Archive for September, 2010

Sep 29 2010

One to Watch: Frantisek Kubik

Published by under Eredivisie

ADO Den Haag have got off to their best start to a season for 31 years.  This season’s ‘new-look’ ADO have been a revelation, not only to their own fans but also to the wider Dutch football audience, playing an exciting brand of attacking football.  A key addition to the squad this season has been the little-known 21-year-old Frantisek Kubik, brought in from Slovak 2nd Division side AS Trenčín.

So when I realised that the club I support in Holland had brought in a new Slovak player, I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to drop ADO a line and see if we could meet Frantisek.  I was thrilled with the response.  Our well-phrased Slovak email found it’s way into Frantisek’s hands and we were told that he’d be more than happy to meet us and have a chat in his own language.

So that’s what we did; went down to Zuiderpark in Den Haag, ADO’s training ground and former stadium, and were given plenty of time to get to know ADO’s new-boy from Slovakia:

BB: This is your first season as a pro, how are you enjoying it and how does it compare with last season playing for Trenčín?

FK:  Football here is not at all comparable to the game in Slovakia, everything is on such a different level here, I don’t even know where to start, it’s such a different world.

How did the move to ADO come about, how did they find you?

I moved from Prievidza to Trencin because the club in Prievidza fell apart, so I got an offer to play in Trenčín.  I was there for a year and a half and we went to a tournament in Holland as the owner of AS Trenčín is Dutch.  He said to us “let’s go there and you might get seen, besides it’s an opportunity to compare Slovak and Dutch football.”  We ended up winning the tournament and the Dutch scouts started to be interested in us.  Just when we played the final, John van den Brom [now ADO's head coach] was there.  He expressed his interest in the Trenčín lads, especially myself.  So after that he was observing me for 2-3 months, visiting matches in Trenčín.  At the end of the season he invited me to Holland for a trial.  I was there for a week, then he extended it for another week and told me “go home for a few days, sort everything out, then come back to play for us here”

Did you have any contact with Cszaba Horvath to discuss your move here?

I was in touch with him only over the phone, as were just missed each other here in Den Haag.  He was leaving [to Poland] and I was arriving.  He assured me on the phone that I made a good decision and that it is really great here at ADO.

Do you have any contact with Miroslav Stoch?

Not much, we played together for the Slovak U20 team but since then we have lost touch.

Horvath & Stoch represented Slovakia in the Eredivise last year.  To our knowledge you’re the only Slovak player here this year, can you confirm that?

There was one more, called Andrej Rendla at FC Twente, but I think he went somewhere on loan.

[We researched this, Rendla is apparently on loan at Heracles Almelo this season, thanks Frantisek!]

Trenčín have started the season exceptionally well, especially David Depetris is making a real impression [13 goals in 10 games for the Argentinian striker]

Haha, well I have left Trenčín, so now they are doing well! [laughing]  Depetris was also in Holland, I think in Almere City, FC Omniworld was the name?

[We also researched this, it does seem as though Depetris went on loan to Omniworld - now Almere City - but is now back at Trencin]

Do you miss Trenčín?  Do you still have contact with the players over there?

Well I come from Prievidza and I was in Trenčín for over a year, I did get used to it there, so of course I miss it.  Well, now it’s better because my friends are coming to visit.  Last week one friend came to visit and also saw the match.  Next week another friend is coming, so they are slowly making the effort to come over to see me.

Youth coaching in Slovakia must be quite strong because a lot of young Slovaks are performing very well around European football at the moment, also for the National team.  How was your development as a young player in Slovakia?

I always had a dream to play abroad, I have tried my best to achieve this, with the full support of my parents.  In the youth team I already had some offers to go abroad, but I was just not ready.  So I was working hard on myself and I feel that the results are starting to show, harvesting the fruit of my hard work.

How is the team spirit at ADO?  How do you communicate with the other players?

The atmosphere here is great, especially after the good start to the season.  We are in a kind of ‘euphoria’ right now, and it also helps that we had an almost full stadium in the last match [3-2 against Heracles].  When we do well, people also dare to come, and that means a lot to us as players.

I watched most of the Slovakia World Cup matches in the hotel.  Then for the Holland v Slovakia match Pascal Bosschaart invited me and a few of the other players to watch the match.  That was a lot of fun, there is a good spirit in the team!

What do you think of the ADO fans?  How do they compare to Slovak football fans?

Oh the fans here are really passionate and enthusiastic. Compared to Slovak fans, what can I say?  Slovaks just come to swear at you and here the people really live for football.  Whole families come to the stadium in their ADO shirts to support us, it is really alive here.

How are you enjoying life in Den Haag?

When I was on trial here, I stayed in a hotel by the beach [in Scheveningen].  That was really great!  Now I have an apartment by a shopping centre, so I am close the stadium and training ground.  I am slowly starting to feel at home here.

When I first arrived I didn’t know anybody here.  Since then, I have met a few Slovaks, people have contacted me via facebook, people who study here, or via the club – translators etc..

Do you think ADO can maintain their current position [6th in Eredivisie] ?

Why not?  If we are there now, anything is possible [smiling].

What are your personal targets?  Would you like to stay at ADO or can you imagine returning to play football in Slovakia?

At the moment I am here on loan for 1 year. I still have a year on my contract at Trenčín, so normally I have to go back.  But for sure I would love to stay in Den Haag and they said they would like to keep me here as long as possible .. apparently other clubs are already interested ..

Have you been involved with the Repre [National team] in Slovakia?

I played for the U19 and U20 team.  To be involved in the European Championships?  That is my dream …

Do you know any young players we should look out for coming out of Slovakia?

The coach went to see some matches in Trenčín and he does like 2 or 3 other players, so there is a potential there.

Do you like Bitterballen?

Haha bitterballen is like our fried pate [not really on the menu for a professional footballer].  The food here took some getting used to, it is nice, but perhaps not every day.  I like Italian and Greek cuisine, and I noticed they don’t eat many soups here like we do at home.

What is the daily routine for an ADO player?

Training morning and afternoon, resting as much as possible in my free-time.  The club probably think I mostly sit at home, but I do manage to socialise a lot as well ..

Britski Belasi, also a Trencin fan!

Frantisek has had a great start to the season, scoring 4 goals from the left-side of ADO’s attack.

We here at Britski Belasi sincerely hope both he and the team continue their fine form and would like to thank Frantisek and also Nathalie Nuiten at ADO Den Haag for making this interview happen.

I would also like to thank my wonderful girlfriend Andrea Zatoriova for her invaluable translation skills.  You can find out more about Andrea’s VA business here.


6 responses so far

Sep 28 2010

Spartak 3-0 Zilina

Published by under European

What did we make of Zilina?

Tactical analysis is not my strong point so I’m not going to go down that road in too much detail.  However I will note down a few quick impressions after just watching Spartak Moscow cruise past MSK Zilina.

Pavel Hapal seemed to go with a relatively defensive starting XI despite saying he would still go out and attack the Russians.  Ceesay is not a world-beater and the team can obviously function without him & I suppose the decision to leave the Gambian on the bench was vindicated by bringing him on for the 2nd half.  In all honesty he didn’t do much when he did come on, his physical presence caused a few more problems for the Spartak defense, but he was trying a bit too hard and his game just wasn’t flowing.

Ceesay is 6’5″ and he is not bad in the air.  Zilina’s service into the box, especially from the left was atrocious.  Majtan was really off the pace, looked slow and lost the ball several times.  Poor performance from him.

Oravec is not bad upfront but it doesn’t work playing him on his own.  He needs some support up there and at least it started to look better for a few minutes when Ceesay came on.

Jez should have done better, especially with the set-pieces.  He’s also shown this season what he is capable of and the way he approached the free-kicks here he just looked tired.  In these type of matches, the underdog needs to do something dangerous with free kicks in the final third.  Zilina had a few of them, and didn’t really produce anything to test the Spartak keeper.

Why wasn’t Bello playing?

Some of the defenders showed good moments, possibly a sign they could play at a higher level.  However collectively the defence struggles at this level facing an attack as potent as Spartak Moscow’s.  There is not enough quality in the Slovak domestic league to prepare these guys for this level of football.  Same applies to Martin Dubravka, and in his case, I do hope somebody buys him and gives him the coaching and opportunities to develop into the top class keeper he has the potential to be.

I speculated in the review of last week’s league fixtures that due to a lack of strength in depth, Zilina’s squad was starting to show signs of strain due to the 2-match-a-week fixture list at the moment.  For me this feeling increased after watching this display.  In the 2nd half a lot of the players looked tired, while Spartak Moscow were cruising through to full time and even produced a third.  All that at the end of their own domestic season.  Zilina’s is really just starting.

Apologies if this post was too negative, credit where it’s due as in horrible conditions with an intimidating atmosphere at the Luzhniki and a travelling contingent I estimate at around 50, Zilina’s players never gave up.

Hope back home for Slovan?

Away fans: Outnumbered by police?

11 responses so far

Sep 27 2010

MSK Zilina: Reasonable prices for Marseille & Spartak Moscow

Published by under European

Once again I’d like to welcome our excellent guest writer & MSK Zilina season ticket holder James Baxter onto the blog.  James has been doing a fantastic job of keeping us up to date with first hand news on Zilina’s first ever foray into the Champions League.  Here James has produced yet another fascinating article on how the club aim to make amends to fans after the shambolic organisation of ticket sales for the Chelsea game:

Since their ticket-pricing policy for the first Champions League group stage home game against Chelsea resulted in both a boycott by hundreds of regular fans and the presence in the stadium of large numbers of people who kept casting bewildering glances at anyone attempting to support the home side, MSK Zilina owner Jozef Antosik and his colleagues have obviously been doing some thinking. This week the club announced the prices for the next two home games in the competition, against Olympique Marseille and Spartak Moscow. MSK season-ticket and club-card holders have been offered a package for the two games. Seats behind the goals will cost just 20 Euros each, those in the East or West Stands are priced at 50 Euros.

These are, clearly, very reasonable prices. It seems that MSK have gone from showing an open contempt for their own fans – and not caring if they just disappeared for good – to telling them they love them really and badly need them to come back. One wonders what has brought about this change of heart. I would suggest five principle reasons :

Protests from Fans. The Zilina fans’ campaign following the announcement of prices for the Chelsea game was magnificent. The ‘we’re taking no shit’ stance the fans took probably surprised the club hierarchy.

Atmosphere Against Chelsea. Mr Antosik got his full-house, and earned a fair amount of cash in the process. But, whatever else the Zilina owner may be, he is passionate about his club and must have been disappointed that this feeling was clearly not shared by all those sitting in the home sections at the Chelsea match. The sight of blue Chelsea shirts in the home areas and the sound of clapping, even cheering, from those same areas after every Chelsea goal must have got to him. So must the thought that those who could have made it a less comfortable evening for the Londoners with their non-stop, partisan backing for Zilina were outside the ground protesting.

Slovak Media. Protests can only really work if they are widely reported and the Zilina fans’ effort certainly was. The Slovak media did a diligent, comprehensive job of covering it. Even Vecernik, Zilina’s local weekly, which doesn’t normally utter even a word of criticism of anyone in the town with money or influence, got in on the act. (There is one sorry exception, in the form of Slovakia’s English language newspaper, the Slovak Spectator. This publication didn’t deviate from what seems to be a policy of only covering anything outside Bratislava if it is somehow quaint and can be patronised, ie wooden cottages or traditional dances.)

Foreign Media. Good journalists are always on the hunt for a story. Ticket-prices of 50-400 Euros in a region where monthly salaries average 700 Euros at most are certainly a story. Pre-match interest among UK reporters in, for example, Zilina’s recent Corgon Liga form or how Bello would get on against Essien in midfield was polite at best. What they really wanted to hear about were those prices and the response to them. Mr Antosik might have felt he could cope with adverse media reaction to his ticketing policies within Slovakia but may not have realized that foreign reporters too would be prepared to ask a few difficult questions.

Jozef Antosik. The lead-up to the Chelsea game certainly showed Mr Antosik at his worst. Yet he is an intelligent man who must know deep-down (he’s not seriously admitting anything in public) that he has made a mistake. He probably realises too that, while Chelsea are very clear favourites to win this group, Marseille and Moscow are not unbeatable. Zilina could still have a good group stage but, for that to happen, they need their real fans behind them, creating the kind of racket that was so sadly missing against Chelsea.

It will now be interesting to see how the fans respond. It is likely that some will continue to punish the club for its treatment of them before the Chelsea game by maintaining their boycott. Initial statements from the Ultras group suggest they fall into this category. That is, of course, their right. For myself, I would prefer to give the club credit for what has clearly been a rethink and get behind the team. Whatever stance one takes, this whole episode does suggest that real protest works. The green and gold scarves at Old Trafford and the uncomplimentary banners at Anfield have, by comparison, achieved nothing because there has been no credible statement from the fans that they are prepared to withdraw their support – ‘custom’ as the clubs might have it – until change is effected.

One response so far

Sep 26 2010

Slovakia Update

Published by under Domestic

This season has seen a number of European leagues throwing up strange results and surprise names setting the early-season pace.  Slovakia is no different, and so far this season we have seen some very strange results and fluctuations of form of all teams.

MSK Zilina kicked off the latest round of domestic fixtures on Friday night against DAC Dunajska Streda.  DAC agreed to come for the Friday match to support Zilina’s preparations next week’s Champions League game against Spartak Moscow.  Only 2,212 people turned up and sat through a dull 0-0 draw in near silence.  The discontent amongst Zilina’s supporters is clearly rumbling on and the rumours are that this time the Ultras decided to ditch the football and go to basketball or ice-hockey instead.  DAC have shown some signs of improvement recently, but they are still in the scrap to avoid relegation and this will be a very welcome point for them.  Zilina, on the other hand, have to consider this 2 points lost.  A home match against DAC on a Friday night really should have been a home-banker.  Maybe Zilina are already starting to show the effects that a 2 match-per-week schedule has on the relatively small professional squads in Slovakia.   If the ‘Sosoni’ are not careful in the next few weeks, the Champions League adventure could back-fire on them domestically, and the other teams in the title race will be eager to capitalise as much as possible while Zilina are busy with European duties.

Slovan are right back in the mix, firing 6 goals for the 2nd consecutive match against MFK Dubnica.  Dubnica also shipped 5 at home against Zilina in the cup and are clearly one of the favourites for relegation.  Perhaps Dubnica are lucky that this league contains both MFK Kosice and Tatran Presov. Kosice followed on from their 3-0 defeat in the cup at the hands of 2nd Division Spissky Novy Ves with a 4-1 defeat away at ViOn Zlate Moravce. The situation at Kosice appears dire to say the least.

Surprise package FK Senica stunned MFK Ruzomberok with a last minute goal to record a 1-2 victory which sends the team who bought out Inter Bratislava to gain their position in the top division 2 points clear of Zilina at the top.

In the other 2 matches, despite the impressive following (everywhere at home), Spartak Trnava lost 1-0 t the hands of FC Nitra, and Dukla Banska Bystrica eased past Tatran Presov 3-0 at home.

"WE ARE AT HOME EVERYWHERE"

Standings after 10 games played:

Senica 22

Zilina 20

Slovan 17

Ruzomberok 17

Trnava 16

ViOn 16

Dukla 15

Nitra 14

DAC 9

Dubnica 7

Kosice 6

Presov 5

3 responses so far

Sep 26 2010

Werder v HSV

Published by under Bundesliga

After a few weeks watching my football from a distance, what better way for me to get over the withdrawal symptoms than with a trip to the North German derby?  While regular readers may wonder why the change of tact from the usual Slovak stuff, as mentioned in my “About” page, I am more than partial to the experiences offered by both the Bundesliga and the Eredivisie. Being based in Holland this is often a much more practical undertaking.

I really love the passion on the terraces so once posted to Holland I decided to pick and stick with a team from both Holland & Germany.  Living in Den Haag, ADO was the obvious choice in Holland, but more on them later.  This post is all about Werder and my love for the Gruenn-Weiss was born one day in Dusseldorf in 2009.  We’d bought tickets to Leverkusen v Werder (Leverkusen were playing in Dusseldorf while their stadium was under construction) and even though we were in ‘home’ seats, we were surrounded by thousands of Werder fans.  Being part of a travelling army of over 5,000 was quite an experience, and from that day on I was hooked on Werder.  Werder are a genuinely popular team, they play exciting, attacking football and have a large and passionate following.

There are several stadiums in Germany within 3 hours drive of Den Haag so until this weekend I’d only ever seen Werder away.  Last season I got to Bochum, Cologne, Hamburg, Monchengladbach & Austria Wien, all with Werder, but I still hadn’t been to the Weser Stadion in Bremen.  When I discovered that through work we had the possibility to get VIP seats, I had the perfect opportunity to put that right.  Not that I would have a problem getting my own tickets, through my membership I can usually get tickets without many problems.  This time I had also applied for my own tickets and did receive 2 standing places in the specially designated ‘singing area’.  As we’d already arranged to do this work trip, I begrudgingly handed over the €16 standing places to my mate @2_bundesliga and his girlfriend, and waited to see what the Werder VIP experience was all about.

First impression was as always in Germany, the general good natured atmosphere in town before the match, with Werder & HSV fans mixing without any issues.  We had the same experience last year in Hamburg and how refreshing a change this is when compared to the ridiculously restricted away travel rules in Holland.  It’s quite common to see a couple walking hand in hand one wearing Werder colours and the other with HSV.  If only I’d not stupidly forgotten the battery to my camera!

After a few beers in town & the obligatory Bratwurst, we got the boat to the stadium.  Yes, the boat!  This was one of the most civilised ways to arrive at a stadium.  With Werder’s ground located literally on the banks of the river, a boat runs through town bringing fans to the stadium 1 hour before kick-off.  Obviously the boat had a bar and beer was in plentiful supply.  Werder fans sat with HSV fans in the sunshine on a river cruise approaching the “highest-risk category” North German derby.  My Dutch colleagues were impressed.

The walk from the river banks to the VIP entrance took us past the “Gasteingang” and thousands of HSV fans were queuing up to get in.  There was the usual exchange of banter between fans but the heavy police presence appeared to have things under control.  I really didn’t expect what was to come from the VIP experience.  Normally I’m much happier on the terraces than in the atmosphere-lacking world of the corporate high-fliers.  However I can’t say a negative word about how this was organised at Werder.  Even though it was just 30 minutes before kick-off, we could help ourselves to the hot buffet and had our reserved table available for a good feed.  Free beer of course.  Leaflets circulated with all the latest scores from the days’ earlier matches, excellent service, you really didn’t feel like you were in a football stadium.

I was adamant I’d be in my (cushioned) seat at least 10 minutes before kick off to soak up the atmosphere and that didn’t disappoint.  Well it disappoint in the way that the HSV fans were exceptionally loud & totally overwhelmed any chants from the Werder end.  HSV must have had a full allocation of around 4,000 fans and they were right up the back of the stand under a heavy roof.  Their singing and the acoustics in that part of the stadium were phenomenal,  these were some serious decibels reverberating from my right.  Werder fans were trying of course, but they were on an open terrace with a tower crane for company.  That end of the stadium is being reconstructed and it’s the poor home fans who have to suffer at the moment.  No worries, the volume picked up soon enough!  Amazing atmosphere, real Bundesliga and an experience to savour.

Players enter the arena. Serious noise from the away end.

The match got off to a slow start, and the main focus of attention was the incessant singing from the HSV end.  However it did come to life in the 25th minute, Marko Marin, the liveliest Werder player, ran through and put a shot in which with quite a lot of luck, ended up in the back of the net courtesy of a slightly unfortunate Guy Demel own goal.  3 minutes later the home fans joy was enhanced with a long range free kick from Aaron Hunt powered in by the head of Hugo Almeida!  2-0 for Werder at half time.  Time for Bier & Currywurst.

The 2nd half produced the inevitable HSV comeback, a lucky goal by Van Nistelrooy from a dodgy back-heel which somehow went in and shortly after the away end nearly exploded after a great strike from substitute Jonathan Pitroipa.  2-2.  After Werder’s poor start to the season things didn’t look good.  However they held their nerve, Schaaf got his tactics right and the winning goal came 5 minutes from time through Almeida.  This sent the home fans into raptures, myself included.  Hopefully this is the result which will kick-start Werder’s season and if Marin can continue this form he will be one of the players of the season.  A player who I hadn’t seen before also impressed, Brazilian Wesley was all over the field and a really energetic and skilful player.

We enjoyed a bit more of the hospitality and eventually made our way out of the ground at around the same time as the HSV fans who had been kept behind for 40 minutes after the final whistle.  There was an extreme police presence which we skirted relatively easily and made our way on into town.  A nice atmosphere in town gave us a great end to a great day.  I didn’t witness any crowd problems whatsoever, as is usually the case with my trips to football in Germany.

However I have read this morning that several HSV fans were badly injured in a stampeded around their exit point of the stadium.  The police were determined to keep the HSV fans segregated and the delay in letting them out led to a lot of panic amongst some of the fans.  Only 2 trains were left to take the fans back to Hamburg and they’d missed the first one due to the delay.  I think there will be a full enquiry into these events, especially after the recent tragedy at the Duisburg Love Parade.  Perhaps the police didn’t handle things quite as well as I thought ..

2 responses so far

Sep 20 2010

The next big ticket fiasco: Slovensko v Irsko

Published by under International

Nobody was looking forward to moving on from the MSK Zilina v Chelsea ticketing saga more than us here at Britski Belasi. “We will swallow this, but we will not forget this” said the Zilina Ultras.

As Slovak football fans start looking forward to the next big game on home soil, once again we are faced with huge question marks over the organisation of ticket sales.

James Baxter spent last week trying to acquire tickets for Slovakia’s European qualifier against Ireland.  Here he explains how thousands of fans will, inexplicably, be left ticketless:

Zilina v Chelsea is now behind us. That does not mean, Jozef Antosik, that supporters have forgotten your exploitative practices over tickets for that game, it just means we have had enough of the issue for now. Meanwhile, the next game on Slovak soil where demand for tickets is likely to exceed supply is coming up fast. This is Slovakia v Ireland in a Euro 2012 qualifier on October 12, also in Zilina. I hate it to say so but I fear that this game too is going to be surrounded by disputes and recriminations.

In fact, there has already been one row ; between the Slovak and Irish football associations (the SFZ and the FAI respectively) over the venue. What seems to have happened is that, at initial discussions, the two bodies agreed in principle that the match should be in Bratislava. The SFZ then sent the FAI a written communication in which, the FAI claim, Bratislava was confirmed as the venue. ‘No,’ say the SFZ, ‘our letter did not contain any official confirmation.’ Later, the SFZ announced that the fixture would take place not in Bratislava but in Zilina.

Naturally, this has caused confusion. On receiving the original SFZ letter, the FAI notified Ireland supporters that the game would be in Bratislava. On the basis of this, many began to make travel arrangements. Altering these to accommodate a six-hour round trip by train from the Slovak capital to Zilina is not a simple matter. Those Irish visitors booked on the October 13th flight from Bratislava to Dublin, for example, will have to take a 2.40am train from Zilina – four hours after the game finishes – to make it to the airport in time. There have been suggestions in some quarters that the SFZ should lay on coaches to take away supporters from Bratislava to Zilina and back again. But this would involve the SFZ making at least a tacit admission that they have made a mistake. And the SFZ never make such admissions.

It was always fairly obvious that the SFZ were the guilty party in this dispute, however. For a start, a more accident-prone organization is difficult to imagine. Next to the SFZ, Frank Spencer is a model of assured competence. And, just thinking this venue question through logically, it’s difficult to believe that, if the FAI had received a letter saying, ‘the match between our countries on October 12 should take place in Bratislava but we reserve the right to change the venue,’ they would have taken this as final, definite, confirmation. It might be that nobody at the SFZ possesses the English language skills required to compose such a letter but finding a decent translator should not have been a problem. Slovakia is full of them.

Pod Dubnom: Slovakia's best

Now to tickets. The Zilina stadium is the best in Slovakia at present – why the SFZ were even considering the dreadful Pasienky ground in Bratislava as a potential venue is a question worth asking – but can only accommodate around 11,000 people. Britskibelasi has already written very well about the fact that there are no  larger stadiums with decent facilities in the country so we will leave that issue for now. The fact is that we are stuck with Zilina and its 11,000 capacity. Ireland have been given just over 1,000 tickets, a woefully inadequate number considering the usual size of their away following. As for home fans, the SFZ are selling to them exclusively through Ticketportal, an agency with outlets all over Slovakia. If you are registered, you can reserve tickets online with Ticketportal, but you have to go and pay for them in person within 24 hours. For the Ireland match, reservations and sales were supposed to start on September 12. That was changed to September 14, then September 17. A very short time after the online reservation system finally became active, all available tickets were taken. There seems to be general consent on internet forums that only around 3,000 tickets were actually made available. Some fans claim they were refreshing the Ticketportal page every minute or so, waiting for reservations to commence, yet still didn’t manage to secure tickets.

As with the Zilina v Chelsea game (sorry to mention that again), one wonders what is going on here. The SFZ have said that they have held back a number of tickets to distribute privately. If the people who have these tickets held do not claim them, they will go on sale through Ticketportal. It is understandable that the association would hold some tickets, but 7,000? Who are these people? Essentially, it all looks like another fiasco. On October 12, there will almost certainly be thousands of ticketless Irish fans, and a similarly high number of angry, frustrated Slovaks. It is terribly sad that, at a time when Slovakia has a magnificent coach (in Vladimir Weiss) and a team to be proud of, the body charged with running the game in the country continues to explore new depths of uselessness.

2 responses so far

Sep 19 2010

Zilina fans back where they belong

Published by under Domestic

The few hundred of MSK Zilina‘s most passionate loyal fans, who were brutally priced out of watching their team’s biggest ever match in the Champions League against Chelsea, were yesterday back in business following their beloved team to nearby Dubnica in a Corgon Liga match.

Back where they belong .. Zilina's diehard fans

In a story which should warm the heart of any football fan, Zilina’s Ultras organised a trip by train to the small town of Dubnica some 70km SW of Zilina. Most of the fans who made the trip were probably those who boycotted the Chelsea match due to the extortionate ticket prices, instead marching from the main square in town to outside the stadium, singing their songs, lighting flares and illuminating a huge banner proclaiming “Against Modern Football”.

This time Zilina’s fans were rewarded for stumping up the €3 entry into the MFK Dubnica stadium with an entertaining game played in front of 3,450 spectators, which by Slovak league standards was full of goals!  Zilina ran out comfortable winners and in doing so moved back to the top of the Slovak league.

Loyal // Zilina

Final score Dubnica 2-5 Zilina with goals from Jez, Oravec & Vittor  and 2 from Majtan.

Dubnica away .. primative

In an emotional few minutes at the end of the game, the whole team made a point of not only celebrating with the fans, but also marching past the fence slapping hands in the way they did after each of Zilina’s Champions League qualifying matches.

Down to earth moments with the fans

In other news from yesterday’s round of Corgon Liga matches, FK Senica continued their fine start to the season with a 2-0 victory against FC Nitra.  Senica now share top spot with Zilina and seem to be serious about prolonging their stay in the upper echelons of Slovak football.  Spartak Trnava will have been disappointed with dropping points at home in a 1-1 draw against Dukla Banska Bystrica.  Ruzomberok and Zlate Moravce also drew 1-1 and in a couple of interesting results at the bottom of the table, DAC Dunajska Streda recorded a crucial home victory over struggling Kosice, and in perhaps the shock of the season so far, bottom of the table Tatran Presov beat Slovan Bratislava 2-1 in the NE of the country.  Having said that, James Baxter did predict that Tatran wouldn’t be at the bottom of the table for long after watching them narrowly lose 2-1 at the hands of Zilina last week.  Dubnica, Kosice & DAC look certain to be drawn into the fight at the bottom along with Presov.

The situation at Slovan does not seem good, the team from the capital now sit 5th in the table, 5 points off the pace, with the fans ominously silent.  Anything but victory next week against Dubnica will surely have serious repercussions at Pasienky.

This week sees domestic cup action in Slovakia, some big games coming up for the teams from the lower divisions.  Read the preview here!

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Sep 16 2010

MSK Zilina v Chelsea

Published by under European

So, finally match-day 1 arrived in Zilina.

Who better to tell us about the match day experience than James Baxter, long-standing Zilina season ticket holder?  It is with great pleasure & gratitude that I present James’ report exclusively here on Britski Belasi, the blog which brings you real-life stories from the heart of Slovak football:

So, after the protests, the recriminations, the discussions of whether to boycott or not, the at times quite exhilirating level of supporter activism, there is a football match to report on. As was always possible, MSK Zilina v Chelsea was less of a contest than MSK Zilina vs its own fans, Chelsea effectively wrapping things up within the first 30 minutes.

Anyone interested enough to be reading this blog will know what happened on the pitch but mention of Anelka’s performance is unavoidable. A friend and fellow Zilina fan commented to me today that ‘Anelka played for 20 minutes.’ It’s true in a sense but a more devastating 20 minutes is difficult to imagine. The sulky Frenchman’s anticipation, cruise-control speed and ability to make the right decisions at the crucial moments were brilliant. I’ve been thinking since the game, perhaps naively, that Zilina would have found Drogba easier to handle.

Anelka-top class / Dubravka-steep learning curve

For the Slovaks, Pecalka tried to make up for the inadequacies of those colleagues to the right of him (left-back Patrik Mraz was sound enough) and put in a lion-hearted display. Bello didn’t look out of place in a midfield area which also featured the likes of Mikel and Essien. And the whole side couldn’t be accused of giving up ; even when there seemed to be a very real chance of conceding more than West Brom and Wigan have to Chelsea this season, Zilina kept playing their football.

Bello & Essien tussle in the midfield

Piacek and Guldan, though, will be seeing this game in their nightmares for a while yet. Piacek is normally a solid central defender but keeping up with Anelka, in body and mind, was beyond him. While Piacek is as good in his position as anyone Zilina have, the selection of Guldan is one I don’t understand. He came to the club as a central midfielder but Hapal now seems intent on converting him into a right-back, even when the perfectly competent Angelovic is fit and ready to play there. I can’t believe Guldan was in the team for his height – Chelsea’s main threat was never going to be in the air – so it really isn’t easy to figure out why he started the game.

Off-field questions, of course, will not go away. I was not in town at all on Wednesday (we had a quiet family celebration at home) so can’t comment first-hand on the atmosphere in the pubs and bars. I did have an eventful day on Tuesday, however. It included doing a short interview for Sky Sports who, credit to them, broadcast my answer about the ticket-prices. As with the Zilina fans, that issue seemed to be of more interest to their reporter than the prospects for the game itself. I also met a few Chelsea fans who were laid-back, friendly and, again, sympathetic over the ticket question.

The game was officially sold out, though, curiously, Slovak and British media report different attendances.  There were touts on the roads going to the ground, quoting 80 Euros per ticket ; I didn’t hear for what area of the ground. The atmosphere inside could have been worse. The crowd were behind Zilina during their encouraging flurry at the start of the match and again after Chelsea’s fourth goal. Yet there were long spells of silence too and you just knew that the ultras’ presence would have made the whole occasion so much more special. I don’t know how many of them went through with their stated plan of walking en-masse from Marianske Square to the ground and singing their songs outside but some certainly did. Before kick-off, they were actually audible from our seats in the East Stand, which tells you something about the relative tameness of the atmosphere inside.

Message from the Ultras

A particular irritation for me was the number of Chelsea shirts visible in the home sections of the stadium. None of their owners, as far as I could hear, were English. They were Slovak tourists, there to fawn over the stars from London and take souvenir pictures of Terry, Anelka et al. One tourist, not (thank God) dressed in a Chelsea shirt was Robert Fico, Slovakia’s former Prime Minister, whom we saw when leaving the ground at the end. The presence of people of his type, while regular fans struggled to justify the admission price, is more evidence of what kind of occasion it was.

One account of last night which I identified with was the Daily Telegraph’s. Their reporter pointed out that, if Chelsea’s security people had been a little less uptight and had allowed the players to walk the 150 yards from the Holiday Inn to the ground (as some apparently would have been happy to do), Terry and his team-mates would probably have been given flowers. An exaggeration perhaps but, while it was always expecting a lot for Zilina to seriously test Chelsea on the pitch, the English side could, and should, have had a bit more hostility to deal with from the home support. To sum up, not quite the night we all hoped for back when the draw was made. Doesn’t that seem a long time ago now?

Once again many thanks to James for this excellent report.  This story has stirred emotions amongst football fans across Europe.  In the words of the Zilina Ultras, “we will swallow this, but we will not forget it”.

5 Champions League matches remain for Zilina & their fans.  Keep following Britski Belasi for all the news on how the club decide to approach ticket sales for the remaining games, and how the fans plan to make an impact both at home and on the road.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even be there too ..

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Sep 14 2010

An image of Slovak football

Published by under Domestic

This week MSK Zilina fly the flag for Slovakia in the elite world of the Champions League.  The match against Chelsea is bringing unheard of attention from the media.  In a brief interlude to the Zilina coverage, I came across this photo & thought this was a timely moment to post on the reality of the majority of domestic football in Slovakia:

Worth 1000 Words

  • Seats ripped up and thrown out of stands:  The fans of Spartak Trnava have a bit of a reputation for smashing up stadiums they visit.  To be fair, they are not the only ones guilty of this type of behaviour.  This picture shows the respect Trnava fans have for Pasienky, the temporary home of their arch-rivals Slovan Bratislava as well as their own National team.
  • Athletics track: Pet hate of football fans across the globe, Slovakia is full of stadiums with terrible vantage points.  No wonder the fans take to smashing up the seats.
  • Temporary fences: Due to the concern surrounding security at the Slovan Bratislava v Crvena Zvezda game, these temporary fences have been erected at the capital club’s stadium.  In spite of the fact that fans from Slovan themselves, Crvena Zvezda & Stuttgart have demonstrated how easy it is to dangerously tear these fences down, they were once again used to help accommodate the visitors from Trnava.  Result of the fences?  Added danger to fans.
  • Security: There are no ‘stewards’ anywhere to be seen.  The reason for this is that they would simply not survive the bombardment of plastic seats, fireworks, bottles, coins or anything else the visiting supporters choose to hurl over the fences.  The guy in the red t-shirt on the grass is probably a ‘Trnava steward’, as you can see, doing a good job.  In case you’re wondering there are also no police because they are only required in the stadium in case of a severe riot, the club remains responsible for stewarding of the football match.
  • Loyalty: Although attendances are low, and domestic football is relatively unpopular in Slovakia, those fans which do have an allegiance to a club are fiercely loyal.  Trnava fans have a reputation for being some of the most passionate and loyal in the whole country.  Here in Bratislava at least 1,000 were present, adding a significant percentage to the attendance that day.
  • Empty seats: Not only used for segregation purposes, no photo of Slovak football would be complete without a large bank of empty seats in the background.
  • Player fan relationship: In spite of often unruly behaviour on the terraces, players will always come up and bond with the fans.  In case of a positive result / performance, often the whole team march past the fans slapping hands in the process.
  • Football culture:  The image of a player marching, hands aloft, towards a bunch of fans who have trashed their section of stadium just sums up Slovak football for me perfectly.  I’m not saying this is always the case (certain players often bear the brunt of more than their fair share of abuse), but often there is a certain bond between players and fans which is on a much more human level than that of the over-paid superstars of the bigger European leagues.  If a player gives 100% for the team, the fans always reciprocate by showing their respect. You really feel that if these type of players weren’t on the field, they would be there on the terraces too.  Not for one moment am I judging this particular player (I don’t even know who he is!), and this may be a controversial comment, but sometimes I get a real sense that a given player would also be proud of his fans for throwing those seats on the pitch!

This image was taken by the Ultras of Spartak Trnava, following their 1-1 draw against Slovan Bratislava.

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Sep 12 2010

Zilina v Presov: Situation in Zilina 4 days before Chelsea arrive in town.

Published by under Domestic,European

The discontent amongst fans in Zilina is continuing to grow ahead of the biggest match in their history.  Forget about Lampard, Terry and co. – just 4 days before the Chelsea superstars arrive in town for Zilina’s first ever Champions League group match, the conversations you’ll hear in Northern Slovakia have a very different focus.

James Baxter, a top class writer and regular contributor to WSC, lives in Zilina and is a long standing season-ticket holder at MSK.  Yesterday, James went to Zilina’s last league game before the Chelsea tie and here he brings us a fascinating update on the situation at Stadion Pod Dubnom:

The MSK Zilina v Presov game on Saturday, won 2-1 by the home side, was overshadowed by the ongoing dispute between Zilina and its fans over the prices of Chelsea tickets.

Zilina owner Jozef Antosik posted a statement on the club website before the game in which he attempts to explain the club’s decisions regarding the prices. He begins by stating that football in Zilina did not begin, nor will it end, with the Chelsea match. He then says that he ‘doesn’t insist that the club didn’t make a mistake’ over the ticket prices ; that double negative makes what admission there is seem insincere. Next, he details all the costs of running the club over the course of the season, emphasising that these costs do not come close to being met by income from ticket sales. There is also what amounts to a tacit admission that the Chelsea prices were actually intended to put the ‘ultra’ fans off. He says that these fans have pledged good behaviour before in return for favours from the club (subsidised travel to away games, lower ticket prices at home matches) yet have reneged on these promises. He adds that the club could not risk the kind of crowd trouble that has occurred at one or two recent games, including in Prague at the first leg of the Champions League play-off. Yet he does comment on the ‘fantastic atmosphere’ at that match and other recent big games. There is also a reference to defender Mario Pecalka’s criticism of the Chelsea prices, Antosik claiming that Pecalka’s monthly salary would pay for 187 fans to watch the match at 50 Euros each. The statement ends with a repeat of the point that the Chelsea games is neither the beginning nor the end of Zilina football but this time Antosik adds that, if it were the end, he would let all the fans in for nothing.

Overall, even allowing for the limitations of my Slovak, it’s an odd statement. It mixes emotion with rational assessment of facts, and shows both appreciation of and contempt for the fans. At other points, it’s not clear what Antosik is trying to say, the reaction to Pecalka’s comments being perhaps the best example. Ultimately, though, the statement fails because, while it does (just about) hint that mistakes have been made, there is no recognition whatsoever of the financial realities faced by the fans. In an area where salaries average 700 Euros and there is growing unemployment and insecurity, people find it hard to justify paying 50 Euros each (and remember those are the cheapest prices) to watch one game of football. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the sums the club are going to make from being in the Champions League.

IS IT BETTER WITHOUT US?

At the Presov match itself, the fans’ actions spoke louder than Antosik’s words. For 60 minutes, the ‘ultras’ in Section C of the North Stand sang themselves hoarse in support of their side. There were both new and old songs, all sung with feeling, but perhaps the greatest passion was reserved for chants of Pecalka’s name. Then, after an hour, the singers left their section. Many left the ground altogether, others went to sit in adjoining sections but maintained a stony silence (as did the rest of the crowd) until the final whistle. A banner was left in the empty section with the question ‘Is it better without us?’ written on it. It was a wonderfully eloquent protest ; even given the (once again) disappointingly small crowd of 3600, the difference in atmosphere once the singing had stopped was remarkable.

Zilina players celebrate Robert Jez's top strike

As for the game, Presov deserved better. With Ladislav Pecko, who won the 2009 title with Slovan Bratislava, now in charge, it’s difficult to see them being bottom of the table for long. They showed a mixture of skill and resilience that augurs well for the rest of their season. Zilina, as so often under Pavel Hapal (at least in league matches) mixed long passages of frankly tedious football with occasional moments of brilliance. Robert Jez put them 1-0 up after 14 minutes with a tremendous long-range strike and Admir Vladavic scored the second from a 44th minute penalty after Tomas Oravec had been tripped. Presov began the second half with a flowing move which ended with substitute Jan Papaj crossing for Michal Piter-Bucko to score with a diving header. They had chances to equalise after that, especially in that final half-hour when silence had fallen on the home crowd, but Zilina held on.

One suspects that Chelsea will not be too worried by what awaits them on the field on Wednesday. Zilina fans, conversely, do not seem to have got round to considering the Londoners. Few are yet wondering whether, for example, Chelsea’s attack will be quite so dangerous without Didier Drogba, or whether Momodou Ceesay will make life difficult for John Terry. They are still debating whether the tickets will sell-out, what the atmosphere will be like, even whether there will be another protest. Mr Antosik’s statement has done little to clarify any of those matters.

Many thanks to James for a fascinating report from ‘on the ground’ in Slovakia.

Zilina have temporarily regained top spot in the Corgon Liga after victory over Tatran Presov, and FK Senica’s defeat at the hands of Dukla Banska Bystrica.  Today sees two of Slovakia’s biggest rivals, Slovan Bratislava & Spartak Trnava, go head-to-head in a match where the winner will leapfrog Zilina into 1st place.   Once again the match at Pasienky stadium in Bratislava is surrounded by a massive security operation and promises to be an explosive affair both on and off the pitch.

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