NK Maribor history 1961-1970
12 December 1960 - the club is born
What a start... That NK Maribor would go on to achieve great things was already apparent in their first competitive season after the foundation of the club, which saw the team win its first title in the Slovenian championship. But how did it all start?
Maribor's football forces organized and unified. The board members decided to gather their best players for the new club that was to play in purple jerseys. This shift in quality was met with optimism - Maribor was gunning for the top spot in the Slovenian championship. This task was made easier thanks to the fact that the newly formed club inherited the point tally of ŽNK Maribor, the first-placed team after the first half of the season.
First match against Kovinar
The members of the first team met in a training session at the ground by the Tržaška cesta. This was immediately followed by fitness training and friendly matches. The first match was that against Kovinar. Players ran onto the muddy pitch in green and blue jerseys as the purple ones had not yet arrived. The keepers Eferl and Vabič, along with outfield players Donko, Gabrijan, Krejač, Zečić, Breznik, Šober, Blaznik, Arnejčič, Tolič, Beti and Lepenik, recorded a historic victory. The game ended 2-1, with Štefan Tolič scoring both goals for the winning side, thus forever signing his name in the history books of NK Maribor. The inaugural match was merely a friendly encounter. The first real test for the players who paved the way for future generations came against the so-called Eleven of the Independence from Algeria and took place at the Železničar stadium, as Ljudski vrt was still under construction. The match ended with a 1-1 draw, with Vidic scoring for Maribor. The members of the first team were Herbert Vabič, Štefan Tolič, Marjan Kramer, Vinko Donko, Teo Vidic, Vinko Krejač, Egon Eferl, Anton Čeh, Milan Šober, Oto Blaznik, Franc Kek and Peter Radulovič.
Immediate promotion to the Yugoslav Second League
Andrija Pflander from Belgrade was the head coach who guided the team to the first place in the Slovenian championship and into the qualifications for the Yugoslav Second League. Because of health problems he was replaced by Vladimir Šimunić from Zagreb. This was the man who would guide Maribor into the top tier of Yugoslav football 6 years later. A former PE teacher, he based his philosophy on physical strength and fitness. Although none of the players was a professional, they had enough energy to last them two games. They all had jobs or were still high school or faculty students.
The decisive league match took place in Ljubljana, where Maribor comfortably beat the home side with 4-0, thus gaining the opportunity to play in the qualifiers for the Yugoslav Second League. In the first round, Maribor played against Mladost Zagreb and won both legs. Next up was Metalac Sisak. The first leg at Ljudski vrt ended with a 2-2 draw, but in the return leg Maribor thrashed the Croatian team. They won the game 10-0 and people could not believe the news from Sisak. On the score board in the city centre on which they were tracking the result, they initially had it written down as 0-1... The player who almost single-handedly eliminated Metalac was Arnejčič, whose five goals paved the way for the decisive encounter with Uljanik Pula in the final qualification round. The game in Maribor ended with 2-0, which meant that even the 1-0 away defeat could not prevent the team from realizing their dream and achieving promotion to the second league. Maribor's man of the match of the return leg was the goalkeeper Vabič. The team that won promotion in that decisive match was: Vabič, Donko, Tolič, Kek, Zečič, Radulovič, Šober, Vidic, Arnejčič, Blaznik, Kramer.
Historic landmark - playing in the Yugoslav First League
From 1961, Maribor successfully participated in the Yugoslav Second League. The 1962/63 season provided another momentous achievement as Maribor finished in 3rd place behind Trešnjevka and Čelik. The following season they finished a step higher, in 2nd place behind Zagreb. And then came the historic 1966/67 season, in which Maribor achieved promotion to the Yugoslav First League. The team was performing brilliantly and finally clinched the title 4 games before the end of the season, with a 3-0 away win against Bosna for what was at the time the greatest achievement in the club's history. The team who realized this historic achievement was: Grloci, Bolfek, Fuček, Sizgoreo, Grubišič, Klančnik, Markovič, Orošnjak (Krajnc), Prosen, Arnejčič, Binkovski.
Maribor was well prepared for that first season in the top flight. The club's debut in the First Yugoslav League took place in Skopje on 20 August 1967, when Maribor played against Vardar. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Maras getting on the scoresheet for Maribor with a header after a cross from Binkovski. Vardar were regarded as the favourites to win the game and Skopje welcomed Maribor with hot humid weather and 7000 loud fans. But that did not stop players like Arnejčič, Prosen and others from playing a fearless match. The reward came the following Sunday at Ljudski vrt, where they were greeted by 8000 supporters. Proleter Zrenjanin was the next team to learn that Maribor was to be taken seriously. The home side won the match thanks to goals from Krajnc, Arnejčič and Binkovski. All in all, Maribor's first season among the top flight ended successfully as they finished in 12th place. The most successful of their 5 seasons in the Yugoslav First League was the 1969/70 season. After sensationally beating Dinamo in Zagreb on the last day of the season with 3-1, they finished in 10th place.