Jul 18 2010

Slovak – Hungarian Football Tensions

Published by at 8:45 pm under Domestic and tagged: ,

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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