Kardemir forge on: Europe's men of steel

As Kardemir Karabükspor make their continental debut in the UEFA Europa League, UEFA.com celebrates the clubs with links to metalworks in Europe's top flights.

Kardemir Karabükspor are making their continental debut
Kardemir Karabükspor are making their continental debut ©Kardemir Karabükspor

"Kardemir Karabükspor have always had a European dream," said the Turkish club's president Mustafa Yolbulan as his side prepare to embark upon their maiden continental adventure in the UEFA Europa League.

The nickname of the team from northern Turkey – Mavi Ateş (Blue Flame) – is a reference to the flame that keeps burning over the local iron and steelworks. They was founded as part of the factory's sports club, which shone in cycling, tennis and wrestling before the foundation of the football division in 1969.

As UEFA.com discovers, however, the new arrivals are far from the only men of steel in Europe's top divisions.

Belgium: R. Standard de Liège
Les Rouches have no formal connection to the steel business but anyone who visits the Stade Maurice Dufrasne will quickly see the significance metalworks have to Liege and the club's fans. The stadium – known colloquially as the Sclessin, after the area in which it lies – is ringed by steelworks and furnaces.

West Ham: 'Come on you Irons'
West Ham: 'Come on you Irons'©AFP/Getty Images

England: West Ham United FC
Other lower league sides – the Blades of Sheffield United FC and the Iron of Scunthorpe United FC – have strong metallic elements, but in the Premier League the Hammers stand alone. West Ham trace their history back to Thames Ironworks FC, founded in 1895 as a works side of an iron and shipbuilding firm in East London. The club became West Ham in honour of their local area in 1990, but fans still chant "come on you Irons" in honour of their pedigree, with the hammers on their badge a link to their industrial past.

Finland: FF Jaro JS
Following the demise of Pietarsaari's only football club, IF Drott, fans working in the local JA-RO steelworks came together to form a new outfit which would focus purely on football, officially founding FF Jaro FS on 18 December 1965. JA-RO derives from the name of the club's main sponsor – Jakobstads Rostfria (in Swedish, since this is a bilingual area) – which is Pietarsaaren Ruostumaton in Finnish, and Pietarsaari Stainless in English. The company was dissolved in 2002, but the club that bears its name lives on.

France: FC Metz
The club's links with the local steel industry are strong; when they eliminated FC Barcelona in the first round of the 1983/84 European Cup Winners' Cup – losing 4-2 at home then winning 4-1 away – their shirt sponsors were the local steel firm Sollac. In 2012, when the local Arcelor Florange steelworks was experiencing financial troubles, Metz once played in a shirt bearing the words "long live Lorraine steel".

Metalurg Skopje (in green)
Metalurg Skopje (in green)©Silvia Casals

FYROM: FK Metalurg Skopje
Founded in 1964, the Metallurgists were originally the works side of the largest state company in Yugoslavia at the time, the Skopje Mines and Ironworks. The club's links with the industry have loosened a little since, but their home suburb remains Zhelezara (literally, ironworks) and the steel mill they once represented is just a couple of kilometres from their Zhelezarnica Stadium home. Cup winners in 2010/11, their most famous division is the men's handball team – EHF Champions League finalists for the last two seasons.

Georgia: FC Metalurgi Rustavi
Rustavi was a major industrial centre in the days of the Soviet Union, with the local forges – first opened in the 1940s – crucial to turning ore from Azerbaijan into iron. Originally founded in 1948, Metalurgi were Olimpi Rustavi for a while but reverted to their original name in 2011. 

Germany: FC Schalke 04
The Gelsenkirchen side's nickname is Die Knappen (the miners) but the club's fans were drawn as much from the local steelworks as the mines of the Ruhr Valley. Plenty more metal-related clubs exist in the lower leagues in Germany; Eisenhüttenstädter FC Stahl's name contains both iron (eisen) and steel (stahl), with an 'Eisenhütte' being a forge. Their former East German rivals BSG Wismut Aue took their name from 'Wismut' – once one of the world's top uranium producers – while Rot-Weiss Essen drew much of their original support from the local Friedrich Krupp AG steelworks.

Scotland: Motherwell FC
Founded on 17 May 1886, following a meeting at Baillie's pub in the town's Merry Street, Motherwell were formed by the merger of two local works sides - Glencairn FC and Alpha FC. The importance of local metalworks is reflected in the club's nickname, the Steelmen.

Slovakia: ŽP Šport Podbrezová
The ŽP in their name is short for Železiarne Podbrezová – with Železiarne the Slovak word for 'steelworks'. Backed by one of the world's top producers of seamless steel tubes, the club from a small town in the middle of Slovakia (population: 3,927) won promotion to the top division for the first time in their 94-year history at the end of the 2013/14 season.

'Alirón!' – Athletic Club celebrate
'Alirón!' – Athletic Club celebrate©AFP/Getty Images

Spain: Athletic Club Bilbao
Bilbao was a major port and a hub of heavy industry in the late 19th century, with the local passion for football sparked by Basque students who had played the game in England and – more significantly – English workers in the local docks and steelworks. Some unusual British steelworks traditions persist: the chant of "Alirón" – heard during all eight of the club's title celebrations and now in their pre-match warm-up music – is a Spanish interpretation of the phrase "all iron" sung by British workers at the end of a busy day at the forge. 

Ukraine: FC Metalist Kharkiv, FC Metalurh Donetsk, FC Metalurh Zaporizhya
The 2014/15 Ukrainian Premier League will feature three teams with strong connections with the steel business. Originally a local train factory side, Metalist took on their current name in the 1960s, when Kharkiv was a huge Soviet-era industrial centre. Metalurh Donetsk took on their current guise more recently, while their Zaporizhya counterparts were originally Zaporizhstal – after a local steel plant – before becoming Metalurh.

Wales: Port Talbot Town FC
Known as the Steelmen due to Port Talbot's close links with the steel industry; the local steelworks is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom.

See also:
NK Čelik (BHZ)
FK Metalac (SRB)
FC Oţelul Galaţi (ROU)
Sandvikens AIK (SWE)
Vasas SC (HUN)
TJ Vitkovice (CZE)
Zagłębie Lubin (POL)