The Velenje Black Miners and Murska Sobota Storks recently joined forces to create a team reminiscent of the 1943 Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Steagles, albeit under much different circumstances.
Where as the Eagles and Steelers combined after losing most of their players to the military during World War II, the Black Miners and Storks did so to field a stronger team as they embark on their first season in the Balkan Football League.
The Black Miners are a new franchise, established last November, that play in the sixth-largest city in Slovenia. Their name is in reference to the nearby mine that produces more than four million tons of coal annually and is one of the largest employers in the region. Velenje is also home to the only mining school in the entire country.
Murska Sobota, meanwhile, is a town sits about an hour and a half northeast of Velenje. There, the Storks began playing American flag football in 2011 before transitioning to tackle football in 2013. They’re named after the White Storks that are native to Slovenia’s Prekmurje region and are part of its appeal to tourists.
Together, the Black Miners & Storks will open their three-game 2022 season on April 10 as part of the Balkan Football League’s West Division.
The league, which began play in 2020 before it was shut down due to the pandemic, returns this spring with eight teams from Bosnia, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, including the Belgrade Blue Dragons, Bucharest Rebels, Giurgiu Gladiators, Novi Sad Wild Dogs, Pozarevac Stallions, Sarajevo Spartans and Zagreb Patriots.
Photos courtesy of the Velenje Black Miners and Murska Sobota Storks.