Sitting around 120 miles from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava is the town of Žilina. Home to approximately 85,000 people, it is the fourth largest city in Slovakia.
Žilina sits close to the Czech and Polish borders and is an important industrial center for the Slovakian economy. Žilina’s coat of arms is a double golden cross with two golden stars on an olive background. This symbol is often used to depict the Byzantine/Greek Catholic origins of the city, which is also prominent in Slovakia and Europe. The city of Žilina has used this symbol since 1378.
The Byzantine roots are also displayed in their football club, MŠK Žilina.
MŠK was founded in 1908 as under the Hungarian name Zsolnai Testgyakorlók Köre and won the first two versions of the Slovakian championship in 1928 and 1929. The club participated in 30 out of the first 47 seasons in the Czechoslovak First League, often battling for European contention with Czech clubs. The club had very little success in the Czechoslovak First League but did finish runners up to Dukla Prague in the National Cup in 1961, earning them a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup birth.
After the the breakup Czechoslovakia, a new Slovak league was created in 1993. From then on the club began to have more success. Under the new Slovak league, Žilina has won 7 championships and is among one of the most successful clubs in Slovakia along with Slovan Bratisalva. The most recent championship coming last season. Žilina was recently in the second round Champions League qualifiers but was knocked out by Danish champions FC Copenhagen.
Despite to the overall poor quality of the league (compared to other larger countries around Europe), Žilina has produced players that have gone on to represent the Slovakian national team.
Žilina like many clubs in central and eastern europe is very much a selling club to larger clubs in Germany, Poland, or the Czech Republic. The most notable transfer from Žilina came in 2016 when young midfielder László Bénes joined German side Borussia Mönchengladbach for 5 million euros, which was the highest ever paid to a Slovak club.
Žilina currently plays in the Štadión pod Dubňom, which means “Stadium under the Dubeň Hill”. It holds 11,258 and has been given a four star rating by UEFA. Žilina has played here since 1941 and it was recently renovated in 2002. The current owner of MŠK Žilina is Jozef Antošík, a Slovakian businessman.
As stated before Žilina’s crest is the city’s coat of arms, with the double cross and two stars present in the clubs logo, along with the city’s colors of green and yellow.
MŠK Žilina is a club that has Byzantine and Greek roots along with strong ties to the old Czech state. The club has gone through multiple name changes and has remained successful despite the ever changing European political geography, which has not been favorable to clubs based in central and eastern Europe. Hopefully, in the near future Žilina will be play in the highest echelons of European football.