Jul 16 2010

European Update From the Eyes of a Slovan Fan

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.

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “European Update From the Eyes of a Slovan Fan”

  1.   DaveWon 17 Jul 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Nice one Dan!

    The possibilities for travel are pretty exciting regardless of the relative importance of the matches I suppose!

    I read that J Wilson article too, perhaps eventually they’ll be a third tier of European competition or various kinds of regional leagues to ignite historical rivalries. But the money would very much have to filter down to improve domestic leagues by the sounds of things.

    Look forward to the photos, have fun!

  2.   britskibelasion 17 Jul 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Cheers Dave,

    I think ‘relatively’ the matches are quite important! Just like in the FA Cup, clubs can either hope to draw a big name, or go on a run against weaker opposition and potentially qualify for the group stages. We have seen in the last couple of seasons some lesser known teams (Unirea, Debrecen, Rubin Kazan spring to mind) making it through the qualifying and not being totally embarrassed in the group stages.

    Or, for the lesser teams this is the highlight of the season. Imagine what the players, management and fans of Rabotnicki and Mika are feeling with Liverpool waiting for the winners of their 2nd round tie. Or how Shamrock Rovers feel with Juventus potentially their next opposition. With a 2-leg format, fans have the chance to travel and clubs are guaranteed a massive home payday.

    Given that a country like Slovakia with a very weak domestic league has 4 teams entering European football, I think UEFA are trying their best to spread the wealth down the system.

    The Jonathan Wilson article is very interesting and I don’t think he is pertaining to a 3rd tier European competition, more towards mergers which may improve football on a domestic level. Take the example of the proposed merger of the Slovak & Czech leagues; in my opinion it makes no huge difference for teams in the lower half of the Slovak league to have to step down to a 2nd division equivalent, provided there was the possibility for promotion to the joint league. It would actually make the whole thing a lot more interesting and competitive, especially if more attractive sponsors could be attracted to the game. The question which then springs to mind is would UEFA still be so generous in their European allocation and if so, how would they select the clubs?!

    It is an interesting debate, and I will be sure to write about any changes (for better or worse!)

  3.   Serbian Ultrason 20 Jul 2010 at 8:36 pm

    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.

    Hmmm this is where you got it wrong, partizans grobari are in good relationships with the police (i mean no riots by them in long time) on the other hand delije are in war with Serbian police because of very high sentence for one of the delije members. Delije generally have a policy not to make riots, but if provoked by the police or supporters of local teams they will react. See you in Bratislava.

  4.   britskibelasion 20 Jul 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Hey man, thanks for reading the blog! In the comment above I meant to suggest that the Serbian police have plenty of experience with big crowds and big matches, especially because of the derbies in Belgrade each season. Also the Maracana is a great stadium for these type of matches. I once attended a game at Partizan stadium and I was very impressed with the atmosphere and as you said, there were absolutely no problems. I don’t have the experience to judge relations between Serbian Ultras and police so your insight is very interesting. I hope there will be no provocation by fans / police at either match and just a celebration of football passion. Especially in Bratislava, matches this big are not so common! I am really looking forward to seeing Crvena Zvezda, how many fans do you think will travel to the game?

  5.   Serbian Ultrason 21 Jul 2010 at 2:16 am

    You see, here you can never know that :) it depends on many things usually there are a lot of people from near countries coming, and from last December people from Serbia don’t need to have visas to travel in to EU, so i most probably all tickets they give will be used (by fans) and more supporters in other stands (previously mentioned emigrants from surrounding countries. I say that as i see that slovan now plays on stadium that has 13000 seats, so i hope that they will give us a little more than 5% :)

    Also i must tell you that there is a drastic difference between reactions of the police involving Serbian fans and foreign, as here is the atmosphere that hooligans are one of the biggest countries problems (our president once said: In 2010 we have to solve Serbia’s 3 biggest problems: Crime, Terrorism and Hooliganism) so police have more open hands, while in case of foreign fans they have instructions to be very friendly as our country tends to be friendly to everyone (kiss ass).

    Also do you have any place where i can ask you a few things about scene in Slovakia, other stuff etc etc :)

  6.   Markoon 25 Jul 2010 at 4:00 pm

    @Serbian Ultras

    “partizans grobari are in good relationships with the police (i mean no riots by them in long time) on the other hand delije are in war with Serbian police because of very high sentence for one of the delije members.”

    I lol’d. You didn’t expected that someone from Serbia who actually knows the situation would be seeing this also? Your statements are in complete contradiction with situation on the field, when it comes to Grobari, and that’s because you’re a Red Star fan, and a very biased one. After Brankica Incident, half of my friends were in the jail and the leader is still on the run, several others are in the court for ‘murder’ of Toulouse fan last year. So, how are we in “good relations with the police”?

    The fact is, I would never think of saying that for the Red Star fans, although I know how police reacts when Red Star fans are making trouble in the city’s night clubs. Police comes, Marko Vuckovic goes to them, tell them something, and they leave, and Delije continue to molest ordinary clubbers. So, basically, I could say that you are also in good relations with the police, no? But I won’t because that’s nonsense. Both Grobari and Delije are at war with the police, and that erupts every now and then.

  7.   Serbian Ultrason 27 Jul 2010 at 6:47 am

    Biased maybe, but i meant when were you punished for hooliganism (not that i have anything against that), he meant that police will not have problems with slovan fans because they have all the practice with grobari, which is wrong, when you burn stadium you get one game, when we burn yours we get 3 games, when your fans enter the field you get no punishment, when our one person enters the field we get one game? And whan was the last time police reacted (kornjače ne tužioc i spektori koji hapse) to something you did. Also in that night clubs, that weren’t delije, that was marko and his friends. Also with brankica and taton, that was were you got a bit far and there were to much atention on that, so they had to react. Also i explained what i meant when i said in good relationship.

    partizans grobari are in good relationships with the police (i mean no riots by them in long time)

    But as i see you got it wrong ill make my statement correct, Grobari also hate the police but didnt have any problems with (anti riot) police in a long time :) Is that ok?

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