History of the Viole supporters group

The origins of the NK Maribor supporters group known as Viole can be traced back to 1989. That year, a group of passionate young fans, mostly school-going children, started gathering in the south stand of the Ljudski vrt stadium. The first game during which they supported the club took place on 2 August 1989, in the Marshall Tito Cup against Spartak Subotica, which at the time was a member of the Yugoslav First League (the top tier of Yugoslav football). Around 15 to 20 fans, aged 13 and 14, cheered on the club. The group was called Marinci (The Marines) and was extremely popular among students in Maribor at the time. The boys supported NK Maribor at their matches in the western group of the Inter-Republic league. The largest number of Marinci at a game was around 40, although it should be mentioned that at the time, many football fans from Maribor supported various clubs from the First Yugoslav League, which is why they attended the games of the biggest four teams (Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, Crvena Zvezda and Partizan), Olimpija Ljubljana and others. Because NK Maribor was playing in the lower leagues, the club simply did not attract enough attention.

After Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia, a vast number of these fans started supporting NK Maribor and the club became the most popular football club in Slovenia, attracting the largest number of fans on matchdays, surpassing Olimpija by a wide margin. At NK Maribor's last Inter-Republic league match, the name Marinci was changed into VIOLE MARIBOR. They chose this name because it better represents the club's colours and the city itself. Older members also joined the group. The first season of the First Slovenian League saw a number of different supporters groups. Olimpija and its supporters group, the Green Dragons, became the main rivals of Viole, although in the first season they did not attend matches in big numbers. Even so, both groups - Viole and the Dragons - proved in the second part of the season that they were the only two real supporters groups in Slovenia. While groups from Zagorje, Trbovlje and Izola quickly dissolved, Viole were growing, becoming better organized and attracting more and more members. The group started using member cards and in the first season, it had around 80 members. As the years went on the group attracted more and more members, and in 1996 there were around 300 registered members, although it should be pointed out that at that time, for various reasons, many active supporters were not registered. The polls conducted in the 1992/93 season showed that being a member of Viole was a popular trend among young inhabitants of Maribor at that time. If everyone who ever supported the club from the south stand as a member of Viole were to attend matches regularly (supporters from various different generations), the south stand of the Ljudski vrt stadium would be full at NK Maribor's every league match. Through its history, the number of supporters in the group varied - the biggest factor being the club's results on the pitch, although in recent times, the main reason for a good matchday atmosphere is the renovated stadium. On major occasions, Viole are currently able to fill the whole south stand; but generally, there are around 500 regular supporters.
It would take up too much space to list all of the big matches in the history of Viole, but each period in their 21-year history has its highlights. The first of those occurred on 1 June 1997, the final match of the 1996/97 season, in which NK Maribor won its first league title in the independent Slovenia and at which Viole organized a spectacular show. Besides loudly and passionately supporting the team on the pitch, Viole provided the entire stadium of 14,000 fans with balloons and flags. The fans then used them according to the instructions given by Viole and during the half time break the whole stadium erupted with 300 flares, which made for a magnificent display.

That was a period in which Viole became known for its own recognizable style which, apart from loud, fanatical and passionate cheering of the team and basic props (scarves, flags, caps, shirts, jerseys), includes pyrotechnical displays, different choreography and original banners. In addition to the main group, different sub-groups of Viole also started to form. These included groups that represented different parts of Maribor, groups of younger organized fans, a group of female supporters called the Viole girls, and also Viole members from virtually every town and village from Styria and Slovenia. Many of these are still active and it is only thanks to the ultra mentality that unites all of these loyal fans of the club that the group continues to evolve in every field of its operations.

As with every supporters group, Viole have their enemies or rivals and their sympathizers among supporters groups in Slovenia. Viole's main rivals are the Green Dragons, the supporters of Olimpija Ljubljana. Every supporters group that sympathizes with them or emulates their style is also considered a rival. This particularly holds true for the supporters group Celjski Grofje from Celje. The Black Gringos from Murska Sobota are also a rival group, although Viole initially had a good relationship with them. The Gringos showed their true colours during one of the away matches where some members of the group behaved indecently towards two Viole members who joined them at the match. Viole do not concern themselves with other supporters groups in Slovenia because they feel that as a group they can only improve in European competitions.

Through NK Maribor's participation in European competitions, Viole gained some European experience. The first match in European competitions in Maribor was that against the Hamrun Spartans from Malta and it was on that occasion that Viole introduced themselves to Europe. During the match, two new – and at that time also the longest - banners were unveiled: MI LJUBIMO MARIBOR (WE LOVE MARIBOR) and NK MARIBOR - VIOLE. Over 40 "volcanoes" and a few smoke bombs were set off. The next European game in Maribor was against Atletico Madrid. This match saw the biggest gathering of Viole members up to that point - approximately 700. The first large group of foreign fans in Maribor were the supporters of Borrusia Dortmund, but that group consisted mainly of somewhat older and calmer supporters. This was a time when Viole were gaining their first experiences with foreign fans.
The first European away match that Viole attended was when a few of their members travelled to Romania where Maribor was playing Gloria Bistrita. That was followed by an away match in Dortmund which was an unforgettable experience for approximately 70 Viole members. The biggest group of their members - around 250 - travelled to Vienna for a match against Austria Wien. At that point, that was the most supporters any Slovenian club had ever taken abroad for a European match. Viole also travelled to Athens, where members were astounded by tens of thousands of fanatical Greek fans. That was followed by away matches in Amsterdam and Eindhoven, which saw a large number of Viole members travel to the Netherlands.

We have already mentioned the first highlight; the second highlight for the group undoubtedly took place in 1999, when Maribor qualified for the Champions League. Unforgettable home and away matches against Genk, Lyon, Dynamo Kyiv, Lazio and Bayer Leverkusen meant that the supporters club grew in numbers, as well as in terms of marketing. In the years that followed, domestic league titles could not outweigh the poor performances in European competitions that were way below the stature of the club and this led to a sense of disappointment and a decrease in the number of group members. It also resulted in the first major conflicts between the supporters group and the board of the club. 2004, the year of the 15th anniversary of the group that Viole celebrated in style despite all their troubles, saw major disagreements within the group itself. Some members of the group were "burdened" by the club's politics, while others just wanted to fulfil the group's mission - to spread the idea of the ultras mentality. With a considerably smaller but more loyal turnout in the south stand, this marked the beginning of the so called new purple path, full of bad results and trophyless seasons and for a period of 2 years, Viole even had to abandon their south stand as the reconstruction of the stadium took place. This finished on 10 May 2010, when the reconstructed stadium was officially opened and from that point on, the supporters group experienced drastic growth. With unforgettable choreography and matchday atmosphere and in cooperation with a group of supporters from the east stand (the East Side Supporters, established in 2006), Viole finally had the chance to celebrate a new domestic league title. 2010 was unforgettable for the group as well, as after a long period of drought, their members finally given the chance to support the club at European matches again.

Viole say that the organization of the supporters group improved vastly through the years, especially in the last few seasons, but there are still a few things the group would like to achieve. If Viole wish to assure the group functions well and provides the best possible support for the team, they will have to lay the foundations, the first among which are the premises where the fans could gather, hold meetings, receive mail and socialize.

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that Viole operate entirely on an voluntary basis and depend on the good-will of each and every member, which is why they would like to appeal to everyone who has the will and the way to help them out in the best interest of football and supporters' culture in Maribor. You can learn more about the group on their website www.violemaribor.com, or you can send an email to info@violemaribor.com