Purple Warrior

We try to evaluate our players' efforts in different ways. They all give their best on the field in order to fulfil the objectives of the club and for extra incentive, there is a special prize awarded to the most spirited individual. The idea for this prize was born in 2008. Among the players who played in at least 10 league games, the fans choose one who, through his attitude towards the jersey, the fans and the club in general earns the prestigious title of the Purple Warrior. The first player to win this title was Lubomir Kubica. His successor was Dejan Mezga and the third player to be awarded the prize was Elvedin Džinić. The fourth Purple warrior is the current team captain Marcos Magno Morales Tavares, who won the prestigious title over five successive years in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. A new name was added to the list in 2016, when Jasmin Handanović became your hero for the first time. In 2017, Marcos Tavares has again been honoured with the title for the sixth time; in 2018, however, Saša Ivković added his name to the prestigious list of laureates. The winner is selected by season ticket holders and by the visitors of the club website nkmaribor.com.


   2018 Saša IVKOVIĆ  
The eleventh selection gave us the sixth winner. A new name has now been added to the prestigious list of laureates: Saša Ivković.
“I’m happy and surprised. This is the biggest award I’ve gotten in my career. I cannot describe the wonderful feelings washing over me. Especially when I realise that this award was given to me by fans. This is a special recognition for me; I will keep it in a special place, and it will stay etched in my memory for a long time. I would like to thank everyone who voted for me; I can only promise that I will keep on fighting like I have been, both for the club and for the fans!” the Serbian defender with a Croatian passport says proudly when asked about this magnificent moment; during his first year of playing, he had already acquired the sympathy of the fans, which resulted in being awarded this alluring title.

The title is namely all the more important when we realise the date of the arrival of the new warrior into his violet-clad home. On 12 January 2018, we confirmed his transfer over from Voždovac, a team in the premier Serbian league; before that, Ivković had also been a member of Partizan and Ashdod.

“I admit that I really wasn't expecting to get so much attention from our extraordinary fans in only a year. In the meantime, I heard stories about the award: it's a really beautiful and interesting tradition of the club. As we were standing out in the field before the match, I was shocked to hear the commentator announce that I’d collected the most votes and had become the winner. To receive an award from the representatives of the fans while the entire stadium is applauding you is really an experience that is impossible to describe in words. For me, it’ll represent additional motivation during each and every one of the following matches.”

In addition to his temperament and uncompromising behaviour during one-on-one defence duels, Saša Ivković has also become an unusual hero of the offensive part of the field. The main purpose of his transfer to NK Maribor was for him to stop the other team from scoring. Nevertheless, he has also managed to score 9 times himself (3 goals in the spring part of 2017/18 and 6 in autumn of 2018), thus providing us with a double solution we can count on, in defence as well as offence.

“Everything that has happened in such a short time is virtually incredible. If I put it all together, I scored more goals last year then I did during my entire career before that. In terms of efficiency, it all started off well and continued with the same pace: most importantly, however, we ended the autumn part in the 1st place and I would like us to remain there at the end of the championship, too. If I can contribute to it by scoring more goals, I’ll be the happiest man alive.”


   2017 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES  
A new landmark. Marcos Tavares - for the sixth time! After five consecutive titles, Jasmin Handanovič has broken the captain's dominating streak last year; after a little “pause”, however, the record-holder with the highest number of awards received is back to the throne. In all aspects.
Since he came to join us in January of 2008, all of the statistics have been steadily moving upwards, reaching new dimensions. “Titles and awards are like trophies: you can never grow tired of them. Each one creates a special feeling in your heart, in particular when it comes to the awards decided by fans. For me, everything is as it was the first day: I try to do my best during each match. For the win of the team, for new successes, in order to appropriately show respect to the jersey. It makes me even happier when people see my efforts and decide to award them in such a manner,” says the violet-clad trophy collector on his new award. He has played the most matches for NK Maribor, has scored the most goals (both for the club and in the premier Slovenian league in general) and is also largely in the lead when it comes to the list of winners of the Purple Warrior voting process.

Kudos, captain!



2016 Jasmin HANDANOVIĆ  
After five consecutive titles awarded to the captain, the honorary trophy in a competition that highlights the relationship between the jersey, the fans, and the club in general went to a new winner. Jasmin Handanović became the heir apparent of Marcos Tavares in the Purple Warrior edition of 2016.

“I admit that I was quite surprised when I heard my name. This award is a major honour and I would like to thank everybody who voted for me. Especially my team-mates: I couldn’t have done anything without them, since my input in the field depends on the team. This award is as much theirs as it is mine,” said the most experienced member of the team after receiving a new confirmation of his talents; since 2011, he has been the first choice to put in the goal, thus representing the last obstacle for the opponents, that one obstacle which almost always seems too difficult to overcome.

Since Jasmin came back from Italy, we have started an amazing success story: one after the other, we have competed in the group part of the European League and made it into the League of Champions, the pinnacle of European milestones. Meanwhile, Jasmin has prolonged his career by demonstrating extraordinary ambition and the highest rate of professionalism and sacrifice. What is more, he serves as proof of how it is possible to advance even after one turns 38. Successful performances during the autumn part of the 2016/17 season also helped him to set the record straight in the club’s statistical pocketbooks. He has prolonged the record for the longest streak of wins during championship games to 646 minutes.

“I am noticing an improvement, thanks to the work Mitja Pirih is having us do during goalkeeper training sessions. We strive to do better from one session to another, thus also bettering ourselves from one match to the other. I am trying to see my own limits; where will I have to stop? As long as health is on my side and I’m not injured, the answer to this question is quite simple, especially with such an expert team supporting us. Of course, I also make sure to succeed in various ways, not only by training. A lot of sacrifices must be made, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping, and I couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming support of my family”, says Jasmin about what it takes to succeed in staying in the game for such a long time.


2015 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES 2014 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES


2013 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES 2012 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES 2011 Marcos Magno Morales TAVARES

His full name is Marcos Magno Morales Tavares. His jersey says Tavares. To his teammates and his friends he is known as Tava and to everyone else, even the more casual football fans, he is the synonym for club captain, the true leader of the best football team in Slovenia. The one who keeps on scoring goals, creating opportunities for his teammates and who is almost never injured.

Apart from his performances on the pitch, Marcos won the people of Maribor over with his never-ending and infectious smile. It's now been four years since he moved to the city on the Drava river. He admits that after leaving the Cypriot club APOEL, he never thought that he would stay and form a family here. “I had no idea where I was going. I heard I was the club's first Brazilian player but I quickly adapted to life here. Over the past few years, the club has kept on progressing in big strides and in every possible way, on the pitch and as an institution. In the meantime, we quickly sorted out a contract extension which says everything about how I feel in Maribor. I'm happy that my family feels well here as well. The four years I've been living here in Maribor mean a lot to me. I can feel it my heart that this is my home. We are winning trophies, we are performing well in European competitions. I have no second thoughts, I love it here and long may it continue.

Similarly, there were no second thoughts in the minds of the fans when they choose the most spirited player in the most competitive contest to date. They chose the captain Marcos Tavares who became the Purple Warrior of 2011. “I would like to thank all the fans who voted for me. I am really pleased and honoured to receive this award. It means a lot to me because in these last 4 years I learned that the people in Maribor really love their club. They support the team through thick and thin, they were there for us even when things were not going according to plan. For me, being crowned Purple Warrior is comparable with winning the league title. I always want to give everything for this team and this club. People have recognized that and I feel especially honoured by this award because it was the fans that chose me. And I will not stop here. Because of it, I am determined to work even harder, so that at the end of the season we will lift the league trophy once more.

The popular captain promises to keep the fans in his heart even if he should one day leave the club. But the feelings are mutual, the purple colour of the club has already got under his skin and he promises that there are more beautiful shared moments to look forward to. As are the goals, the assists and the spirited performances of the Purple Warrior of the year 2011.

2010 Elvedin DŽINIĆ 2009 Dejan MEZGA 2008 Lubomir KUBICA
After two foreign players, the prize was awarded to a player who, prior to moving to Belgium, grew up in the club. Elvedin Džinić is a relentless defender who never gives up. Just remember the game at Ljudski vrt against Hit Gorica: after jumping for the ball and acrobatically clearing a dangerous situation, he crashed to the ground. As a consequence, he dislocated his left elbow, which turned out to be a mild injury. If you have seen the footage of his arm in a completely unnatural position, you know why. That's the popular Džina. When it comes to the club he loves, there is nothing he would not do. When the club doctor Matjaž Vogrin set his elbow, he wanted to run back on the pitch. Luckily, they stopped him before he could.
Given the opportunity, he would try to do the same thing. “That's just the type of a player I am. I always fight till the end. That injury was merely a result of unfortunate circumstances, although it is true that I always give my best. If we win, great and if we lose, you just deal with it. But for me, the most important thing is to give it my all. Sometimes you just have to jump on your head. It's just the way it is.” His fighting spirit, relentlessness and firmness did not go unnoticed. “The fact that the fans chose me for this award is really something special. You try your best at every match and you are rewarded with something like this. It really means a lot because these are the people who watch you play," said the third Purple Warrior and the first local player to win this award. “It's an important achievement and it puts you in a different light. It's not irrelevant who has a say in competitions like this. Your teammates respect you more and they value your efforts. I did not follow the competition while voting was still in progress but now that I've won, I am of course very happy.
Brezje near Čakovec. A small Croatian village, most people in Maribor and its surrounding areas probably would not know it existed. If it weren't for someone special from Brezje that they became especially fond of: that man is Dejan Mezga. His characteristic runs bring a new dimension to our game and with his conduct on the pitch and his attitude towards the club jersey, he has, according to the fans of NK Maribor, become a role model for generations to come. The approval that comes from the stands is always something special. It carries extra weight.
Being selected for the Purple Warrior award really meant a lot to me. I am honoured to succeed my good friend Kubica in receiving this special award,” Dejan said upon being crowned the Purple Warrior, which was all the more special as he had played only 17 league games during the season. Why do you think the fans chose you for this award? “I've always given my best and I guess people recognized and acknowledged that. I was going through some rough times when I injured myself twice during the same match. First I broke my finger and then I suffered a hamstring injury. Being crowned the Purple Warrior is really something special, not just to me but for every player. I am happy I won this award. When you get this sort of recognition from the fans your teammates start to look at you differently.” Because he is always eager to bounce back after an injury as soon as possible, he sometimes returns to playing matches too early. But what is important is that Dejan shows the same kind of eagerness every time he runs onto the pitch. And he remains to be one of the most important players in the squad.
The Czech braveheart, the first Purple Warrior who quickly became popular with his teammates and the fans, he is relentless, always focused and a true team player. A Czech international in the younger selections (member of the same generation as Čech, Baroš, Grygera...) who is very adaptable as he can play both in the heart of the defence or as a defensive midfielder.
“As a young football player I learned that sometimes you just had to suck it up. If you didn't, you were out of the team. I really wanted to play so sometimes I would play with a minor injury. That helped me build my character. As long as I can run, I won't stop. That's why my teammates gave me the nickname The Animal and maybe that's also why the fans like me,” Lubomir Kubica explains. After he left Maribor, he played in Kazakhstan and he spent the second part of this season in the Czech Republic. At 31, he's still motivated to play. He still has a couple of years of professional football in him and he'll always remember our club with special fondness. “I am proud to be given the honour of becoming the first Purple Warrior. I've always tried my best, I only acknowledged victories and had a hard time coping with defeats. I would like to thank the fans for honouring me with this award. I've always felt good in Maribor, not just on the football pitch. The fact that I always come and visit when I get the chance speaks for itself. Even though it's only for a day or two.”