9 July 2013 exactly 16 years ago today the UPC Arena became home to Austrian club SK Sturm Graz. The stadium offers place to 21.000 spectators and does not only host football fans. The UPC Arena has also hosted big artists like Tina Turner, Metallica and AC/DC.
After a day of research on the internet and in libraries, I discovered SK Sturm Graz not very famous among average football fans, they are a fine club with an interesting history. The club tells the story of students with a common love for the beautiful game to great successes through 104 years of existance.
1909. A group of austrian students start a new football club in Graz Autgarten, a city close to the Alps. The first football ground is the public park, located close to the Mur river.
The club’s passion is football, a sport which finds its way from England to Graz via Prague. The club took their name after a football team from Prague that has recently been in Graz. One year after the club’s birth, the first successes arrive.
Season 1912/1913, the German-Alpenländische Football Association will be held and Sturm create the excellence. From that season, the games will not be played in the Autgarten, but at a facility which is located behind the present city hall.
1919, the club has been moving from ground to ground during World War I, but an end has come to a decade of nomadic football. The club have found their first home at a place called the “space storm”, but it became famous as “Gruabn”.
In the first official Turian Cup season, held in 1920/1921, Sturm has the upper hand. By 1949, ten more Styrian titles can be added to the club’s history.
The first international success is recorded in 1934 when the Austrian State Amateur Championship is won. It is in that year when a new grandstand in honour for the 15-year anniversary of Chairman Franz Reistenhofer has been developed.
After the occupation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, the “Gauliga” with the Vienna team is introduced, but in the summer of 1938, Graz is one step ahead and rises. 1940 is a good year for Sturm, as they beat the big Vienna sides with spectacular score lines.
After the war ended in 1945, the club starts to rebuild itself and succeeds to put a strong side together. This side has won four national championship titles and four national cup titles between 1946 and 1949. Remarkable is that the club only reached professional football in 1948 by reaching the OFB Cup Final against Austria Vienna. The club starts its first professional football adventure in the new State League, season 1949/1950. Only four years later, the club is doomed to slide into a financial crisis, but the drama was short as Sturm came back in 1955 to stay in the A-League for two more years. The supporters of the black and white team have to be content for six seasons with second power football before the club can make its comeback to the top flight in 1966. Since that year, Sturm has never been relegated from the top division.
Sturm Graz have know their first international success in Messestädtcup, the forerunner of the UEFA Cup, in the fall of 1970. They defeated English giants Arsenal FC at home.
It is in 1997 that SK Sturm Graz achieve another milestone in their club history. The Austrian club moved to the newly-built Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, today’s UPC Arena. Sturm Graz won their first match of the season at the new stadium with 4-0 against city rivals GAK, it should be the prelude to a brilliant season.