Oct 24 2010

Spartak Trnava 0-0 ViOn Zlate Moravce

Published by at 9:35 pm under Domestic and tagged: , ,

An unusually large contingent of foreign football fans were present at Spartak Trnava yesterday.  One of them, James Baxter describes his first visit to one of Slovakia’s best supported clubs and in doing so provides a fascinating interpretation of the good and bad sides of the Trnava fans.

James also touches on how the portrayal of the Trnava fans in the media influences opinions amongst the general public and makes a poignant comparison with the highly devoted fans of another well known club in Slovakia, who have a very different way of showing support for their team.

It seems strange, being a football fan and having lived in Slovakia for over seven years, never to have visited the Štadion Antona Malatinského in Trnava, one of the country’s most famous grounds. I’m not a groundhopper but I do enjoy visiting different venues and this one, close to Trnava railway station on the main line between Bratislava and Košice, is among the more accessible. I also like big crowds, noise and colour and Trnava, at least when the team is hinting at doing well, provides these things, more so than just about any other ground in Slovakia.

One reason I’ve never been to Trnava is the slight loss of enthusiasm for new adventures that comes with both getting older and being in a place for a bit too long. But more than that, it’s because there’s something about Spartak Trnava and, more specifically, some of their fans, along with the way they’re covered in much of the Slovak media, that I just don’t like very much. The reason for this distaste was underlined in Senica last week. The events there have already been covered by Britski Belasi and, since I wasn’t at the game myself, I’d prefer not to judge what went on. But I was struck by how many references to the behaviour of the visiting fans in the sports sections of the newspapers here were tempered with sentiments such as ‘but, of course, the Trnava fans are the best in the country’ or ‘the Spartak fans supported their team brilliantly all afternoon’. It was even written in Šport that the home players ‘must have been jealous of the backing the Trnava team was given’.

Similar things were written in May 2008, after Trnava’s defeat to Petržalka in the final of the Slovak Cup, a match staged in Žilina. I attended as a neutral and, believe me, it was a frightening experience. About 3,000 Trnava fans made the trip, compared to 100 or so from Petržalka, and they completely filled the old the east stand. As the game wore on it became clearer and clearer that a number of Trnava fans (a good 300 or so – a minority but hardly a tiny minority) were intent on serious trouble. They began ripping seats out and using them as missiles and started spilling onto the perimeter track to fight with police. The atmosphere became so threatening that Petržalka players barely celebrated their victory on the pitch once the final whistle had been blown. On the way out of the ground, Trnava fans wrecked a refreshment kiosk, damaged numerous cars and continued fighting with police and security men. Little wonder, I thought, that so few Petržalka fans had bothered to travel ; they probably knew what was coming and had no wish to become the victims of aggression.

A definite problem for me is that the Slovak media often seem unable to differentiate between displays of passion which occasionally spill over (waving flags and singing at the top of your voice, then spilling onto the perimeter track to celebrate a winning goal, for example) and wanton acts of destruction and violence. The latter has to be condemned out of hand and too often it isn’t. After the cup final incidents, it was depressing to read in Šport that the numbers of supporters the two sides had at the game showed how Trnava fans were so much more passionate than Petržalka’s. What they should have been writing was that the behaviour displayed is actually the reason many decent Slovak people can’t stand the game of football.
The past antics of Trnava fans have not stopped me wanting to visit the Anton Malatinský stadium, they have simply meant that I’ve been prepared to wait for an unmissable opportunity to come along, rather than going out of my way. And that unmissable opportunity arrived yesterday. The logistical details are tedious but, in essence, the visit of EFW to Slovakia, together with the perfectly timed arrival of a friend from the UK, meant I had no excuse for keeping Trnava waiting any longer. Even the game, against newly-prmoted surprise packages Zlaté Moravce, was an intriguing prospect.

Zlaté Moravce have reminded me a little this season of my favourite  English team, West Bromwich Albion, in the way they have adapted better to the top-flight than most observers expected. Like most visitors to Trnava, they placed an early emphasis on caution, all their players getting behind the ball when Trnava had the ball. But their occasional forays forward showed promise and they became more adventurous in the second-half, dominating between the 45th and 75th minutes. Then, for some reason, they went on the defensive again for the final quarter of an hour, almost inviting Trnava to attack. The home side were impotent in front of goal, though, and the game ended as a 0-0 draw ; disappointing for the neutral perhaps but it was a better game than either of the two 0-0s I’ve seen in Žilina this season. Both sides might feel aggrieved by refereeing decisions. Trnava had what looked a good goal ruled out in the first-half, while Zlaté Moravce had  a strong penalty appeal turned down in the second.

Off the field, well it came as little surprise to me that Trnava fans showed their best and worst sides. Considering the ultras group was in an uncovered end, the volume of noise they produced was impressive. It never let up either ; when fans in some sections of the ground became agitated during Zlaté Moravce’s spell in the ascendency, the ultras simply got louder, as if to drown out the negativity. But, given that objects were thrown onto the pitch, including what looked like a glass bottle, following the disallowed goal, I cannot say that I left with only a positive impression of the home support. It was good to visit the ground and I hope it won’t be seven more years before my next visit. Yet I can’t say I’m desperate to get back there in the immediate future either.

Another reason I’m still sceptical about the claim that Trnava supporters are the best in Slovakia is that there is more than one way to show support. Noise and colour at matches are fine. Yes, I would like to see more of both and yes it would be a shame to see grounds like Trnava’s become sterile venues along modern-day English lines. But Petržalka fans have also been showing the way recently, most notably by putting in hours of unpaid work during the summer to ensure that their club’s temporary ground in Prievoz would be ready for use in the I Liga. With more genuine commitment like that, less aggression from the worst elements among the support of clubs such as Trnava and a greater recognition in the media of what it really means to be a fan, football in Slovakia would probably enjoy more popularity than it currently does.

Photos courtesy of ultrasspartak.sk

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Spartak Trnava 0-0 ViOn Zlate Moravce”

  1.   britskibelasion 25 Oct 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Great post James, touching on some of the problems most pertinent to the development of game in Slovakia. It is true that the fans of Trnava have a reputation which goes before them and based on the type of behaviour you describe from the cup final it is obviously justified, to a certain extent.

    One can only wonder what the residents of Mihalovice made of the visit of Trnava and Slovan fans to their quiet town for last year’s cup final. (What a shambles that was from the SFZ!)

    However I do think that there are other factors in this – you touched nicely on one – the inability of the media and public to distinguish between slight over-enthusiasum and down-right hooliganism / vandalism.

    The scenes from Senica were made to look bad and actually I wasn’t aware that there had been some defence of the fans behaviour in the media this time. Trying to maintain a partial angle to the blog, I contacted my friend at Red Blue Fanatics to ask him for his version of events last weekend. His response was to send a link to a youtube video which had been shot and posted by some Trnava fans. It was roughly 11 minutes long and contained scenes from before / during and after the game. The Senica fan had told me “their behaviour doesn’t require words, this video says it all” but I watched it through twice, and honestly, didn’t see anything that shocked or surprised me at all. Yes they had a few beers, yes a few guys had flares, yes a few streamers were thrown on the pitch but doesn’t this happen all over Europe on a weekly basis? (except in over-regulated England where you can’t even stand up of course). The breaking down of fences is obviously an act of vandalism and the perpertrators were rightly punished (arrested at least) but can you then blame the remainder of the fans breaking through under the pressure of the celebrations behind them after 2 injury time goals? Manchester City fans at Blackpool were also seen on the pitch celebrating goals in their recent Premier League game.

    I think the passionate support of Trnava is something that Slovak football needs to embrace not discourage through over the top policing. Can you imagine how it must be to sit through matches at Pasienky as a Slovan season ticket holder these days? Obviously fans will turn to other sports. Clearly there is a minority element of Trnava’s support which is behaving in an unacceptable mannor but once again is this not also the case with many teams across Europe?

    This brings me onto my other point – the SFZ, stadia and policing of the game in Slovakia. It is unfortunate that Senica also got fined for the trouble at their ground but it raises the point once again that the SFZ together with the clubs need to do something about security in stadiums otherwise you will never be able to control this problem. Look at the state of Pasienky, it’s an embarrassment that they still use those temporary fences there. They keep telling is that the money is not there, but given the extent of development in other areas of infrastructure (roads, rail, airports, apartments, shopping malls etc etc) across the country, how can it be that no town is able to organise the construction of a simple but safe ‘multi-functional’ stadium?

    I’m beginning to come around to Antosik’s thinking that a number of small but secure stadiums would be better for the game in Slovakia for the reasons mentioned above. Of course a lovely National Stadium is also on the wish list, but we have to start somewhere. Trnava, Kosice and Bratislava all had blueprints for new stadiums I’ve seen on in internet and there are no doubt several more. What has happened to all these plans? Look just down the round from Bratislava, in Gyor, Hungary and you see a massive white elephant with 16,000 capacity, great facilities and just a mid-table team. A stadium even half the size would enhance Slovakia’s football venue portfolio dramatically. I was there when Szombathely Haladazs played ETO last season, and fans from both teams tried to get at each other, even though the away fans were standing behind the goal, there was no way for them to get to the home fans and a large aggressive police force with dogs wasn’t required to keep the peace. The police also don’t help the matter, and often I have the impression they seem to thrive on physical confrontation as much as the fans. It’s no wonder situations like last week at Senica manifest themselves and the images look perhaps worse than they need to be.

    I’m not condoning vandalism and especially not the ripping up of seats in other staduims, that really doesn’t help the situation, perhaps by keeping visiting fans in standing areas you at least avoid this problem! Seriously, you need to find a way of identifying the offenders and banning them from football. While this seems a mile away from Slovak football at the moment, with a few modern stadiums this ought to be possible, just like it has been done in Holland, with much bigger fan bases to control. The atmosphere at a place like ADO Den Haag (a team with one of the worst reputations in European football) is fantastic (and safe) at the moment with the team doing well.

    My dream is for the game to develop in a way such that it manages to keep the fans and any colour and passion they bring while developing comfortable stadiums where a wide range of society enjoy to spend an afternoon of their time.

    Everybody has to play their part ..

  2.   Stary Jazvecon 29 Oct 2010 at 7:57 pm

    In 14 years of attending Slovak league matches my only two “hooligan encounters” both occured at Trnava. 10 years ago after the Petrzalka game I was punched on both sides of the head in the train station by some Trnava casuals, but saved by my mates from a worse beating. Entirely deserved, I had been screaming obscenities at their full back.

    At last season’s game, while sauntering back to the station I was accosted by 3 likely lads and instructed to empty out the contents of my bag. I understood that if it contained a scarf not to their liking, I would get it. Luckily, I only had a book on archaeology and they let it go.

    So, basically, watch yourself on the walk back to the station if you fancy a game there.

    Excellent work with the site, stunned and amazed that there are other ex-pats interested in the Slovak league.

  3.   britskibelasion 29 Oct 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks for reading & for commenting, experiences, comments & opinions are really welcome – it’s also hard for me to believe that there are other expats interested so I’m very pleased when I receive feedback like this.

    Are you still following Petrzalka?

    Trust you’ve seen the piece from your old buddy Stary Hajzel?!


  4.   Stary Jazvecon 01 Nov 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Have been going sporadically to watch the ‘Zalka at Rapid this season. Stary Hajzel? Yeah, I follow his musings, I heard rumours he’s written a book.

  5.   britskibelasion 01 Nov 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I also heard these rumours, I’m currently awaiting my copy ..

  6.   Stary Jazvecon 03 Nov 2010 at 1:18 am

    Mail me an address, I can pull some strings…

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply