Oct 22 2010

Slovensko Do Toho!!

Published by at 10:44 pm under Domestic,Guest and tagged: ,

What incredible timing!  This month’s edition of WSC magazine contains a fantastic piece on the former Artmedia, now FC Petrzalka, superbly written by James Baxter.  Thanks to the wonderful world of networking bloggers, I am very proud to post the following article written by Ian Cusack, which was actually published in the Official Match Day Programme of Percy Main Amateur Football Club on 28th March 2009.  Ian is a big Petrzalka fan, and here he does a great job of explaining why; it’s a fascinating read:

Slovensko Do Toho!!*

This week we have the opportunity to exorcise painful memories of last season’s 5-0 home stuffing by Rutherford, while supporters of Newcastle United can take stock and have a breather, as their team’s seemingly inevitable breakneck hurtle in to the Championship goes in to abeyance for a week. The reason for this is that it is the wonderful spectacle of meaningless fixtures, mass substitutions and sterile non-football that tells us it has to be international week.

I must admit international football isn’t really my thing. If the Rutherford game was a week later, I’d be penning my usual drivel about the start of the Irish football season (Galway United and Bohemians battling it out for top spot) or the new film based on Brian Clough’s ill-starred 44 day reign at Elland Road, The Damned United, based on David Peace’s magnificent novel of the same name, which every football lover should read as a matter of urgency. However, for the sake of journalistic integrity, I’ll give these examples of nationalistic nonsense my full attention.

Unsurprisingly, Ireland are my footballing nation (and a big well done to the rugby lads for the Grand Slam last week, which took my mind off Steven Taylor’s latest arrogant sporting suicide mission), so the 17.45 kick off at Croke Park versus Bulgaria will occupy my mind later on today. I’ve only ever seen Ireland once, and that was at U21 level at St. James’ Park in 1994. They lost 2-0 but I enjoyed myself as mackem Martin Smith’s every touch was booed mercilessly, rather like Nick Pickering’s versus Russia at the same venue and same level had been in 1983. Indeed the majority of my other international footballing experience has either been at that ground or that level; Bulgaria 1 Romania 0 at Euro 96 and England U21 4 Holland U21 0 at the Madjeski Stadium in August 2000, accompanying the Chinese U17 team, to whom I was acting as English tutor (it’s a long story…), for example.

Despite the fact that I’d probably cheer the Taleban XI on if they were playing England, their home friendly with Slovakia at Wembley today did grab my attention. I thought about going, but frankly how could I miss out on Purvis Park after last week’s marvellous showing against Killingworth? The reason for toying with travelling is I spent 2 years, between 1999 and 2001 in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava and loved the place, especially its football. Remember Newcastle 1 sunderland 2 in a thunderstorm with Shearer and Ferguson on the bench? Or Sir Bobby in the hot seat as Newcastle trounced Sheff Wed 8-0? Guess which was the last game I saw and first I missed when heading to Bratislava in September 1999?

Slovakia is the less glamorous bit of the old Czechoslovakia, utterly opposed to the tolerance and (literal) Bohemian atmosphere of Prague. Football wise, there has been no Pavel Srnicek, Pavel Nedved, Peter Cech or Karel Poborsky to boast of; recently their most famous players have been Szilard Nemeth at the smogs, Stano Varga at the mackems, Lubo Moravcik at Celtic and Martin Skrtel at Liverpool. Club wise, Slovan Bratislava are the most famous team. Winners of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1969, Slovakia’s only European honour, they were eclipsed for about 8 years by their very local rivals Inter Bratislava (we’re talking Dundee and Dundee United levels of proximity here). I lived in a flat that looked in to Slovan from the living room and kitchen and Inter from the bedroom and balcony, but supported neither.

Slovan’s ground is the national stadium and is full of Nazi boneheads in Rangers or Millwall shirts and swastika armbands, while Inter played in front of about 1,000 in a soulless athletics stadium without cover. My side were (Artmedia) Petrzalka, who played in the scenic Stary Most ground and wore black and white striped shirts. You may remember them trouncing Celtic 5-0 in the Champions League qualifiers in 2005, but when I saw them they finished just above relegation both years. Crowds were only 6,000, but they played in a proper old style ground and the fans were close to the pitch. Just after I left, they embarked on their glory years; winning the Cup in 2003, League in 2004 & 2005 and Cup again in 2006. Sadly, with Inter going boom and subsequently getting relegated, Petrzalka made a sound business but terribly unromantic decision and sold their lovely old ground for hotel and office development and are now playing at the soulless Pasienka athletics stadium. What a shame! I still look out for their results and would love to go back again some time.

While following Petrzalka, I had the chance to travel around and see a few small towns that boasted teams in the Slovak top flight; Senec, Trnava, Sala and Trencin for starters. While I enjoyed these days out, especially as tickets, travel and beer were all dirt cheap, my two favourite trips had more than a passing hint of the outfit from Barrack Road about them.

In Slovakia one of my best mates was another Newcastle fan, Brendan from Durham, and one drunken Thursday night we concocted a plan to travel across the border to Ostrava, home of Pavel Srnicek, to see his home town team and first club, take on their local rivals Sigma Olomouc. Arriving hopelessly early on the Saturday following, having misread the train timetables; we found the nearest pub to the ground, the originally titled Futbalpub, to while away the hours to kick-off.

Walking in, with a sense of travellers’ trepidation, we found the place looking like the old supporters’ shop opposite The Farmers’ Rest; black and white from floor to ceiling, with framed Pavel shirts behind the bar and a huge mural of the 1993 Promotion winning side with him in a “Pavel is a Geordie” tee shirt, covering one wall. As soon as our loyalties were discovered the locals embraced us like long-lost cousins and we drank for free for 12 hours solid, in the pub and in the ground, which included a memorable 2-0 home win, when the Ostrava Ultras sang “The Blaydon Races” for the last 10 minutes, with perhaps more enthusiasm than accuracy.

Even better was seeing Newcastle play mid ranking Slovak side Dubnica in the Inter Toto Cup in 2005. Only 84 Geordies made the trip, but it was one game I would not have missed for the world; we won 3-1, Michael Chopra scored his opening 2 goals for The Mags and I had a chance to show a load of drunken Geordies one of the best countries and cities in the world. One day I’ll recount how Douglas Hall asked me if I liked sex and travel in an Irish pub in downtown Bratislava at 4 in the morning, but not right now!

I went over there to teach English to University students and business bigwigs, but my favourite student was Stano Griga, who managed the Slovak U21 side at the time, then went on to boss Slavia Prague. He was a former player with Nitra, Sparta Prague, Feyenoord (where he played against Spurs in the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup) and Austria Vienna, where he wound down his career. He was also a Czechoslovak international who played at the 1990 World Cup and used to sort a few of us out with tickets for Slovakia internationals; 0-0 v Sweden and 3-1 v Azerbaijan, when Nemeth scored after 19 seconds, stand out in the memory.

One tournament that stands out is the 2000 European Under 21s; I remember mouthy, drunken Chelsea fans watching England beat Turkey 6-0, then lose 1-0 to Italy and 2-0 to Slovakia, who won their group and lost to Holland in the final. At least there were only 100 Three Lions scumbags in town then; when England played in Bratislava in October 2002, Michael Owen scored a double and there were clashes between the local police and England fans. When I saw Slovakia lose 2-1 to England Under 21 at Stadium of Shite in 2003, only 35 Slovaks were there. They are a good people and I hope the ones at Wembley today enjoy their day out.

*”Come on Slovakia,” in Slovak

Ijen Kjusak (as Ian Cusack sounds like Eye-ann Tsoosats to a Slovak)

Ian’s blog Payaso del Mierda can be found here.

Ian can be followed on Twitter here.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Slovensko Do Toho!!”

  1.   britskibelasion 22 Oct 2010 at 11:15 pm

    “Crowds were only 6,000, but they played in a proper old style ground and the fans were close to the pitch.”

    In today’s Corgon Liga only a very few select (high-risk) fixtures would get crowds of 6,000. It must have been a real pleasure to watch games at Stary Most. I seriously hope they will be back where they belong soon, and having read James’ piece, the signs are good for 2013. I for one am already looking forward to the homecoming of FC Petrzalka!

  2.   Stary Jazvecon 01 Nov 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Vis-à-vis the Petrzalka ground:

    Being Ruzinov-based, I am quite happy with the current cracking little Petržalka home ground, Rapid. The Rapid club is long since defunct and MFK Petržalka also ceased to exist. So for my money the best option would be to rename the club and go for a Rapid Bratislava revival and forget this return to Petržalka nonsense.

    How many Petržalka residents bothered to turn out at Inter or Dúbravka. Almost none. A boycott? Or just couldn’t be arsed to cross the river when Aupark is so much closer. Certainly almost none of these “Engerau” johnny-came-lately “kotol” kiddies were there, but that’s another story.

  3.   britskibelasion 01 Nov 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Rapid Petrzalka gets my vote, that would be the best-named footy club in Europe and they could invite Rapid Wien over for a pre-season round-robin / mass-scrap with Slovan!

  4.   Estojaon 16 Mar 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Rapid Petrzalka sounds great.

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