UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Developing football in Slovenia

Slovenia has punched well above its weight in football terms since independence in 1991.

Slovenia players at UEFA Futsal EURO 2022
Slovenia players at UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 ©Getty Images

Overview

The Football Association of Slovenia (NZS) has adopted a model based on three strategic pillars as it aims to maintain football’s position as the nation’s most popular sport:

  • Developing quality football at all levels, with a special focus on the women’s game;
  • Establishing and consolidating the importance and reputation of football in Slovenia;
  • Making balanced operational changes and investments in the development of the game.

With a population of around two million, Slovenia has punched well above its weight in sporting terms, winning over 100 Olympic medals since independence in 1991. European success in basketball, handball, ice hockey and volleyball have set a high standard to follow for the nation’s footballers, but football continues to hold a special place, with the number of registered players continuing to rise, from 46,773 in 2017 to 60,334 in 2022.

The NZS hopes to take the national footballing infrastructure up a notch or two in the years ahead to benefit emerging generations, and has developed a holistic strategy for improving women’s football, focusing on participation and coach education. These new initiatives will complement the programmes that have brought funding for women’s football, opportunities for youth development and activities for the promotion of the women's game, including a festival for new players.

“The popularity of football is constantly growing. We are seeing progress in terms of our relations with stakeholders, inclusion, mass participation and in the greatly increased interest in partnerships with the NZS. The broad appeal of the sport, which makes football ever more socially influential, also increases our responsibility. The NZS has a commitment to the football community and society as a whole. The next strategic period brings new challenges, new objectives and new activities that we will carry out together for the benefit of the game.”

Radenko Mijatović, NZS president

UEFA assistance

In the past, UEFA’s HatTrick fund has helped to lay artificial pitches, set up floodlights, and establish the NZS’s National Training Centre at Brdo, which features three full-sized pitches and artificial pitch as well as the administrative buildings.

UEFA funding continues to help with national-team projects, women's football, the grassroots game, refereeing, governance activities, social responsibility projects and the development of infrastructures.

Timeline

Association history

1920 The Ljubljana Football Association is founded on 23 April; this forerunner of the NZS organised footballing activities in Slovenia, including a national championship and cups, under the wider authority of the Yugoslav Football Association (FSJ). 1935 Capital sides Ilirija and Primorje merge for financial reasons to become SC Ljubljana and attract the best Slovenian players; this club competes in the Yugoslavian First League and (along with other Slovenian sides Maribor and Celje) plays matches against foreign opposition, from Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. 1948 The NZS is formed in May, under the aegis of the FSJ, and is given responsibility for local referees and coaches. 1970 Slovenia’s most successful Yugoslav-era club, Olimpija Ljubljana, lose to Crvena zvezda in the 1970 Yugoslavian Cup final; despite that defeat, they enter the European Cup Winners' Cup, falling to Benfica in the first round. 1991 Following the country's declaration of independence in June 1991, an inaugural national championship starts, comprising Slovenian clubs that had participated in the Yugoslavian first, second and third divisions. 1992 The NZS is admitted to UEFA and FIFA, heralding the country's involvement in the qualifiers for EURO '96. 1996 The NZS moves into its own headquarters in Ljubljana. 1998 The top flight, or First League (Prva Liga), is reorganised into a 12-team championship for the 1998/99 campaign; it is reduced to ten clubs from 2005. 1999 Maribor become the first Slovenian side to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage. 2016 In September, NZS president Aleksander Čeferin is elected as UEFA's seventh president at the body's Extraordinary Congress in Athens. He had served at the helm of the Slovenian association since 2011, and automatically became a FIFA vice-president when he was elected by UEFA's member associations. Present day

National team history

1920 On 23 June, a local Slovenian selection take on a French Olympic side in a friendly game in Ljubljana, losing 5-0. 1974 Danilo Popivoda and Brane Oblak become the first Slovenians to appear at a FIFA World Cup, representing Yugoslavia in West Germany; the pair also represent hosts Yugoslavia at the 1976 EURO. 1992 On 3 June, the independent Slovenia makes its international debut with a 1-1 draw against Estonia in Tallinn. 1994 Slovenia make their competitive debut with a 1-1 home draw against FIFA World Cup runners-up Italy in Maribor on 7 September. Sašo Udovič scores Slovenia's goal. 2000 Under former Crvena zvezda star Srečko Katanec, Slovenia qualify for UEFA EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands. After overcoming Ukraine in a qualifying play-off; they draw with Yugoslavia and Norway at the finals, and lose narrowly to Spain, Zlatko Zahovič scoring three of their four goals. 2002 Slovenia reach the World Cup finals in Korea/Japan, again thanks to a play-off victory over Romania. 2010 Matjaž Kek steers Slovenia to the World Cup finals in South Africa as they overcome Russia in the play-offs. 2014 Slovenia reach the quarter-finals of the Futsal EURO in Belgium; they match this achievement in 2018. Present day

Radenko Mijatović
Radenko Mijatović©NZS

President

Radenko Mijatović

Nationality: Slovenian
Date of birth:
16 November 1963
Association president since: 2016

Martin Koželj
Martin Koželj©NZS

General secretary 

Martin Koželj

Nationality: Slovenian
Date of birth: 1 November 1978
Association general secretary since: 2018 

Football Association of Slovenia website