Archive for October, 2010

Oct 22 2010

Slovensko Do Toho!!

Published by under Domestic,Guest

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.

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Oct 22 2010

Big weekend in Slovakia

Published by under Domestic

This round of matches could go a long way towards telling us how the rest of the season will shape up in Slovakia.

Slovan Bratislava v MSK Zilina

The pick of the weekend’s matches kicking off at 17:30 on Saturday. With Slovan already 6 points behind Zilina, it really is crunch time for the team from the capital.  A win here puts Slovan right back in it, and keeps things very interesting at the top.  A win for Zilina would see them effectively eliminate Slovan’s title aspirations for another season.  Crunch time for the Slovan fans as well, time for them to show their true colours – are they there to support the team – or will they once again be conspicuous by their absence?  Very interested to see what happens here.

There are lots of big games around Europe this weekend, but for all fans interested in football across the continent, keep an eye out for the result of this one.

Spartak Trnava v ViOn Zlate Moravce

Spartak are on a fine run at the moment, level 2nd in the league and they just fired 5 goals past Spissky Novy Ves with a weakened team in midweek in the cup.  Trnava will be hoping for a favour from arch-rivals Slovan down the road and if they in turn pick up 3 points, Spartak will be just 1 point behind Zilina at the top.  ViOn are a solid enough side, but if Spartak are serious about their challenge of Zilina, you would expect them to win this match.

This game is being attended by our friends at European Football Weekends and The Ball is Round so we’ll be reading all about it next week.  James Baxter is joining the crew and he’ll be back on Britski Belasi to give his impressions too.  The visit of 30+ ground-hopping writers and bloggers has even attracted the attention of the Slovak press and I’m really looking forward to the stories which will come out of this one.

One a side note, the EFW tour is also stopping at AS Trencin v FC Petrzalka in a 1st v 2nd clash in Division 1.  Another really interesting match, and a win for Trencin will really put them in the driving seat for promotion next season.

FK Senica v Tatran Presov

Senica are still hanging in there in 3rd place.  Senica will be expecting nothing less than 3 points here against a Tatran Presov team struggling at the bottom of the table.  If they achieve that the remain a mysterious feature at the top of the table – are they there to stay or not, nobody seems too sure!

Ruzomberok v Dubnica

Nitra v DAC

Dukla v Kosice

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Oct 20 2010

Marseille 1-0 Zilina

Published by under European

Any European football fan could well question the wisdom of spending an evening watching a struggling Olympique Marseille team take on Slovakian Champions MSK Zilina in what was largely assumed to be a forgone conclusion, at best a playoff for 3rd place in Champions League Group F.  Especially with matches such as Real Madrid v AC Milan and such other favourites as Bayern Munich, Ajax and Arsenal all kicking off simulateneously. 

But watch it we did, and it seemed by the Twitter response to my question if anyone else was watching, we were in the minority!  I did however ‘meet’ the Eurosport minute-by-minute reporter who was struggling away with a dodgy internet feed.  Luckily I had this match courtesy of the Sport 1 TV channel in The Netherlands and I got quite a bit out of what was an interesting albeit distinctly average game of football.

Mr Eurosport was right in his conclusion that ‘neither team impressed him much’ but MSK Zilina are not necessarily expected to ‘impress’ people at this level, at least not in terms of making the wider football world really take note of what they’re doing and the state of Slovak football.  They are here to gain the experience needed to continue their development and become more competitive in years to come.  Maybe they will give a couple of big names an uncomfortable ride in the process but this is all to the benefit of themselves and the Slovak football public.

This match will probably be interpreted as another goalless mission too far for the unknown minnows and the questions over their inclusion in the competition will continue to grow.  I’ll counter that point later.  Zilina were facing the French Champions, in their home stadium (renowned world-wide for it’s vociferous atmosphere) in front of a public who expected nothing less than victory in a match  with very high stakes.  All that on the back of a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea and a comprehensive 3-0 away defeat in Moscow.  What a test of character for a team playing their first season at this level.

Zilina have benefited from a good rest over the last couple of weeks back home and how that showed even before the kick-off.  Zilina looked relaxed, in good spirits and determined to give  a good showing this time out.  Empty seats were evident around the massive stadium and although the Zilina fans’ bus trip had been cancelled a healthy showing of green & yellow supporters were present in their cage in the corner of the Stade Velodrome.  Credit to them.  And how close they were to celebrating just 2 minutes into the game.  Momodou Ceesay beat his man to the byline then cut back inside towards the goal and was clearly tripped by a clumsy challenge.  I was watching with French commentary which is known for it’s lack of impartiality at the best of times, but even they were of the opinion that this was a clear penalty.  Play was waved on and Marseille fans will probably argue that the decision was levelled out after the home side also had a couple of shouts for penalties waved away later in the game, but this could and should have been a dream start for Zilina.

Expert analysis of the match can be found elsewhere but what struck me, and presumably the Zilina players too, was how awful Olympique Marseille were.  It was amazing how the French Champions who presumably see themselves capable of progressing to the knock-out stages of the Champions League, were so sloppy with possesion and so badly organised in defence, especially down the flanks.  Zilina were in the match from the start and they stayed in the match throughout.  The stats do tell the story, Marseille did dominate, without ever looking in control. 

I’ve often wondered why fans get so excited when their team wins a corner, and that feeling grew as Marseille had 12 corners in the first half, all but one of which comfortably dealt with by the Zilina defence.  I suppose after that it was inevitable that Marseille would score from their first corner of the 2nd half.  After the goal I thought it might be flood-gates time, and was preparing to credit MSK for their first half display however quite the opposite happened.  Zilina really started to play good football and exploit the awful ball-retention and gaping defensive holes left by their opponents.  I thought Hapal had the tactics spot-on from the start and his substitutions were also good and well-timed.   Majtan looked dangerous, great movement and although Ceesay didn’t exactly put himself top of Marseille’s wish-list, he did hold the ball  up well and win the flick-ons for Majtan to chase on to.  Oravec was brought on with enough time left and on another night he could also have sneaked a goal, a bit like for Slovakia against Ireland last week.

The best chance of the half and possibly the best action of the game came on 62 minutes when Robert Jez unleashed a fierce and well-placed shot from another cutting ball through Marseille’s defence and only a great save from keeper Steve Mandanda prevented the equaliser.

Right up to the dying moments of injury time Zilina could have equalised but Marseille held on for a thoroughly unconvincing victory. The ‘bare minimum’ in their own words.  Zilina gave an excellent account of themselves, and especially in the 2nd half looked an equally accomplished football team as their more illustrious hosts.  The contrast with Moscow was huge.  Stand-out performances from Stanislav Angelovič and Robert Jez and a good all-round show will leave Zilina with some hope of gaining something from the return match in Slovakia.  Marseille will not be looking forward to that trip.

I suppose the conclusion after this round of games is that the final positions in the group will remain as they are. On the subject of whether ‘minnows’ like Zilina should be in the competition, they have just given a solid account of themselves against a European giant.   Furthermore, several hundred Zilina fans travelled to support their team to a city not at all well connected with their own.  By contrast, my colleague went to Ajax v Auxerre, the team based some 6 1/2 hours drive from Amsterdam returned numerous tickets and turned up with just 200 or so supporters.  Defeated by a team who are also not exactly experiencing the best years of their history, Auxerre put on a very disappointing show.  MSK Zilina are domestic Champions, look like running away with the league again this year and came through a demanding qualifying competition to be here, what more can be asked of them?  Victory over Marseille at home would add to Slovakia’s UEFA coefficient and perhaps go someway towards silencing the critics.

My question marks would be directed more towards teams like Auxerre ..

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Oct 19 2010

Slovak Cup update

Published by under Domestic,Pohar

Today the majority of the 3rd round matches of the Slovak Cup have been played, and more Corgon Liga teams have fallen by the way-side.

Winners of these matches are through to the 1/4 finals of a competition which has had a variety of winners in recent years.  In my opinion, the stakes are high – a Europa League qualifying place accompanies the glory of winning Silverware – and I never understand why average Corgon Liga sides would put out weakened teams against amateur opponents.

Anyway, it keeps things interesting and here are the results:

ŠK Odeva Lipany (II. liga) – MFK Ružomberok (CL) 0:1  (att: 620)

Ružomberok survive a tricky tie away at a part-time Lipany team which includes a caretaker colleague of James Baxter.  Great effort from the 2nd league team, who held off their Corgon Liga opponents for 81 minutes before finally conceding.  Ružomberok won the competition in 05/06 and will be relieved to progress to the 1/4s where they will hope for a home draw against a lower division side to potentially sneak into the semis without playing spectacularly well.

MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš (I. liga) – FK Dukla Banská Bystrica (CL) 0:0, penalties: 4:2 (610)

Dukla, who qualified for this season’s Europa League courtesy of a 3rd place finish in the league, should be very disappointed at being dumped out by 1st division Liptovský Mikuláš on penalties as the cup was certainly their only route back into Europe for next season.  Their league form is poor and now the season is effectively over for Dukla.  Congratulations to Liptovský, who unexpectedly progress on to the next round.

FK Spišská Nová Ves (II. liga) – FC Spartak Trnava (CL) 0:5 (4,000)

Massive crowd in for the 2nd Division team based in a town on the edge of Slovak paradise.  Perhaps this result illustrates just how bad MFK Kosice  are this season (Spišská knocked them out of the previous round).  Approximately 70 Spartak fans made the trip and were praised for their good behaviour.  Spartak march on and should be considered serious contenders for the cup this season.

ŽP Šport Podbrezová (II. liga) – FC Nitra (CL) 0:1 (500)

Relatively straight forward assignment for Nitra who were Slovakia’s other early European representatives this season.  Podbrezova put the pressure on at the end but couldn’t convert this into a goal.  Not sure I can see Nitra going all the way in this competition, you never know though, you always have a dark horse.

TJ Spartak Myjava (II. liga) – MFK Dubnica (CL) 1:0 (1,150)

Leaders of the 2. Division West claimed their 2nd Corgon Liga scalp of the competition after defeating Senica in the previous round.  Enjoying big crowds for these exciting cup matches, this team might just be one to watch out for in the next round.

AS Trenčín (I. liga) – ŠK Slovan Bratislava (CL) 1:1, penalties 2:3 (1,913)

I fully expected Slovan to go at this match 100% as any hope left of winning the league threatens to evapourate already this weekend should they fail to beat Zilina at home.  If Slovan did give their all here, it can either be seen as a worrying sign at their lack of cutting edge, or it can be interpreted as a credit to Trencin who currently lead the 1. Division by 7 points.

This match was played out in front of a crowd in Trencin which puts Slovan’s home attendances to shame.  Obviously the home fans sensed an upset, I guess they and most of the rest of Slovak football will be disappointed they didn’t pull it off.

If Slovan were cruising with a weakened team, serious questions need to be asked as to their objectives at the moment.  Details will follow .. the holders are through by the lottery of penalties and should seriously start realising that the cup is possibly their best route into Europe and that playing finals and winning Silverware is always important to the fans.

FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce (CL) – FC Petržalka 1898 (I. liga) 2:1 (724)

Unlucky Petrzalka conceded 2 late goals to lose out at the hands of ViOn, the team they traded Corgon Liga places with this season.

Playing next week:

ŠK SFM Senec (I. liga) – MŠK Žilina (CL)

Just one thought – and a serious one at that – could this be the season for a Žilina double ?

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Oct 18 2010

Corgon Liga Matchday 12 Roundup

Published by under Domestic

Readers interested in the state of affairs in the Corgon Liga after the latest round of games, please click here!

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Oct 17 2010

The Zdeno Štrba story

Published by under International

A busy day on the blog, but I’ve saved the best until last; James Baxter summarises the interesting story of Zdeno Štrba’s international retirement, strangely announced between 2 crucial qualifiers.

Skoda Xanthi midfielder Zdeno Štrba has been speaking about the reasons for bringing to an end his time as a Slovakia international. Štrba announced his retirement last week, after Slovakia’s Euro 2012 qualifying match in Yerevan against Armenia but before the home qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Žilina. The announcement, the curious timing of it and coach Vladimir Weiss’s rather cold response caused a certain amount of controversy and speculation and Štrba has clearly felt the need to give his side of the story.

Zdeno Štrba in National colours

The facts surrounding Štrba’s decision to retire are as follows. He was selected for the Slovakia squad for both the Armenia and Ireland games and joined his team-mates in Bratislava prior to departure for Yerevan. However, he didn’t actually travel because, in his words, he ‘felt ill’. When the Slovakia team returned from Armenia, having suffered a 3-1 defeat, Štrba informed Weiss that he ‘still didn‘t feel fully fit‘ and thus didn’t wish to be considered for the Ireland game. He went on to say that he wished to retire from international football forthwith, later issuing a statement to that effect. Weiss, in his public reaction to the news, conceded that Štrba had been missed in Yerevan but made no reference to the player‘s years of service to the national team, his contribution to qualifying for this summer’s World Cup or his performances in South Africa.

It all seemed rather unsatisfactory and, inevitably, a number of rumours began to appear on Slovak internet forums. One theory, pointing to the recalls of Filip Šebo and Jan Ďurica, was that Štrba believed Weiss was attempting to turn the national squad into an Artmedia old boys club. Another suggested that player and coach had fallen out over the selection of Vladimir Weiss Junior for the Armenia game. There were suggestions of issues concerning alcohol, as well as speculation that Štrba was being adversely affected by divorce proceedings. The player himself refused to respond to any of this prior to the Ireland match, saying it would be wrong for him to be the centre of media attention at a time when Slovakia needed to concentrate on the task of gaining important qualification points. That simply raised further questions over the timing of the original announcement.

Then, in an interview published in Friday’s Šport, Štrba put forth his reasons for quitting. He admitted that he was aware of some of the message-board speculation but denied that there was any truth in it. At the age of 34, he said, he had simply begun to find international football, with all the extra travelling it entails, a drain on both body and mind. He hoped to see out his contract with Xanthi – it ends in 2011 – and to continue playing club football even after that. To succeed in that ambition it had become necessary to sacrifice his international career. He claimed to have had a virus in the week leading up to the Armenia game which had left him feeling weak and thus his presence on the pitch, in Yerevan or in Žilina, would have had a detrimental effect on his team. He would have announced his retirement after the Ireland game anyway, so, once he found he wasn’t fit to play, why not simply bring the announcement forward? In addition (this wasn’t actually said in the interview), it might be assumed that Štrba would be aware that Slovakia have just two qualifiers between now and next September, both against Andorra. Those should be safely negotiated and thus, with on-field challenges relatively undemanding, the coming 11 months should be plenty of time for Weiss to integrate a replacement into the squad.

Strba made 191 appearances for MSK Zilina. Here he challenges Aston Villa's Ashely Young in the UEFA cup.

Taken as a whole, Štrba’s international career certainly deserves recognition. Although just one year younger than fellow holding-midfielder Miroslav Karhan, he won only 26 caps, compared to Karhan’s 100 to date. The first came at the relatively advanced age of 27, against Cyprus in Larnaca, and he only really became a regular in the side towards the end of the qualification campaign for this year’s World Cup. But Štrba will forever be associated with perhaps Slovak football’s two greatest days of the independent era. A year ago, playing in central defence alongside Kornel Saláta, he was impregnable as Slovakia earned the 1-0 win in Poland which secured their place in South Africa. And he was magnificent in his more accustomed position as Italy were beaten 3-2 in the final group game of the tournament proper. A memorable image from that match is Štrba battling on with a long, deep gash, sustained in a challenge with Gennaro Gattuso, down his leg.

The footballing fates are notoriously fickle of course. While Štrba was outshining Gattuso in South Africa, Miroslav Karhan was at home nursing (and no doubt cursing) the injury which had kept him out of the World Cup. Last Tuesday night, as Štrba reflected on his decision to end his time with the national team, Karhan was bringing up his century of appearances for his country and putting in a man-of-the-match performance against the Irish. It’s a tribute of sorts to Štrba that his retirement has underlined the need for Karhan to continue the Indian summer of his own international career.

Even if Weiss and Štrba did give voice to a difference of opinion last week, it is difficult to believe there will be lingering ill-feeling. The last week or so has not been Weiss’s greatest as national team coach but doesn’t detract too much from the wonderful achievements of his time in charge. Those achievements have been made possible by the qualities possessed by players such as Štrba ; commitment to the team cause, flexibility (both positional and tactical) and determination to make the best of one’s ability. No doubt Weiss will join all true supporters of Slovak football in appreciating Štrba’s efforts in national team colours and wishing him the very best for the future.

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Oct 17 2010

Old news: Trnava fans causing chaos

Published by under Domestic

Spartak Trnava moved up to 2nd in the league level on points with FK Senica after goals scored in the 89th and 90th minutes sent their fans ballistic!

Trnava are typically one of the best followed teams in Slovakia and with the team pushing hard at the top of the table they were always going to travel en masse the 40km up the road to Senica.  A banner unveiled in a recent away match proclaimed “every match we are at home”.

Unfortunately the fans have made the headlines for the wrong reasons again after this match.  Visitors from Trnava ran a mock the whole day long and left the town of Senica and stadium in a bit of a mess.  The police were heavily involved after pitch invasions followed the 2 last minute goals.  I wasn’t there so I won’t judge them, personally I like the fact that Trnava bring some atmosphere with them,  obviously though it seems like sometimes their enthusiasm spills over into unacceptable behaviour.

Next week sees European Football Weekends , James Baxter included, travel to Spartak Trnava v Vion Zlate Moravce.  This promises to be quite an experience for the boys, one I can’t wait to read about!

This is Slovak football, folks!

Photos from Ultras Spartak

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Oct 17 2010

ADO Den Haag 2-1 Excelsior

Published by under Eredivisie

Dmitry Bulykin sent the ADO Den Haag fans into raptures with an 89th minute winner against an Excelsior side who proved very tough to break down, even when reduced to 9 men.  ADO really should have done better in terms of goalscoring but this vital win moves them into 6th place in the Eredivisie, heady heights for a team who aren’t fancied much in Holland.

The teams emerged to dramatic scenes at an officially sold out ADO stadium.  When things are going well ADO is a fantastic place to watch football!  For the first time in my experience of football in Holland we could even drink a beer at this match! Political moves from the controversial Geert Wilders now mean football fans can enjoy a beer while watching the ‘non-risk’ games.

Shock news: ADO fans enjoy beers!!

Excelsior brought a decent (by Eredivise standards) away following with them from down the road in Rotterdam and they were the ones celebrating a surprise 0-1 lead at half time after an unnecessary penalty was conceded by ADO.  On this showing, Excelsior ought to have enough to stay up this season which is surely their objective, as it was for ADO just a few weeks ago.  How things have changed!

Excelsior fans, complete with Germany flag!

ADO’s Slovak winger Frantisek Kubik levelled things shortly after the break with a fine finish to a good move started by Ricky van den Bergh but ADO took all of the half an hour that remained to finally secure the winner.  Kubik & Bulykin keep themselves moving in the goalscoring fronts and it doesn’t matter how you get the points, this was a vital win for ADO, one worth celebrating! (the place went mental!)

You can see the highlights here.

ADO smokey!

This is a Slovak blog: Kubik getting attention!

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Oct 15 2010

Corgon Liga Matchday 12 Preview with a note on Zilina’s preparation for Marseille

Published by under Domestic

All across Europe you can sense football fans celebrating the return of domestic affairs this weekend.

The International qualifiers have provided plenty of talking points but with interesting starts to so many leagues across Europe, a 2 week break seems an eternity for your average club football fan.

Here are Britski Belasi it’s no different, and (remarkably) we’re still gripped by the Slovak league going into the 12th round of matches!  The league is very interestingly poised with Zilina & Senica up the top, just 2 points separating the next 5 teams and a tight Eastern battle at the bottom between Presov and Kosice.

Fixtures this weekend and a few thoughts from my side:

ViOn Zlaté Moravce – MŠK Žilina

To give Zilina an extra day to prepare for next week’s Champions League trip to Marseille, this match has already been played on Friday night and Zilina ran out 4-0 winners.  Vion have been holding their own in their first season back in the top division and would have had some hope of getting something out of this match (together with the rest of the teams at the top of the league).  Zilina though have at last had the chance to give most of their squad a decent rest and I am not at all surprised to see them collect 3 points in stylish fashion here.

Some interesting new names in the Žilina midfield for James to tell us about: Gergel, Guldan and Zošák (who scored) and  a hat-trick from Tomáš Majtán give the Champions the chance to put their feet up tomorrow and then start preparing for next week’s trip to Marseille.  Žilina will be very relieved not to have dropped points here as various rivals will inevitably do so this weekend.  This could just be the start of Zilina ominously opening up a gap at the top of the table – if Trnava beat Senica, Zilina will be 4 points clear.

Champions League note:

I was thinking about Zilina this week, about how the Champions must really be enjoying a proper rest.  3 of their players were with the National team but it was only Oravec who featured as a sub for 10 minutes or so.  After returning from the trip to Armenia the National squad has been based in Zilina which suits the home-based players.

After starting their Champions League qualifying campaign back in mid-July and basically playing 2 matches per week since then, Zilina looked really tired in the Champions League defeat against Spartak Moscow.  They came back from that match obviously disappointed, but appear to have taken stock of the situation and are now firing on all cylinders again. Helped by an easy match at the beginning of the month behind closed doors at Kosice (which they also won 4-0)  they do go into the Marseille game with the confidence banks fully charged again as they were when they took on Sparta Prague.

The famous Ultras had been planning a bus trip to support the team in Marseille, but unfortunately this has been cancelled due to a lack of numbers.  That’s a pity but the only hope I suppose is that perhaps people are saving themselves for a mass-trip to Chelsea in November.

I’m looking forward to the Marseille v Zilina game because it should give Zilina the chance to show what they can do while at full strength, confident, and fully rested.  I’ll stick by what I always say which is that I do expect to see Zilina score, however it would still be a real shock result if they get anything from this match, especially as Marseille are obviously not Sparta Prague are they are also under real pressure to get the 3 points.

So, after a bit of a ramble here, basically what I am saying is that Zilina have another opportunity to show the rest of Europe what they are really capable of and they will definitely want to make up for the poor display in Moscow.  I will be keeping my fingers crossed they don’t let themselves down this time and that we see a competitive match.

However I fully expect Marseille to win purely because the gulf in class between the Corgon Liga and the Champions League is absolutely immense!

FK Senica v Spartak Trnava

Big game.  Just 40km separate these 2 towns and Spartak will inevitably take an army of fans with them to 2nd place Senica to make it feel like another home match (as their banners so proudly announce).  Senica have a 3 point lead on Spartak so this is a perfect opportunity for Spartak to push on and stake their claim as principle challengers to Zilina.  Senica haven’t been playing great this season but somehow have managed to reach this lofty position in the league.  This will be a massive test of their mettle under pressure both on the field and the terraces from the Trnava masses.  However Trnava are also far from consistent and lost a match away from home where they really should have done better recently against FC Nitra.  I don’t expect them to make the same mistake twice though, and I think we’ll see some spectacular scenes from this match tomorrow.

Tatran Presov v MFK Ruzomberok

Poor old Presov, despite James reporting back that they played some decent football against Zilina recently, the results really don’t seem to be going their way.  Rock bottom with just 5 points from 11 games, it is only Kosice’s equally awful start which is keeping them in with a shout of staying up.  Ruzomberok don’t seem to be at their best this season either and Presov have to try and get at least a draw from this match if they’re to seriously keep in touch at the bottom of the table.  I can’t see it happening though, Ruzomberok should have too much for Presov.

DAC Dunajska Streda v Dukla Banska Bystrica

The turnstiles will be open again at DAC but whether that is a good thing or not is questionable after they recorded their best result for months recently at home behind closed doors against Slovan.  DAC have shown a slight resurgence of form recently and are only 3 points behind a very inconsistent Dukla team.  Tough one to call, probably I’d go for a draw.

MFK Dubnica v FC Nitra

Dubnica have just done enough recently to open up some breathing space between themselves and Kosice at the bottom of the table.  They need to keep picking up points though and with this home match against another inconsistent side in Nitra they should be aiming for at least a point.  For that reason, and because it’s Slovakia and we get lots of draws, I can see this one going that way too.

MFK Kosice v Slovan Bratislava

Fascinating fixture.  I wish I was there.  There has been a strange silence from the Slovan fans recently and in the past this would have been a cross-country mission to support the Belasi boys.  I’m not sure what’s happening and if any plan to make the trip.  Kosice also re-open their gates for this match and their fans are usually pretty up for it against Slovan.  The Kosice situation on and off the field seems to go from bad to worse though and surely Slovan will be too strong here.  One thing is for sure, they need to pick up 3 points as Zilina are 9 points ahead of Slovan after their win tonight.  Anything but a win for the team from the capital would surely have repercussions.

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Oct 13 2010

Ultras Tatran Presov do Shillelaigh Den Haag

Published by under Domestic

Recently I’ve been watching the Slovak National team’s games at home in The Hague on frustratingly unreliable internet feeds.

Unfortunately with the Slovak pub in The Hague now permanently closed, there are not many other options available for Armenia v Slovakia on a night when the rest of Europe are also playing important European Championship qualifiers.  Missing half the match due to interrupted internet feeds is not ideal when trying to review games while appearing to know what you’re talking about, so for Ireland v Slovakia I had to take advantage of the obvious alternative!

Den Haag has at least 2 popular Irish pubs, both proud to show a variety of sports games.  Yesterday, I went to The Shillelaigh on Javastraat a warm, friendly and relaxed pub which serves a fantastic pint of Guinness.  Downstairs in the bar they were showing England v Montengro and Scotland v Spain.  Upstairs, the function room was given over to Slovakia v Ireland.  A handful of Irish fans were present (including Thomas, the owner) and we enjoyed plenty of banter before and during game.

I didn’t bat an eyelid when another lad walked in with a green and white scarf around his neck.  However, Thomas introduced me to a “fellow Slovak supporter” and it turned out the lad was from Presov in the East of Slovakia.  The green & white scarf was obviously nothing to do with Ireland and the lad was proudly wearing the colours of Tatran, Presov’s top flight team who are unfortunately currently propping up the Corgon Liga.

Anyway, after a few pints Guinness and an unsatisfactory performance from the Repre we were chatting away about Slovak football and the fans.  This lad obviously knew his way around the terraces and was pleased to hear my preference for Slovan who are apparently close with Presov while Kosice (Presov’s enemy) associate themselves more with Spartak Trnava (Slovan’s bitter rival).   I’d learned something new.

It was fantastic to go to an Irish pub alone to watch a match and to head home having had an enlightening conversation and furthermore having been given a small souvenir (little does the guy know how much I love to collect football souvenirs! .. )

The spirit of Slovak football can be found in the most surprising of places.

Cheers to The Shillelaigh!

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