Sarajevo and about 20 in the rest of the country. The creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after 1918 saw an increase in the number of leagues, and a national championship began with two clubs from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This competition continued until 1939/40, when separate divisions were created for Serbia and Slovenia-Croatia.
The Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established at the end of the Second World War, and affiliated to the Yugoslav Football Federation (YFF). The best teams in Bosnia and Herzegovina played in the first, second and third divisions and achieved decent results. FK Sarajevo won the Yugoslavian championship in 1967 and 1985, and FK Željezničar did the same in 1972. FK Velež lifted the Yugoslavian Cup in 1981 and 1986, while FK Borac Banja Luka won the trophy in 1988.
Bosnian clubs also made their mark in the European Cup, with Željezničar reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1984/85. Željezničar‘s performance proved the quality of the game in the country, with over 900 clubs already associated with the NFSBiH.
After independence in 1992, the NFSBiH was trying to obtain membership status with the governing bodies. Due to the war-torn country, Bosnia and Herzegovina did not join FIFA until 1996 and UEFA in 1998. During this transitional period for Bosnian football, a championship was contested between clubs affiliated to the NFSBiH and the Herceg Bosna Federation, won by Željezničar in 1998.
Due to ethnic and political divisions in the country, the Federation of Republika Srpska (FA RS) – the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina – refused to participate in the national championship. Football was finally united on 23 May 2002, after a general assembly of the FA RS, where the FA RS statutes in line with the NFSBiH and FIFA, and UEFA provisions, were accepted. In addition, they agreed to play a joint national championship throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina for the 2002/03 season – a 20-team division with 12 teams from the old division, the champion and runner-up of the first division and six clubs from the FA RS. FK Leotar was the first champion.
This new harmony was reflected in the national team’s performance in the UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifiers. If Bosnia and Herzegovina had beaten Denmark in their last match in Sarajevo (1-1), they could have qualified for the finals in Portugal. In the FIFA World Cup, Bosnia and Herzegovina was also excellent. They finished third in their group in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers after only two defeats in ten matches. Bosnia and Herzegovina finished second in their group behind Spain and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when they lost to Portugal in the play-offs.
UEFA EURO 2012 brought new regrets. Portugal again got in the way in the play-offs after Safet Sušić‘s players finished runners-up to France in their group. Finally, the 2014 FIFA World Cup marked Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s appearance in a major tournament. In Brazil, the country celebrated its first victory at this level, 3-1 against Iran, before losing to Argentina and Nigeria, defeats that ended their progress.
The national team managed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, playing three games in the group stage. A year later, the national team celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first official match against Albania in Tirana (0-2). There was disappointment when the team coached by Mehmed Baždarević failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2016, following a defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the qualifiers.
The official website: www.nfsbih.net