Archive for August, 2010

Aug 30 2010

Ticket prices Zilina v Chelsea

Published by under European

MSK Zilina, Slovak Champions & proud qualifiers to the Champions League group stages appear to be showing their loyal fans a big fat middle finger in incredible style this afternoon!

Details have been released on the ticketing policy for the home match against Chelsea on 15th September.  I actually couldn’t believe this when I read it but the cheapest tickets (behind the goals) are going for €50!  I had to re-read this several times to confirm that this wasn’t a package price for all 3 group stage matches, but it does indeed appear that a mark up of over 550% is being applied to the prices charged for domestic league games!  A range of ticket prices are available for Corgon Liga games and basically fans can sit where they want in the stadium and get change from €10 with which they could enjoy a pre-match beer & sausage.  The VIP seats for league games are on offer for €20 – equivalent to 20 times less than what is being asked for the Chelsea match!

For fans wanting to watch the match from the stands alongside the pitch the prices being asked are a staggering €150 (Cat I), €200 (Cat II) or for a VIP seat … €400!  These figures are ludicrous wherever we are talking about, but this is Slovakia, where average wages are in the region of €500-€800 / month!

€200 seat anyone ??

The stadium in Zilina can only hold just under 11,000 for Champions League matches, and of course the club can’t be blamed for trying to cash in on their success, but this is absolutely outrageous.  This is the most brutal example of pricing ordinary fans out of the watching their team’s biggest matches (especially as many will be desperate to follow their team to the away legs as well!)  The Pod Dubnom stadium will (probably) be full of a business & corporate crowd, who have no intention to support their team in the passionate way the real Zilina fans have demonstrated in the 3 qualifying rounds leading to this stage.  Other parties making up the numbers in the stands on Zilina’s biggest night for decades will probably be the entire Slovak parliament & Chelsea supporters (one wonders if even they will be willing to fork out these prices!) I have real sympathy for the ultras, and the real fans, and wouldn’t be surprised to see this move by the club backfiring quite badly in the coming weeks.  Judging by reaction on fans forums, they are not happy!  Watch this space for more news ..

p.s. for anyone (like me) unable to believe these prices: http://bit.ly/9Zi00E

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Aug 28 2010

Slovan desperately unlucky in Stuttgart

Published by under European

A few hundred Slovan fans made the trip to Stuttgart hoping for a miracle after Slovan lost the first leg at home 0-1 in a match which was interrupted by fighting on the terraces.  Judging by the photos from Stuttgart, everybody’s stay in the stadium was more comfortable than the week before, although remarkably the attendance was only 8,000 perhaps even a few hundred less than for the match in Bratislava.  I suppose Slovak club football (or Europa League qualifying) is not overly respected in Germany.

Slovan fans in VFB Arena, Stuttgart

Remarkably Slovan took an early lead with captain Martin Dobrotka scoring after 9 minutes.  Slovan held on to their lead comfortable for the remainder of the first half and even doubled their advantage after 53′ with a goal from Jakub Sylvestr.  How the travelling fans must have been celebrating that goal.

Anyway the joy was short lived, a red card to midfielder Michal Breznanik on 55 minutes seemingly the turning point as Stuttgart fought back to score in the 56th and 64th minutes and take an aggregate lead.  Slovan threw everything at the Germans and despite the local commentator claiming “no foul”, this challenge on Filip Kiss by Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich surely should not have gone unpunished.  Slovan players were distraught after the match, blaming the defeat on themselves rather than looking for excuses.

Stuttgart create atmosphere in the VFB Arena

I just hope Slovan can bounce back in the league this weekend in an important match against 3rd place Senica.  With rumours of players wanting to leave if they didn’t make the Europa League group stages, the team really need to pull together and try to open up an advantage in the league while Zilina have the extra demands of the Champions League.  Slovan should be aiming to regain their status as Champions in 2010/11!

One final mention for a Stuttgart banner which will have struck a chord with the Slovan fans in the VFB Arena as well as fans across Europe on a busy week of European qualifying matches.

Message to UEFA's respect campaigners

Source for photos: cc97[dot]de

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Aug 26 2010

Zilina to face Chelsea, Marseille & Spartak Moscow. Reaction & Information!

Published by under European

MSK Zilina, the Slovak Champions, have drawn Chelsea, Spartak Moscow & Marseille in the draw for the Champions League group stages.  In this post I give a brief reaction from Slovakia and some basic information which could be useful to fans travelling to Zilina.

Zilina & Lovech line up for qualifier at Pod Dubnom

Zilina must be over the moon with this draw, in their first ever Champions League group stage appearance.  Although Zilina did play Chelsea before in a Champions League qualifer in 03/04, they will still be excited about welcoming back the Londoners. Obviously any European ‘minnow’ will be thrilled with the prospect of hosting (and travelling to) a true giant like Chelsea.  In a country like Slovakia, it is really the biggest names in football that are needed to stir up real interest among anybody but the most passionate of fans. The reality is that the Slovak press probably provides more coverage of the English Premier League, Bundesliga (or any other leagues where the top Slovak players ply their trade) than of it’s own domestic league.  With Chelsea coming to town, the Slovak football bandwagon is bound to gather momentum and this can only benefit the domestic game in a country where the game has more than it’s fair share of issues.

Obviously Marseille and Spartak Moscow are formidable opponents, all teams are at this level. Zilina will simply be happy to be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite, especially after coming through 3 rounds of qualifiers. Back in July, the Slovak Champions got off to a shaky start in Malta against Birkirkara, before overcoming the Bulgarian outfit Litex Lovech and then finally easing past a woeful Sparta Prague in the playoff round.  However, if Zilina catch one either Marseille or Spartak on an off day, they may fancy their chances of gaining at least a point from this group.  In front of a packed home stadium with possible adverse weather conditions to contend with, Zilina away shouldn’t be an easy tie for any team in Europe.  However, coming out of this group with even a single point will be considered a remarkable achievement for Zilina given the general standard of club football in Slovakia at the moment.

What makes the tie with Chelsea that little bit more intriguing is that Momodou Ceesay, Zilina’s 6’5″ Gambian striker, was on Chelsea’s books 3 years ago when he was just 18.  As must be the case with many players, Ceesay didn’t get a look-in at Chelsea and moved on.  Belgian club KVC Westerlo picked up the young Gambian, but obviously he wasn’t happy in Belgium and his record of 25 appearances and 0 goals between 2008-10 is less than impressive.  From Westerlo Ceesay moved onto Zilina, and it could easily be argued that he was taking another step-down in level by moving to Slovakia. However Ceesay’s performances in the yellow and green of Zilina have been taking the Slovak league by storm this season, and what is even more impressive is that he is producing even better quality football in the Champions League. He was the game breaker against Litex Lovech in the 2nd leg of the 3rd qualifying round and undoubtedly the star of Zilina’s comprehensive 2 leg victory over Sparta Prague.  Especially his overhead kick to put Zilina 1-0 up in the return leg was nothing short of sensational.  The striker has a languid style, but is quick, strong on the ball, good in the air and packs a serious shot from distance.  All round attributes which will inevitably lead to a move elsewhere sometime soon, the only question is where and when?!  It would simply be sensational for Ceesay and Zilina of course if he were able to score against his former club at the game’s biggest stage!

Ceesay celebrates his goal against Sparta Prague (source sme.sk)

Anyway I’ll preview the respective ties nearer the time.  For now onto some information about Zilina:

Zilina is Slovakia’s 4th largest city with a population of 85,000.  It is set in the attractive North West of Slovakia, some 200km from the capital Bratislava.  Anyone travelling to Zilina would be strongly advised to fly to Bratislava (or Vienna) and travel by bus or train.  The bus is a perfectly feasible option and would take around 2.5 hours (don’t get on a slow bus!)  Comfortable trains also run from Bratislava main station but also take at least 2.5 hours.  Don’t be fooled looking at a map and thinking Zilina is closer to Krakow, it may well be, but connections between Slovakia and Poland are atrocious and with the Tatras mountains in the way, and @jonawils was absolutely right when he stated on twitter this afternoon that driving from Krakow would take at least 7 hours!

The city centre is very attractive and there are a few decent and affordable hotels (book very early!)  It is worth spending a night there after the game as usually Zilina is not too intimidating, and it can be a very pleasant place to enjoy a beer.  There were some problems with the Sparta Prague fans, who felt that the police came in a bit heavy handed in reaction to their setting off pyrotechnics in the main square. A city centre bar was smashed up and 16 Sparta fans ended up in hospital after the police went in heavy with horses and dogs.  Possibly the Sparta fans have a point about their mistreatment as the police seem to let the home fans do the ‘pyrotechnics’ to their heart’s content!

Zilina gather in the main square

Whatever the ins and outs of that story, the Slovak police certainly aren’t shy about using force if they see something they don’t like, and it is really advisable to steer clear of any sign of trouble.  As far as the Zilina fans are concerned, they have a relatively good reputation, are not renowned for their hooligan element, but they do put up an impressive ‘Ultras’ display for a town of it’s size!

Zilina fans in Prague

The stadium is arguably the best in Slovakia, but with a capacity for Champions League games of 10,800 that is not saying much.  Unfortunately (as you can read more about here), Slovakia is not a country where small provincial teams have the option to move big games to the National Stadium in the capital city! Unless they decide differently, the away enclosure holds no more than 500 places, so I wish perspective visitors to Zilina the best of luck with obtaining tickets from their clubs!

Away end Zilina - 500 seats at best?

For those who do have the privilege of making the trip, the atmosphere is quite special when the stadium is full as it obviously will be for all Champions League games.  I would love to hear from anybody planning on travelling to Zilina, to either offer further advice, or catch up on your experiences after the trip!  Please get in touch..

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Aug 26 2010

Zilina make history! Ceesay ‘wonder-goal’ seals comfortable passage to Champions League

Published by under European

MSK Zilina eased to a 1-0 home victory over Sparta Prague last night to add to the 0-2 advantage they bought home with them from the Czech capital 8 days earlier.  Zilina therefore progress to the Champions League group stage draw with a 3-0 aggregate victory and in doing so become only the 3rd Slovak club to ever qualify for the Champions League.

Pre-match favourites Sparta were in disarray in the first leg, and even the return of Sonko and Wilfried couldn’t turn things around in the return match in front of a sell-out crowd of over 10,000 in Northern Slovakia. A missed penalty from Sparta could have led to an exciting finish, but in the end I suppose the penalty just summed up a miserable performance from Sparta, who pick up the consolation of Europa League qualification (what Slovan Bratislava would give for that!)  As I attended Ajax v Dinamo Kiev on the same night, all I saw of the match was the goal from Momodou Ceesay, a player I have been raving about in previous posts.   Ceesay’s dramatic goal scored with an athletic overhead kick will surely reinforce on the 21-year old Gambian striker’s credentials even further in the eyes of prospective buyers. Now Zilina are set to perform on a world stage, the possibilities for Ceesay and other members of the squad are huge.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am primarily a Slovan fan, but this result really brings home the importance of teams from the same country doing well in Europe. Obviously the money is a huge reward for Zilina, whatever the actual figure is for participating in the Champions League, it is sure to be several times higher than the average annual budget of clubs in the Slovak domestic competition.  However, it provides real encouragement to other teams that focussing on youth development, building a decent stadium for the community to watch football and bringing in a few overseas players looking to get noticed on the European stage can really deliver huge rewards. Zilina’s UEFA coefficient will rise significantly which can only benefit other Slovak clubs hoping to gain entry to European competitions in future years.  This particular victory against the Czech Champions will also raise the profile of the Slovak game not only domestically but also across the border as discussions continue over a possible merger of the 2 leagues.

As Zilina go into the draw with the biggest names in European football, anticipation is huge.  I’ll be back after the draw with reaction and initial preview of the 3 teams the Slovak Champions will face in the upcoming months.

BritskiBelasi Dream pool?

Chelsea (Ceesay was on their books 3 years ago!)

Real Madrid (obvious reasons!)

Schalke 04 (close for me to get to the game!)

MSK ZIlina

Whatever happens, the draw is sure to bring up some mouthwatering ties for all the teams involved!

tbc …

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Aug 23 2010

The Highs and Lows of Slovak Football

Ahead of a massive week in Champions League qualifying for MSK Zilina, this article takes an in-depth look at the situation with domestic football in Slovakia.  While Zilina may be striving to dine at the game’s elite table, the situation in the main cities of Slovakia is far from rosy.  While Slovan, Kosice & Trnava struggle to control the hooligans in their sub-standard stadiums, there are a few other clubs quietly making progress in the right direction.  Read all about the highs and lows of Slovak football here!

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Aug 20 2010

Slovan v Stuttgart marred by violence

Published by under European

Slovan Bratislava’s Europa League match against VFB Stuttgart has been marred by violence on the terraces.  The referee had to take the players off the field a few minutes before half time as Slovan fans entered the visitors sector creating havoc throwing fireworks, plastic chairs and anything they could get their hands on.  The security inside the stadium couldn’t control the rampaging hooligans and it was a few minutes before the riot police were called in and restored some semblance of order.

Violence at Pasienky

Violence at Pasienky

It seems like all the hard work and extra security measures succesfully implemented in the previous round against Crvena Zvezda Belgrade gave organisers a false sense of security ahead of the Stuttgart match which was designated with a lower risk factor by UEFA.  Reports are of a lack of control outside the stadium before the match, with scuffles breaking out all over town.  In a video shot by Stuttgart fans a fan can be heard saying “you wouldn’t see this if you were walking the streets of Afghanistan” in reference to the lines of fully geared up riot police.

The policy at this match was that the club’s own security should maintain the peace inside the stadium and only if things got out of control would the riot police be called in.  As it happens the police were on standby in front of the stadium and this gave the hooligans several minutes for their rampage creating ugly scenes on the terraces which will inevitably have serious consequences for Slovan Bratislava in Europe.  This is not altogether surprising for me, as I was standing in that area of the stadium for the Zvezda match.  After there was no serious trouble at that game I had a feeling certain members of the crowd were left with a sense of anti-climax.  The club, who would have been dreaming of Europa League qualification and hosting more high-profile teams in Bratislava now face a minimum punishment of a hefty fine from UEFA for failing to control their fans.  This is disastrous for Slovan and the optimism created by MSK Zilina as far as the Slovak club game is concerned appears to be something of an exception, and the harsh reality of life on the terraces has unfortunately once again come to light here at Pasienky.

The scenes, which can be seen here or here leave me with a sense of sympathy for the Stuttgart fans seen literally fleeing for their lives away from the flash point.  Having fireworks landing on your head is not what most fans hope for on European away days to the beautiful cities of Europe.  Once again what this demonstrates is the total substandard nature of Pasienky stadium, together with the lack of experience of the organisers when things get out of hand.  I will follow up with another article after reading reaction from both sides once the dust has settled, also it will be interesting to see how UEFA punish Slovan.  My honest feeling here is that UEFA would be better served trying to help Slovan in their quest for a new stadium, rather than landing a hefty fine on the club which will only make matters worse.  The stadium in Bratislava is also urgently needed for international matches.  This is the sad side of Eastern European football and makes you realise how far behind the big leagues these clubs have fallen.

As far as the match is concerned, Stuttgart scored in the 88th minute to give themselves a surely unasailable advantage ahead of the return leg in Germany next Thursday.  Obviously the German police will be prepared following these scenes, one just hopes that there isn’t more violence which could further damage the club.

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Aug 18 2010

Zilina Fans in Prague

Published by under Uncategorized

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Aug 18 2010

Zilina win Champions League Playoff 1st Leg in Prague

Published by under European

Slovak Champions MSK Zilina defied expectations recording a 0-2 victory in front of 21,000 at the Letna Stadium in Prague which leaves them in control of this Champions League playoff tie going into the return leg next week. Zilina are aiming to become just the 3rd ever Slovak side to make the Champions League group stages (Artmedia Petrzalka made the CL in 2005/06 & Kosice also played in the group stages way back in 97/98).

Sparta started the game looking much the better side, Zilina showing some early nerves, especially at the back. However once the Slovaks settled into their rhythm, they were able to start dictating the pace of the match with neat passing football quite typical of the Slovak National team in this year’s World Cup.  Several chances created in the first half obviously gave Pavel Hapal’s team the belief and confidence that they were very much in this tie.  A stunning free-kick from Robert Jez was saved by the fingertips of Sparta keeper Jaromir Blazek and minutes later Oravec could have done better with a free header at the far post.  Sparta also had their chances, but a scrappy first half probably saw both teams happy to go into the break at 0-0.

Sparta coach Jozef Chovanec must have gone into the interval thinking that if he could just get some better organisation into his back 3, Sparta should be able to dominate the 2nd half.  In reality, Sparta came out after the break looking like a complete shambles, and a comedy of errors at the back involving defenders and the keeper led to Zilina striker Momodou Ceesay picking up the ball and unleashing a stunning finish in off the post from an acute angle on the edge of the box.  Ceesay’s confidence was growing by the minute, and shortly after his goal, the 21-year old Gambian striker with his unique languid style, went on a mesmerizing run through the Sparta midfield to shoot just wide from 25 yards.  Ceesay, who spent a period on Chelsea’s books when he was just 18, is a real gem at this level.  The 6’5″ stiker has a physical presence to intimidate the best of defenders, and his hold up play, general movement, pace, strength in the air and shooting ability, all evident in the 2nd half yesterday, showed that this player has all the attributes to play at a higher level.  If Zilina make the Champions League, I predict Ceesay’s stock to rise dramatically, with a possible move to a bigger European league on the cards next season.

Ceesay in full flow

Ceesay in full flow

The Zilina performance wasn’t all about Ceesay though, and this young team showed touches of football worthy of a place on club football’s biggest stage.  How everyone associated with MSK Zilina and Slovak football must be dreaming of hosting the big names of the European game back at home in mountainous Northern Slovakia in the coming weeks.  21 year old U-21 International goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was playing with an assurance way beyond his years, and the Benin International Issiaka Bello together with the excellent Czech Emil Rilke on the left were running the show in midfield.  The whole team played their part in this victory, and in the 73rd minute Zilina were rewarded further when Tomas Oravec sent the travelling masses into ecstasy with a towering header from a corner.

Sparta pushed hard for the goal which would keep the tie very much in the balance, but in reality this was a woeful display from the Czech Champions.  The whistles of derision from the home crowd summed up an almost embarrassing performance given the prize at stake and despite endless shouting and gesticulating from captain and former West Ham defender Tomas Repka his team simply didn’t look up for this match .  Sparta obviously missed the suspended Matejovsky, Sonko and Wilfried  and with the latter 2 returning for next week’s 2nd leg, MSK Zilina need to stay on top of their game and not lose their grasp on this tie.  They must have nerves of steel, keep their feet on the ground this week and concentrate fully on not giving anything away early on in the match.

With the attacking options at their disposal there is always a chance of Zilina scoring goals, and now the Slovaks must be favourites to be in next Thursday’s group stage draw. Zilina have a number of players who can more than hold their own at this level, and it will be very interesting to follow rising interest from bigger clubs should Zilina make the group stages.  Just remember, you read it here first!

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Aug 17 2010

Preview: Sparta Prague v MSK Zilina, Champions League Qualifying

Published by under European

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Tonight sees MSK Zilina take on Sparta Prague in arguably the biggest match of their history. The team from the North of Slovakia are dreaming of becoming the first Slovak club since Vladimir Weiss’ Artmedia Petrzalka to qualify for the Champions League.  A potential cash windfall of €7 Million just for participating in the group stages is huge money in a country where most teams dream of annual budgets above €1 Million and the added spice of a ‘local’ derby makes this fixture one of the most intriguing of the playoff round.

Success against Sparta would lead to Zilina’s first ever Champions League qualification and only the 2nd ever for a Slovak club side.  While Sparta have significantly more European experience than Zilina, it is 5 years since they last appeared in the Champions League proper.  Zilina have been quietly effective in Europe in the last couple of seasons and especially in 2008/09 performed impressively in gaining 4 points from a UEFA Cup group containing Ajax, Aston Villa, HSV and Slavia Prague.  With Europa League football already guaranteed Zilina now have a huge opportunity to go one step further.

Coincidently, Zilina are coached by a Czech, Pavel Hapal, and Sparta by a Slovak, Jozef Chovanec.  Furthermore, Zilina have 4 Czechs in their squad, and Sparta 3 Slovaks.  Obviously there is no bigger reward in club football than Champions League qualification, and with just 400km separating the two cities makes this a highly accessible fixture for both sets of fans.  Both legs will be sell-outs, and the atmospheres will be electric.  Should the Slovaks have their way in the opening exchanges of the first leg, the Sparta crowd is renowned for getting on their team’s back.  Direct trains have been organised from Zilina and with tickets available for just €31 Zilina will inevitably take a large green and yellow following with them to Prague.  The match in the Generali Arena is a 21,000 sell-out.

Zilina fans on the march before the Litex match

Zilina fans on the march before the Litex match

Sparta are weakened by suspensions following a feisty affair against Lech Poznan in the previous round.  3 of their key players are suspended, Marek Matejovsky has a 3 match ban following a sending off in Poland, and Libor Sonko and top scorer Bony Wilfried also miss out on the first leg.  Zilina are at full strength and have formally thanked MFK Ruzomberok for agreeing to play their league fixture one day early to give extra preparation time for this massive match.

Although Sparta are favourites, the weakened nature of their squad for the first leg might just give Zilina an opportunity to get a result in Prague.  As Zilina demonstrated in the previous qualifying round against Litex Lovech, if they can achieve a draw away in the first leg, they will really fancy their chances back at home in the return match 8 days later.

Zilina celebrate with their fans as Lovech trudge off

Zilina celebrate with their fans as Lovech trudge off

In 22 year old 6’5” Gambian striker Momodou Ceesay Zilina have a player who could be destined for bigger things.  The quick, powerful centre-forward who proved too hot to handle for the Litex defence, has been creating havoc in the domestic league. The squad has plenty of other attacking players more than capable of scoring goals, and with an excellent team spirit, the team from the North of Slovakia have a real chance against Sparta.

Britski Belasi prediction?

I can see Zilina getting a 1-1 draw in the first leg.  If the Slovak team manage a result in Prague, the return leg will take nerves of steel in front of their own fans knowing they are so close to a massive prize, but I genuinely believe (and hope!) that Zilina will prevail.

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Aug 13 2010

Not-such beautiful Pastures for the Slovakia National Team

Published by under International

In a review of this week’s international friendly between Slovakia and Croatia, I can be quoted as saying that the game was played in front of a “decent enough crowd of around 4,000″.  This probably serves as an indication of the standards I have come to expect from the football following public in this beautiful country which frustrates as much as it intrigues.  In advance of the game, I even speculated as to whether the crowd would match the 1,600 who turned up for Slovan Bratislava’s latest league game against Dukla Banska Bystrica.

Pasienky Stadium - basic

The ‘open-roofed athletics-track stadium’ that is Pasienky (‘Pasture’) in Bratislava probably did a good job of making the crowd look smaller than it actually was, and the official figure the SFZ quotes as the attendance for this match was 6,366.   This measly number of people, equivalent to the average attendances at Gillingham or Brentford last season, was all who turned up to watch some top class players.  I won’t exaggerate  so much as to use the term ‘World-class’ but in the likes of Marek Hamsik, Miroslav Stoch, Martin Skrtel, Jan Mucha and Vladimir Weiss, Slovakia have players who are brushing shoulders with the biggest names in some of the best leagues in the world.  I really wonder how these players feel about disrupting their pre-season campaigns to play a friendly match in front of so few fans and furthermore risking injury (Robert Vittek pulled up with a thigh strain which may lead to him missing the start of the domestic season in Turkey).

Kornel Salata, the only home-based player in Slovakia, in front of empty seats at his home stadium

Kornel Salata, the only home-based player in Slovakia, in front of empty seats at his home stadium

If this match was held in advance of the World Cup in South Africa, the attendance would probably be understandable, the naturally pessimistic football fan in Slovakia probably had no expectation for a team of relative unknowns travelling to their first ever World Cup.  However, again without wanting to exaggerate and use a term like ‘storm onto the World scene’, Slovakia certainly created quite a stir in their upset of Italy at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and qualification for the knockout stages of the tournament.  With the exception of the Italy game, Slovakia’s other group matches, against New Zealand and Paraguay are 2 of the prime examples people use when talking about all the empty seats at the World Cup.  As was correctly pointed out by the wonderful WSC preview magazine, not many Slovaks were expected to travel to the World Cup, and those that do will come from the “higher-end of society with relatively little interest in the domestic game”.  That was certainly the case, and the World Cup cameramen must have had their work cut out finding Slovak-painted faces in the stadiums on those days.

However I do believe, contrary to some other countries, that these players take real pride in wearing the Slovakia shirt. Having lived in the shadow of some strong Czech teams in recent years, this young team has a really good spirit, an excellent coach in Vladimir Weiss and should be aspiring to match, if not better their performance from South Africa in the next European Championships in 2012.  If there was a structured drive to attract fans to football in Slovakia over the next couple of years, the team could the surely expect up a huge support in these neighbouring countries easily reachable by road, rail or air (infrastructure which is all developing rapidly in Slovakia).

Miroslav Stoch went on the record after the Croatia game saying the players were “disappointed with the attendance” and they had hoped for better after their exploits this summer.   In defence of the fans, I regularly bang on about the ‘sub-standard’ nature of the Pasienky stadium and the situation shows no signs of improving.  Money allocated to the construction of a new national stadium has evapourated into a different fund set up to help flood victims in the east of the country, and the only construction in the vicinity of the now-closed Tehelne Pole stadium is the beehive of activity across the road at the Zimny Stadium, the new National Ice Hockey Arena being built ahead of the country hosting the World Championships in 2011.

Zimny Ice Hockey Stadium

Zimny Ice Hockey Stadium

Ice Hockey is officially the Number 1 sport in Slovakia, but how football fans must be jealous seeing this amazing modern structure springing up  right next door while they are forced to pay up to 30 Euros for a tickets to stand in a stadium with one of the worst views of the pitch imaginable.

Derelict in the face of new construction: The former home of the National Team is in a sorry state

Derelict in the face of new construction: The former home of the National Team is in a sorry state

Once again, the buck has to stop at the SFZ, the Slovak Football Association.  There is an ever growing list of incredible gaffes which can be attributed to the organisation running the game in Slovakia, some of which are described by this excellent article written by James Baxter for WSC.  To me the most humiliating one has to be the lack of a National Stadium.  Can there be any other countries within the European Union where the situation is so dire (comments welcome)?  Until something is done to allocate public funds or attract the finance needed from elsewhere to construct a simple but safe and comfortable stadium with around 20,000 seats (how many of these have been built around Europe recently), there will be little or no change to the attendances at international and domestic football, I am almost sure of it.  While the National Team has already resorted to playing matches in Austria, another feasible option is to relocate the matches to Zilina in the North of the country where there is a semi-acceptable stadium, and possibly a public more passionate about football.  Although a pity for Bratislava, if some matches were played here, maybe the SFZ could dream of 5 figures when quoting the attendance for qualifying matches for Euro 2012.

To me the recipe for success is simple, the site in Bratislava is available, and it will benefit everyone, anybody got a spare 20 Million Euros?

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