Archive for July, 2010

Jul 30 2010

Crvena Zvezda 1-2 Slovan Bratislava, shock at the Marakana

Published by under European

Slovan produced one of their finest performances in European football in recent years with a surprise 1-2 away victory in front of 40,000 fans at the Marakana Stadium in Belgrade. Slovan entered the match apparently with damage limitation as a priority but left victorious with a result which puts them in a great position going into the home leg next Thursday at Pasienky Stadium in Bratislava.

Crvena Zvezda’s defence struggled to cope with the pace and movement of a young enthusiastic Slovan team, and luckily the delayed travelling fans of Slovan did arrive on time to witness the first good chance of the match after 15 minutes. Slovan pressed harder as the first half wore on and just before half time we rewarded with a goal by Ivana. 0-1 going into the break was an excellent start, but Slovan have a habit of losing leads in the 2nd half and especially after losing a 0-2 advantage at Zilina last weekend would have been nervous when Crvena Zvezda equalised after 63 minutes. However the team showed real character in a cauldron of noise and passion to score the 2nd away goal 5 minutes later, the defender Kornel Salata silencing the Delije masses and sending the travelling pocket of Slovan supporters into ecstasy.
This result will surely increase interest in the return leg in Bratislava and Slovan need to keep their heads and play a solid match to hold onto this vital lead. The fans will play their role, and the atmosphere should be electric in Bratislava too. This tie is really a celebration of Eastern European football passion, and 40,000 at the Belgrade leg must have been one of the highest attendances of this Europa League round.
Slovan have not progressed beyond the qualifying rounds of any major European competition since 2001.
BritskiBelasi will be reporting from the return leg next week.

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Jul 27 2010

Ticketing policy Slovan Bratislava v Crvena Zvezda (Europa League)

Published by under European

Slovan Bratislava have recently announced the ticketing policy for this ‘high risk’ game at Pasienky stadium against Crvena Zvezda.  As mentioned in a previous post, there have been concerns since the draw was made that this match would pose serious headaches for the club in terms of policing and security.  However it appears as though the club has listened to advice from various parties, taken onboard previous experience and are preparing themselves properly for what promises to be an extremely lively night in Bratislava, especially if Slovan manage to come way from Belgrade with the tie still alive.

Tickets went on sale this week, and everyone purchasing a ticket must provide identity and give the name of the person who will be using the ticket.  The club say everyone will have their ID checked on the gate, this is something I will be very interested to see if it is implemented properly.  Various price categories are available, starting at 5 Euro for the cheapest up to 50 Euro for the business seats.  The tickets priced at 5/10/20/50 Euros will increase in price on the day of the 1st leg to 10/15/25/50 Euros.  This is a really good idea from the club as Slovak football fans can be fickle and a lot of Slovan ‘followers’ would wait for the result of the first leg before buying their tickets for the home match. This may well still be the case, and I can understand why they would do that, especially after last season where Slovan lost a 1st leg tie 5-0 away to Ajax.  However, while to readers more familiar with football in Western Europe these prices seem very reasonable, a 15 or 25 Euro outlay is still significant cash in Slovakia and this idea may increase ticket sales significantly.

The Pasienky stadium is only a temporary home for Slovan, with Tehelne Pole, the former National Stadium and true home of the club since 1940, closed since last season for security reasons.  Plans are in place for a new stadium, although work on demolishing Tehelne Pole still hasn’t started (note to self: check status next week) so Slovan fans had better get comfortable in Pasienky.  A memorable night against Crvena Zvezda might go some way towards igniting a love for the stadium in the eyes of the fans which is not there yet.  I did notice recently a photo with new seating spelling out the name SK SLOVAN which probably sums up how long it will be before Slovan have a new home.

Recent Investment at Pasienky

Recent Investment at Pasienky

As yet there is no official sector for the ultras, and for this match Belasa Slachta, the main supporters group have pledged to buy tickets in the 2nd price category.  This is also a move I admire, taking the opportunity this match provides to boost the club’s coffers.

The club also state that the gates will be closed 30 minutes before kick off, and supporters of Crvena Zvezda can only buy tickets through their own official club channels.  This is the first match in Europe since visa restrictions have been lifted for Serbian Nationals, and hundreds are expected to travel. In addition to the ‘Delije’ supporters from Belgrade, there are many Serbians living in surrounding countries such as Austria and Germany who could potentially travel to the match.  It remains to be seen how this will be managed, if and how they will get tickets, and what is the spread of fans inside the stadium once the match kicks off.  There is one thing I am fairly sure about; the attendance will be higher than in the above photo from a recent Corgon Liga match against Kosice.

Plans are finalised for the supporters travelling to the away match this week, a trip I am gutted to be missing out on. Several buses and minibuses have been organised, and early estimates are that 300-400 Slovan supporters will travel. An interesting ticketing policy is being implemented in Serbia, with all supporters of Slovan required to purchase their tickets (10 Euro) from the Holiday Inn Belgrade between 10:00 and 14:00 on the day of the match.  From there fans will be directed to leave cars, buses and minibuses in a safe parking area and police will accompany the fans into and out of the stadium.

For anyone with an interest in Eastern European football, both legs of this tie are extremely enticing prospects, here’s hoping for great performances, on and off the pitch!

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Jul 18 2010

Slovak – Hungarian Football Tensions

Published by under Domestic

When visiting my girlfriend’s home town, Dunajska Streda in May 2009, I was pleased to discover that the local football team DAC had a home league game against MSK Zilina, one of the top teams in Slovakia.  I’d heard plenty of stories about DAC; my girlfriend’s Dad used to drive their team bus.  They ventured into European football in the 1980s, one example they proudly display on their home-page being the “match of the century” in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup in 1988 against Bayern Munich.

Having visited the stadium earlier in the season, I knew it had hardly changed since the ‘glory days’. I was looking forward to attend a live match, and while MSK Zilina don’t bring such a crowd-trouble factor as Slovan, this was sure to be a feisty affair. Dunajska Streda is situated in southern Slovakia, on the fertile plains of the Danube river. The city and surrounding area have a large ethnic Hungarian majority and the football arena is one of the outlets for Hungarian Nationalism.  It is clear that ethnic rivalry played a role in the treatment of the Zilina supporters that afternoon.  Recent policy changes from the Slovak government have worsened relations between the two nations, and football matches (especially in Dunajska Streda) provide a perfect opportunity for both Hungarians and Slovaks to express hostile feelings.  Hungarians from across the border are also known to travel to these matches.

At ‘high-risk’ games in Slovakia, the police will be present at the match. This is the case when Slovan travel to play DAC, the result of which is also not always pretty. Here, Slovak police forces are seen entering the home section of the crowd, apparently in response to nationalistic chanting from the DAC supporters. The result of this onslaught was one guy crushed to death and many injured.
Zilina is not considered such a high-risk match, especially as less than 100 supporters were expected to travel, DAC decided that their own local security contractor could handle things.
It was clear when I entered the stadium that trouble wouldn’t be far away as DAC fans were already taunting the visitors from behind the main stand, I didn’t fancy hanging around, so made my way into the relatively calm surroundings inside the stand.

DAC home supporters

DAC home supporters

As the match kicked off, the first 20 minutes or so were uneventful, and it was from there that attention turned to the action off the field.  A few flares were lit and thrown by the travelling Zilina contingent:

Zilina throw flares, DAC retaliate

Zilina throw flares, DAC retaliate

The stadium announcer responded by asking them to stop.  They continued and a few DAC supporters ran to the gates separating the away section.  This resulted in a stalemate for a few minutes, until eventually the DAC security started engaging the Zilina supporters in more direct dialogue.  The subsequent events are better seen here, basically the whole Zilina contingent, wives & girlfriends included were forcefully ejected from the stadium onto a bus waiting outside to eject them from the town.

Ejection of ZIlina supporters

Ejection of Zilina supporters

These events made the national news and from the video, viewers can draw their own conclusions.  What this demonstrates is some of the problems facing the domestic game in Slovakia; who is going to take their kids to watch a match in a stadium like this not knowing which way the police and security will turn?  While clearly the Zilina fans were not without blame,  several away supporters obviously had nothing to do with the flares and offensive chanting and were simply following their team.

While not necessarily normal for a Slovan supporter, I do have a soft-spot for DAC (for obvious reasons) and I was pleased to see them survive in top flight football last season.  Stadiums and events like this provide fascinating experiences, but also a sad insight into the reality of football in Slovakia.  DAC away, a far cry from Zilina’s European adventures of the 08/09 season season where a fine run saw them qualify for the group stages of the UEFA facing Levski Sofia, HSV, Ajax, Slavia Prague and Aston Villa (they even won 2-1 at Villa Park!)

For the record, the DAC v Zilina match ended 0-0.

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Jul 16 2010

European Update From the Eyes of a Slovan Fan

Published by under European

Dukla Banska Bystrica entered the Europa League 2nd qualifying round and faced an apparently tough tie against Zestafoni of Georgia. Zestafoni only formed in 2004 but appear to be steadily improving each season. They look an especially tough opponent on home soil having recorded some respectable results in Europe in the last couple of years.

The strength of teams from the former Soviet Union when playing at home is often mentioned in European preview columns, however this is all relative and Zestafoni’s Georgian rivals WIT Georgia Tblisi slumped to a 0-6 home defeat at the hands of Banik Ostrava who finished 3rd in the Czech Gambrinus League last season.  This proves that the task away from home for Czech / Slovak teams is far from insurmountable and a 3-0 defeat for Dukla is to me an illustration of the lack of strength in depth of the Slovak league.  Even with home advantage in the 2nd leg, Dukla will struggle to progress in the competition.

Of much higher personal significance was the draw for the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League held in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday 16th July. Mainstream public and media attention usually only turns to the Champions League, and to a lesser extent the Europa League, once the group stages start, however the summer months often provide the biggest matches of the season for many teams throughout the lesser known regions of European football. Household names from the recent past often face tricky ties against unknown opposition. As the rounds progress, clubs more familiar with the latter stages of Champions League football suddenly appear in the draw for qualifying matches. To the smaller teams and their fans this is the equivalent of the English FA Cup for non-league teams and the right draw or a couple of wins can provide an excellent start to the season both on and off the field. Primarily it brings European football to the whole continent and for a team like Slovan Bratislava their draw is very eagerly anticipated, “What Will the Lottery Bring?” was the headline on the fans web-page.

Last year Slovan fans made the trip to Mostar in Bosnia and Amsterdam to watch their team face Ajax.  Such was the demand for the Ajax match that a special train was put on to bring the supporters direct from Bratislava to Amsterdam.  The effects of a 24 hour train journey and several hours in central Amsterdam were probably the perfect medicine against watching the team slump to a 5-0 defeat,  however this is an example of a European tie which gives ordinary people the opportunity to travel to new places and, even if only for the outbound journey, dream of the European big time.

Slovan fans at Ajax 2009

Slovan fans at Ajax 2009

This season promises to be no different for Slovan, and the draw has exceeded even my most optimistic personal expectations:

Europa League 09/10 3rd round qualifying draw

Seeing Crvena Zvezda v Slovan Bratislava sends a shiver down my spine as Red Star are another team dreaming of a return to the big leagues. This will be a very interesting insight into the relative strength of Serbian and Slovak club football, and both matches promise electrifying atmospheres. Crvena Zvezda will be favourites, but they are a club currently in a state of disarray off the field and Slovan will fancy their chances.  Only 570km separate Belgrade and Bratislava, and while some may choose a leisurely boat ride down the Danube, many fans of both teams will travel by road.  Hundreds of Slovan supporters will be expected in the Maracana in Belgrade, and perhaps even more of the Delije for the return leg in Bratislava.  This certainly raises concerns for security, especially in the ludicrously substandard Pasienky stadium where Slovan find themselves playing this season:

Pasienky Stadium, Bratislava

Pasienky Stadium, Bratislava

Classic old floodlights and scoreboard at Pasienky, Bratislava.

Classic old floodlights and scoreboard at Pasienky.

While Belasa Slachta, the Slovan Ultras, will presumably pose far less headaches to the Serbian Police than the Partizan Grobari during an average league match, the story in the 2nd leg may be different.

In the interest of protecting all of the positive benefits of these European qualifying matches I have described above, one hopes that the Slovak police, SFZ & security contractors manage to maintain order in the Bratislava leg of this fixture. Last season MSK Zilina faced Hadjuk Split in a match which made the national news for all the wrong reasons.  Major hooligan related problems around both legs of the tie escalated to such an extent that Slovak families on holiday in Croatia were been attacked and having their cars set alight. Croatian fans were hardly given the red carpet treatment in Slovakia either, and public reaction in Slovakia since the draw has been made is raising serious concerns about how the police will handle the Serbian visitors.

Britski Belasi plans to attend the 2nd leg of this fixture, and a full photo blog will appear on this site.

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Jul 13 2010

MSK Zilina struggle in Malta

Published by under European

Slovak Champions MSK Zilina struggle against unknown Maltese opponents FC Birkirkara with their Europa League qualifying 1st leg match ending in a 0-1 defeat.  They will still be confident of overturning this deficit in the return leg next week.  MSK Zilina will be hoping to repeat their success of recent seasons where they faced, amongst others, Aston Villa, Ajax & HSV in the Europa League group stages.

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Jul 13 2010

Slovak Clubs enter European Competition

Published by under European

4 Slovak clubs qualified for Europe this season.  FC Nitra’s 4th place finish in the Corgon Liga last season was rewarded with entry into the 1st round of Europa League qualifying.  The adventure for Nitra was over even before the World Cup finished as they lost to Hungarian rivals Gyor ETO 3-4 on aggregate.

Champions MSK Zilina enter the Champions League 2nd qualifying round, while 2nd place & Cup winners Slovan Bratislava will be joined by in the Europa League by another team unfamiliar with European football, Dukla Banska Bystrica.

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