Archive for January, 2011

Jan 26 2011

Mario Pečalka: Hapoel bound, or is he?!

Published by under Domestic

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans have contacted us asking for some info on transfer target Mario Pečalka.  Although still sceptical as to whether the move will happen or not, James Baxter, Zilina season ticket holder has very kindly agreed to tell us all about Pečalka ..

This is especially for you, Hapoel Tel Aviv fans, in case Mario Pečalka becomes your player. Žilina’s website is not, at the time of writing, reporting that Pečalka has left the club, nor is Slovakia’s sports daily, Šport. One website, www.zoznam.sk, says the move could happen, though, so let’s assume, for now, that it is going to. Anyway, I’m perfectly happy, as a Žilina fan, to tell you a little about Pečalka.

Pečalka first signed for Žilina from Slovan Bratislava in 2004. He spent the 2006/2007 season on loan with Slovan’s city rivals Inter and has been with Žilina since his return from that temporary spell. He has a few international caps for Slovakia and was one of just three home-based players included in the 29-man pre-World Cup squad last summer. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, he was one of the seven players left out of the final 22. In the early stages of his Žilina career, he played as a holding midfielder but is now generally used as a central defender.

Pečalka’s main qualities are aggression, speed, anticipation and a readiness to carry the ball forward from defensive areas. His weakness is a tendency to impetuosity. He sometimes dives into challenges when there is no real need, either allowing attackers to skip past him or giving away free-kicks. He is not above a little intimidation either. Opponents always ‘know he’s around’ and one or two have been bullied out of games completely. Pečalka should have been shown a straight red card during Žilina’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in a 2008 UEFA Cup following a vicious hack at Ashley Young. A Villa supporting friend of mine was still seething about that challenge several weeks later. Another friend, who attended one of Žilina’s autumn home games with me, observed that Pečalka went into several aerial challenges with his forearm planted firmly, and deliberately, in his oppenent’s back. If Hapoel need an enforcer, then, you could certainly do worse, but I have a feeling that, if the refereeing is strict in Israel, it will be Pečalka who has to mind his step.

I will declare my interest here and say that Pečalka is not my favourite Žilina player. This is not because of any objections to his physical approach. I think it’s more because, despite his (relatively) long association with the club, he wasn’t part of the team that won the Slovak league title under Pavel Vrba in 2006/2007 and gave all Žilina fans such joy. Pečalka might have fitted seamlessly into that side but, for me, Benjamin Vomačka and Tomáš Hubočan were slightly better central defenders and Zdeno Štrba was a marginally better (and more skillful) holding midfielder. And I would worry less if Pečalka left now than I would if Robert Jež departed. Pečalka has natural replacements in the current Žilina squad but there are few players like Jež in the whole of Slovakia. Jež, by the way, was in that 2006/2007 team.

On balance, though, I think that, if Pečalka does join Hapoel, he will do well, especially if they need what he can give. He has Champions League experience now as well. It hasn’t all been positive – he played in the infamous 0-7 defeat to Marseille in this season’s group stages and was as abject as every other Žilina player – but he was magnificent in the home game against Chelsea. Žilina might have lost that one 4-1 but the goals were largely due to the inadequacies of the rest of the defence. Without Pečalka, the result would have been a lot worse.

So there we are. Whatever the truth of all these rumours, good luck Hapoel and good luck Mario.

James Baxter

11 responses so far

Jan 26 2011

Lietava v Dosoudil: The Rivalry

Published by under Domestic

Football is a team game but one of its beauties is that the sub-plot of an individual battle can be at least as absorbing as the wider struggle of eleven against eleven. The juiciest personal rivalry in Slovak football is set to resume on April 2nd when MŠK Žilina take on Slovan Bratislava. I’m previewing it now partly because it deserves the build-up and partly because one of the participants has just given a double-page interview to Sport. In the yellow and green corner is striker Ivan Lietava, who has recently signed for Žilina for a third time following an aborted spell with Turkish side Konyaspor. The light blue side are represented by their Czech captain and central defender, Radek Dosoudil.

These are two of the best players in their positions in the Corgoň Liga. Lietava’s goals and all-round play were a major feature of Žilina’s title success last season. He started this season in fine form too, before leaving for Turkey in August. Dosoudil, for his part, won successive championship medals in 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 with Artmedia Petržalka and Slovan respectively. In both those campaigns he formed a near impregnable central defensive barrier with Kornel Saláta. The latter’s recent departure for Russian side Rostov means that Dosoudil will need to get used to a new partner come spring. He will doubtless meet the challenge head-on, just as he meets every on-field one.

What makes Lietava’s battles with Dosoudil all the more fascinating is that the two have much in common, both physically and in their approach to the game. They are big, imposing men, capable of exuding menace. Watching Dosoudil play, I wouldn’t blame an opposing striker for lacking the courage to even go near him. And, for all the critical appreciation of Žilina’s style of football last season, their success owed plenty to Lietava’s ability to intimidate defenders. Such fearsome commitment does, of course, spill over into ill-discipline at times. Dosoudil let himself down this season with a sending-off in the Europa League qualifier with Crvena Zvezda, an incident he now says he very much regrets. Lietava’s lowest moment was when he was suspended for a lengthy period last season after aiming a volley of abuse at a linesman during one game, an episode made more shameful by the fact that he wasn’t actually playing at the time but was warming up while preparing to come on as a substitute. Of course, the fact that both players are prone to such temperamental outbursts makes watching them that bit more interesting.

Lietava and Dosoudil have both been around for a while now but their rivalry has only recently begun to develop. This is largely because Lietava’s career has been rather a slow-burner. He was an unfulfilled talent at Trenčín and Banská Bystrica before his first move to Žilina, in 2007. Between then and being loaned to Denizlispor for the 2008/2009 season, he reminded one rather of Emile Heskey at his most hangdog. His first touch was unsure and he tended to snatch at even simple chances. Sadly, he became a target of criticism from some Žilina fans. On his return to Slovakia, he was transformed. It was as if he’d only just realised that, with his physical attributes and not inconsiderable skills, he could be a very fine striker. The goals began to flow, the fans took to him. Equally importantly, with Dosoudil well-established at Slovan, the real battle could begin.

A picture was published in one magazine (I don’t recall which) last summer, showing Lietava standing over a grounded Dosoudil. It was presented as symbolic of Žilina getting the better of Slovan in the title race but, in fact, the Bratislava side, with two wins out of three, had had the upper hand in the sides’ head-to-head encounters. In the last of those games, won 2-0 by Slovan, Dosoudil had certainly outperformed his man. But last July, Slovan’s visit to Žilina for the second game of the current season saw perhaps the finest installment of this contest so far. Having taken an early lead, Slovan had Marián Had harshly sent off after 25 minutes for the second of two time-wasting offences. They quickly added a second goal, though, and Dosoudil, clearly using his rage at the red card as extra motivation, was magnificent in his efforts to repel the best that Lietava and Žilina could throw at him. There were a number of on-field flare-ups. Lietava and Dosoudil, naturally, were in on every one, eyeballing each other like boxers at the weigh-in on at least one occasion. Tomáš Oravec came on as a half-time substitute and pulled one goal back for the home side. Even so, if goalkeeper Matúš Putnocký had performed his duties to the standard set by his captain, Slovan would have held on. With the final minutes approaching, though, Putnocký palmed a harmless looking shot into the air in front of him and Lietava pounced to head in the rebound.

Dosoudil, though disappointed with the result, claimed afterwards to have relished his tussle with Lietava : ‚He’s a physical player. I gave a lot out and I took a lot back. I enjoyed it and I’m sure the crowd did too.‘ Dosoudil expresses similar thoughts in his interview with Sport. He comes across as self-aware, even self-deprecating in print, especially in his admission that he can be a nutcase on the football pitch. There are no surprises when he’s asked which games he looks forward to most. ‚The ones against Žilina,’ he says, ‘especially when Lietava is playing for them. We’re both mad. We kick each other, we give no quarter, but at the end of the game we shake hands. That’s how it should be.’

To which I say, ‘too right’. Skill, technique and tactics in football are wonderful things but a red-blooded physical battle between opponents with a healthy professional respect for each other definitely has its place. Lietava v Dosoudil is one which, I sincerely hope, has a fine future ahead of it. See for yourself here in Žilina on April 2nd.

James Baxter

2 responses so far

Jan 24 2011

News from Slovakia / Good vibes from the Slovan camp?

Published by under Domestic

As I’m well overdue a new blog post, thought I’d pen a few thoughts on what’s been happening and finish with a brief burst of optimism as far as the preparations for the 2nd half of the season at Slovan Bratislava are concerned.

I’ve not written anything since the Brezovan piece mainly because I do have a day job, but also because obviously we’re still in the middle of one of the longest mid-season breaks in European football.  As Czech-based readers will no doubt sympathise, once the festivities of Christmas and New Year are over, football fans in most Western European countries don’t have to wait long for their leagues to come back with a bang.  Cue Bundesliga, Serie A, Eredivisie all firing on all cylinders again, and of course there’s no break for the EPL a league which I must admit is grabbing more than just a passing interest from myself for the first time in years.

There have been a few transfers here and there involving Slovak players.  Transfers which should give grounds for optimism as far as the National Team is concerned.  Sorry to the Red Star fans who eventually missed out on Kornel Salata, the defender who ended seemingly never-ending speculation with what in the end turned out to be a fairly low key move to Rostov in Russia.  Rostov have let a few defenders go, so Salata may fit straight in at the back as the new season in Russia approaches.

Erik Jendrisek a striker who was coming, going, staying, leaving, for the last few weeks finally ended speculation with a move from Schalke to Freiburg.  Jendrisek wasn’t quite able to nail down a place in the Schalke team and Slovakia fans should be pleased to see him slotting in up front for Freiburg in their last match against Nurnberg.  Hopefully he can go on a decent run of form and get back into reckoning with the National team.

Juraj Kucka was another one in the news for a while, and he eventually moved on a big money deal from Sparta Prague to Genoa in Serie A.  It wasn’t clear how Kucka would fit in, but reports from Italy indicate he played a good game in the cup defeat against Inter and was then selected for Genoa’s league game against Chievo.  Another player who it is good to see featuring in a big league as the next bunch of important National team fixtures approach.

Milan Lalkovic has people who watch Chelsea’s youth team swooning with his pace and skill and Vladimir Weiss Jr is still doing his thing for Rangers, although he wasn’t selected for the league defeat against Hearts where another Slovak keeper Marian Kello took the plaudits with a fine display in the Hearts goal.

There have been a few domestic movements, with Dubnica taking back Pavol Kovac, the keeper who played such a vital part in DAC’s revival towards the end of last year.  DAC were quick to replace him though, with the popular Jan Novota returning to DAC from some team I’ve never heard of in Greece.

Zilina have been quietly going about their business, strengthening with the return of international class Zdeno Strba, 6 months too late, Zilina fans may argue, after a disappointing Champions League campaign. The latest speculation from the Zilina camp is that defender Mario Pecalka may be set for a transfer to Hapoel Tel Aviv, a move which should surely motivate me into writing an article about Slovak footballing representation in numerous different countries across Europe.  I read recently that there are currently 106 Slovak footballers plying their trade abroad.  I really wonder how the National Team selectors keep up with them all!

Trnava appear to be getting ageing but International and proven Bundesliga class Miroslav Karhan back, a shrewd move which will surely strengthen their ranks significantly and together with Strba at Zilina give an all round boost to the quality on display in the Corgon Liga.  We also await with interest the progress of Robert Pich, the young striker who moved to Zilina from Dukla Banska Bystrica and if he fulfils his potential may not be playing in Slovakia for much longer.  Zilina certainly look strong enough to cruise to the title this season, the big question now I suppose is, aside from if they will finally win the cup, how will they fare in next season’s Champions League?  This all remains to be seen ..

While I’m here, I should make mention of the seemingly endless supply of talent coming through at AS Trencin.  After Cszaba Horvath and then Frantisek Kubik, two more Trencin players are currently on trial in The Netherlands.  Fanendo Adi is trialing at Ajax for the second time, but with Luis Suarez latest transfer talks apparently breaking down, one wonders if that deal will go through, although the two transfers are obviously not nearly on the same scale. Jorge Salinas, a young Paraguayan striker is also on trial, this time at PSV Eindhoven. Chelsea were interested so you would expect Salinas to get a move soon.  Credit to Trencin’s scouts and youth system though as it’s not only the foreigners they have brought to the club who are moving on to bigger leagues, there is also a long list of young Slovak talent at the club, as reported by profutbal.sk this morning.  As long as they keep playing in this ‘Breukelen Cup’ it seems like Holland might be seeing a few more Slovaks in seasons to come.

All the teams have been playing plenty of matches, either friendly games, or ‘semi-competitive’ matches in the Tipsport Liga.  With the exception of the rioting Trnava fans, there hasn’t been much to get excited about, although mention should be made of Zilina’s comprehensive and impressive 5-2 defeat of Shaktar Donetsk in another friendly cup currently being held in Dubai, a fry cry from the Slovak winter!

Zilina; envy of the Corgon Liga?

Now, I said I’d finish on Slovan, so here goes.  The team from the capital didn’t enter the Tipsport League and have been keeping largely themselves to themselves since the Champions Weekend in Prague.  An altitude training camp held in the Tatras mountains seems to have given the squad plenty of time to bond with each other and with coach Karel Jarolim.

Spirits looked high after the indoor tournament in Prague and a draw with a very experimental XI against Tatran Presov was followed up by a 2-0 win over FC Lombard Papa of the Hungarian 1st Division.  The Papa match kicks off a series of friendly games against various opposition including Videoton (this Wednesday), Petrzalka and Slavia Prague.  These matches provide Slovan with the opportunity to gain some momentum going into the 2nd half of the season, where they simply have to produce consistently good form to keep touch at the top of the league, and secure the minimum expectation of European football next season.

The first competitive match back for Slovan is away to Spartak Trnava, the biggest derby in Slovak Football, and the good news for Slovan fans is that the Ultras group, Belasa Slachta, seem to have held successful negotiations with the club management and look set to offer their full support to the team from now on.  That could be just the tonic the team needs to achieve an undefeated 2nd half of the season ..

.. whatever happens, first things first, and it will be Luxembourg v Slovakia; Britski Belasi on tour on February 9th .. hopefully a match where a few new young Slovak players will be given an opportunity .. and then the long wait for the return of domestic football will soon be over ..

2 responses so far

Jan 17 2011

Myjava v Trnava; a Slovak Security Convention

Published by under Domestic

James Baxter follows up the story on the riots in Zlin with details on what was required to maintain the peace at Trnava’s latest Tipsport (friendly) league match in the small provincial town of Mjyava, incredible:

Two photographs taken at Saturday’s Tipsport League match in Myjava between the hosts and Spartak Trnava adorn page 4 of Monday’s Šport. One shows Ľubomír Bernáth, Trnava’s skillful if unathletic forward, bringing the ball under control. The more striking image is of a large group of visiting fans attempting to follow the game from behind a high wire fence. They had been denied entry to the ground as the Myjava authorities enforced a ban on Trnava followers imposed by tournament organisers in the wake of serious trouble at their side’s game against Zlín in Luhačovice the previous week.

A closer look at that second photo is revealing. Given the reputation of Trnava fans and indeed the trouble a number of them caused in Luhačovice, you might expect to see a bunch of fearsome looking, tattoed skinheads. In fact, the image reveals only one or two people remotely like that and, in general, portrays pretty much the typical cross-section of the male football-going public (there don’t appear to be many women). There are middle-aged and oldish guys in anoraks and flat caps, fathers with young sons and a few teenagers. It’s hard to believe that hundreds of police-officers, some on horseback, fifty private security men, water cannons, a town-wide alcohol ban and a strict ID card system for buying tickets were needed to keep such a harmless-looking group under control. The undoubted truth is, as Myjava captain and former Trnava player Martin Černáček suggests, that the decent majority of Trnava fans are now suffering the consequences of what happened in Luhačovice. Černáček goes on to hope that Spartak followers will ‘learn a lesson’ from having been banned from watching their side in the Tipsport League.

The general manager of third-tier Myjava, Roman Vajaš, reckons that, if Saturday’s game had been played at the club’s main stadium, it would have attracted a bigger crowd than the 2,500 who turned up for the Slovak Cup quarter-final against Slovan Bratislava in the autumn. As it was, it took place on an artificial pitch at an enclosed training-ground, where a temporary stand had to be erected. Only people with local addresses were allowed to buy tickets, all of which (500 or so) were sold well in advance of the game. Besides the security measures deemed necessary to keep Trnava fans out, firemen with several extinguishers were also present inside the ground in case locked-out visitors attempted to lob flares or smoke-bombs (which could have damaged the pitch) over the fence.

If the action off the field sounds surreal, what took place on it was fairly mundane. Myjava took the lead after 17 minutes and, according to the Šport report, should have added an immediate second. But Bernáth equalised on the half-hour before the sides played out a goalless second half, leaving them joint top of the group with identical records. Bernáth, perhaps mindful of Šport’s rather unflattering picture of him, admits to not enjoying all the running he has to do in pre-season and pre-spring training but was full of praise for the playing conditions on offer in Myjava. The artificial pitch, he says, was just like a natural grass one and was a pleasure to play on.

Myjava, given their current lowly status in the Slovak football pyramid, have clearly done well to be selected to play in the Tipsport League and comments elsewhere from club officials suggest that they take participation as quite an honour. They will presumably be joined by competition organisers in hoping that their side’s result against Zlín in the final round of matches betters that achieved by Trnava against Zlaté Moravce. After all, the sight of mounted police, water cannons and the rest would hardly be welcome at the semi-final or final. Longer term, let’s continue to hope that something can be done about Trnava’s idiot element so that the decent fans can watch their team in peace whenever and wherever they want.

2 responses so far

Jan 15 2011

A look at the Tipsport League

As reported already on this site, the Fortuna Weekend Championship, staged last Saturday in Prague, showcased skill and exuberance on the pitch, and noise and colour, if not much taste (the sight of all those topless Slovan fans was a bit off-putting), in the stands. Watching on TV, it looked like the ideal way to spend a grey, cold January day and I hope to be there next year, whether MŠK Žilina are participating or not.

Meanwhile, another friendly tournament, the Tipsport League, held at various venues across the Czech and Slovak Republics throughout January, is a rather downbeat affair which attracts (Trnava hooligans notwithstanding) only a few diehard fans. The disadvantage the poor old Tipsport League has is that it is played outdoors – mostly on artificial pitches – and Czechs and Slovaks with sense, which is most of them, tend not to be keen on the idea of shivering through outdoor sports events in January.

Still, besides serving the usual purposes of friendly matches, the Tipsport does share one feature with the Fortuna Championship and that is its cross-border format. This season, 23 teams are competing in it, 16 from the Czech Republic and 7 from Slovakia. The winners of the three five-team groups, all of which are based in the Czech Republic, will progress to the semi-final, while those finishing top of the two four-team, Slovakia-based groups will play off for the last semi-final place. The final will be held on the last Saturday in January. Two of the groups, those based in Bohemia, feature only Czech teams, while the other three are mixed.

Žilina are hosting a group at their training centre in Strážov. Liptovský Mikuláš and Trenčín, both from Slovakia’s I Liga (one level below the Corgoň Liga), and Třinec, from the Czech Republic’s second tier, are the other competing teams.

I suspect I’m not alone in associating the town of Třinec mainly with the huge steelworks that looms menacingly over its railway station on the line between Žilina and Ostrava but there is a decent sporting tradition there too. The ice-hockey club has spent most of its history at the highest level of domestic competition while the football club enjoyed a few seasons in the top division of the old federal league in the 1960s and 1970s. The footballers are having a decent season this time round too and are currently just four points shy of second place in their league. If their 2-0 win over Mikuláš in last week’s first round of Tipsport games and 5-1 thrashing of Košice in a midweek friendly are anything to go by, they seem to be gearing up for a serious crack at promotion to the Gambrinus Liga.

The above factors might have been enough by themselves to persuade me to pay a rare visit to Strážov but tomorrow’s Žilina v Třinec game is given added intrigue by the likely presence in the Třinec side of ex-MŠK player Peter Štyvar. Štyvar will always be remembered in these parts for his expertly-taken goal in Žilina’s 2008 UEFA Cup win at Villa Park (sorry to mention that again, Villa fans!) and now he’s hoping to resurrect a career that went into serious decline thereafter. A 750,000 Euro move to Bristol City didn’t work out, nor did a loan spell at Skoda Xanthi. Štyvar spent part of last season at Trnava but only made the occasional start before deciding to try his luck with Třinec. It will be interesting to see how he performs against his old mates tomorrow.

I’ve no idea what sort of side Žilina will start this game with. Last week, the players who didn’t travel to Prague for the Fortuna Championship, earned a 1-0 win over Trenčin, which, if nothing else, shows the squad’s strength in depth. Pavel Hapal has admitted, though, that the squad is likely to get smaller over the coming weeks. The four ‘new’ players (three are returnees) are already training with the club, while no’one has yet left, despite continuing speculation over the futures of quite a few, Oravec and Rilke included. With the likes of Pečalka, Piaček, Jež and Bello available today, Žilina could field a strong team.

All this will seem trivial once the real stuff starts again in late February but, for what it’s worth, I would be surprised if the winner of this match does not go on to finish top of the group. If it’s Třinec, they’ll definitely be worth keeping an eye on when the Czech leagues get going again.

James Baxter

4 responses so far

Jan 14 2011

Spartak Trnava fans riot in Luhacovice (Czech Rep)

Published by under Czech Republic

Our first mention of Czech side FC Tescoma Zlin this week came when former Brighton’s Slovak goalkeeper Peter Brezovan referred to a pre-season friendly he played there with his former English employers Swindon Town.  In what one assumes to be a slightly different ‘off-season’ atmosphere, Zlin took on Slovak side Spartak Trnava last week in a winter break ‘Tipsport-Liga’ match.

The official attendance at the match was 500, the vast majority of whom must have been fans associated with Trnava (or Ostrava).  Slovak fans travelled on masse to Luhacovice and what started out as the type of vociferous support Trnava fans are known for with banners and pyrotechnics descended into heavy riots with police.  Trnava fans are known to have a link with fans of the Czech side Banik Ostrava and banners showing their allegiances were on display at this match.

Unfortunately this incident has happened at a time when we’ve been using the winter break tournaments involving Czech and Slovak teams such as the Fortuna Vikend Sampionu and Tipsport Liga as fine examples of the friendly rivalry that exists between teams from the former Czechoslovakia.  This type of incident is not going to do much to help the cause of the potential merged league although it is not to say that his happened purely because Trnava were playing in the Czech Republic.  Besides, football grounds like this are hardly suitable for handling large crowds and it is nothing new that Trnava fans travel in larger numbers to support their team.

Trnava won the match 1-0 thanks to an 84th minute winner from striker Lubmoir Bernath.

Photos and video of the incident can be found here:

http://www.ultras-tifo.net/photo-news/255-photo-zlin-spartak-8012011.html

4 responses so far

Jan 12 2011

The Slovak Seagull

Published by under Interview

Meet Peter Brezovan.  I am absolutely delighted to present the 4th in our series of interviews with Slovak footballers.  After Frantisek Kubik, Dušan Perniš and Filip Mentel it is an absolute privilege to welcome Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Peter Brezovan onto the site.


Peter started his career playing for youth teams in Bratislava, capital city of Slovakia before moving to the Czech Republic where he was initially signed by HFK Olomouc.  From there he moved to 1. FC Brno in the top flight of Czech football.  Peter spent several seasons at Brno before earning the opportunity to move to England.  In 2006,  Peter was signed by Swindon Town, where he went on to make 66 first team appearances.  After trials at various clubs, Peter eventually ended up on the south coast of England, where he played 20 times for The Seagulls in the 2009/10 season.  This season Peter is an important member of the Brighton squad currently top of League One and has featured in each of the FA Cup games in an ongoing winning run which sees his team face up against Watford, from one division higher, in the 4th round.

Peter is a player who has given everything in pursuit of his career as a professional footballer and I am delighted to have the opportunity to ask him a few questions, right here, exclusively on Britski Belasi:

Peter, can you tell us a bit more about where you grew up?

Yes I grew up in Bratislava, it’s brilliant I love Bratislava, I was born there and always go back there to visit my family, so that’s city number 1 for me.

You moved to the Czech Republic before you became a professional player, how did the move to Czech Republic and specifically FC Brno come about?

After a trial I went to HFK Olomouc, I spent 1 year there and after that I moved to Brno which is Premier League in Czech Republic – they chose me.

Do you remember a certain moment when you knew you were going to make it as a professional footballer and was that always your dream?

Yeah definitely, when I became a senior, everyone told me I could make it so I just went for it and luckily I became a pro in CZ.

Is there a specific person who really helped or motivated you during the early days?

Absolutely, I always needed someone who would push me forward, sometimes I got so frustrated and there were many good guys who stood by me and helped me get through everything.  I would say Jakubicka was one of the coaches who helped me a lot.  He was a goalkeeping coach in Bratislava and he helped me move to the Czech Republic as well so I was really happy to work with him.

Which team did you support when you were growing up?

I did like Slovan Bratislava, it’s a big team for me, it’s a club in Slovakia, quite famous, that club has good history.

[Slovan do toho - Ed]

Who was the most talented player you played with at Brno?

I would say Petr Svancara and Milan Pacanda were so talented, it’s just they liked many different things more than football so it didn’t go as well as it could, but definitely the biggest talents I’ve seen.

What really stood out about them?

They were very young and I don’t know how was the support from their family but they were very good, for example Pacanda had an offer from the Italian league when 17 or 18. He was a very good player but he had problems off the pitch.  It just didn’t go as well as it could have for him and he had a bad injury as well.

FC Brno 2005, Peter bottom left

What was your finest moment in Brno colours?

Mr first appearance for Brno was great – we played Sparta Prague and it was a great experience, I just enjoyed that time.

How about an away game against FC Slovacko in 2006 where you saved penalty after penalty in a shoot out?

Ah yeah, I remember!

You’ve got a reputation for saving penalties!

It didn’t mean so much for me – at that time I didn’t play for the first team and cup games are not like here in England, for example with the FA Cup, it’s not such a good level so I just took it as I took it, no big deal.

Do you still follow Zbrojovka Brno’s fortunes?

Yeah of course I have a look sometimes on the website and speak with guys who are still playing there but most of my best friends who were playing there left Brno so I don’t follow it that much now but I still have a look where are they in the table.

What are your thoughts on the situation at the club at the moment?

They are struggling but I think they just need a bit of luck to get back where they belong!

There isn’t much information on your time at Inter Bratislava.  Did you make any appearances?  Did you meet Fillip Mentel?

No I didn’t meet him, I was spending my time with Jakubicka and from the start, my loan there was not the best.   I made it back to the goal and then I did well but in the last game I knocked a player over and got a red card so that was it for me with that loan deal – I went back to Brno.   It was still a great time for me because I was living and playing in my home town Bratislava.

The club then merged with FK Senica – was it sad that Inter Bratislava disappeared and had to merge with another club?

It’s a big shame because Inter had a history and I’m just quite sad about that because as Slovakian football goes, you know I don’t know if the chairmen who run these clubs go the right way.  They should support these teams with a big history and it shouldn’t happen what just happened.

Here at Britski Belasi, our readers are interested in both Czech and Slovak football.   Therefore a potential merger between the Czech and Slovak leagues is a very interesting subject for us – how would it be to see the big rivalries between teams in these countries every week?

I think over the last years, it’s become quite even, [the standard of the] Czech league went down a bit and the Slovak league went a bit higher so it would be interesting to see those clubs face each other.

Do you think it would provide a chance for the level of football to improve, as a whole?

Yeah definitely, it would help each side in Slovak and Czech football, definitely.

You spent a lot of time at Brno and also Swindon before moving to Brighton.  How would you compare the standard of the Czech and Slovak leagues to English football?

I play in League One which is 3rd league in England but it’s still different because the people like football more here and the atmosphere around football is much better and the clubs look after everything much better than in Slovakia and Czech Republic so I would say it’s much better here.

How do you think Brighton would do if the team moved to the Czech or Slovak league?  Would they still be top of the league?

We played against Zlin [Czech Rep] in pre-season for Swindon and I could see we could play against them very easily.

We are all dreaming of a proper stadium in Bratislava, although at the moment it is a painful situation with little progress being made.  The pain for Slovan fans must be quite similar to that endured by Brighton fans after losing the Goldstone Ground and then having to watch their team play for so long at The Withdean.  If the end result in Bratislava is something similar to the new Falmer Stadium, then I guess we will all be happy eventually. How does it feel to see Slovan Bratislava and the Slovak National Team playing at Pasienky stadium rather than Tehelne Pole?

I don’t think it makes a difference, the distance between the 2 stadiums is just 5 minutes.  I don’t think it’s bad; it’s normal. People get used to it, I don’t think it will be a problem.

Interestingly the first English manager to sign you was Dennis Wise at Swindon when Gus Poyet was his assistant, now you are playing under Gus Poyet at Brighton.  What sort of feeling do you have towards Gus Poyet as a person and as a coach?

When Gus was in Swindon I broke my arm after a few months and he was always a great man and he had a great attitude, he was a big professional.  I just know him as a great professional and now he is proving himself as a great manager, so that’s the thing; I can just respect him.

Tony Godden is the goalkeeping coach at Brighton; how is the coaching in England for goalkeepers compared to back home in Slovakia?

There is no big difference, it’s kind of the same, it’s more about how you get on with that person – how you can talk to each other about how to improve – what you did wrong, how you can improve.  There is no major difference.

Brighton are obviously going through a great spell at the moment; top of the league – how does it feel to be involved in a squad that’s doing so well this season ?

To be fair, I’ve never been involved in as good a team as I am now so that’s a great experience and you can feel it in the dressing room – the atmosphere is great and we just try to enjoy it as I do – I am really enjoying it.  In Swindon we were always around 13th or 14th place so its not the best, this is something different.

So, is this the most enjoyable season you’ve had as a footballer?

Yeah, yeah definitely, and it’s a big responsibility as well – I’m not playing at the moment, but if something happens, that’s a big pressure, that’s really different.

Do you have a highlight and lowlight of your career so far?

Not really, not really, I think I had great form before I broke my arm [while playing for Swindon] and that was the best time in my career.  I was just playing and I had a good manager behind me who could help me. I felt great, then the broken arm happened and I was one year off.  That was probably the highlight [and lowlight].

You had a trial for Everton, a club which has now signed Jan Mucha [Slovak National Goalkeeper] who hasn’t actually played yet this season.  How difficult is it as a goalkeeper to decide which club to go to to fulfil your potential while knowing you might end up spending a lot of time sitting on the bench?

You have to take it – if you have an opportunity to go to Everton – that’s a club from the Premier League the best league in the world so you can’t just refuse it because you have in your head that you wont play.  We just have to go there and try to get the first place.

Do you have any regrets in your career?

Not really, I am quite happy, I could go higher, I could go lower, so I found a nice middle ground.

Do you feel that the best of Peter Brezovan is still to come? Are you at your best now?

I don’t play now.  If you want to prove something you have to play.  Of course I feel I can play again and be better than I am now.  You always have to think you have something to prove.

You and Caspar Ankergren are currently competing for that starting place in The Seagulls’ goal. Is it a friendly rivalry? How do you guys get on off the pitch, and on the pitch?

That’s definitely the best relationship I ever had with any team mate.   I really can’t complain He’s a great guy, we spend a lot of time together on and off the pitch.  I would say it can’t be any better.

Are you satisfied at the moment with just playing cup games or are you fishing to get the number 1 jersey back?

Of course I try to get back into the goal, but if the team plays well there is not much point to change the keeper so I have to wait.

If Brighton get promoted this season and Crystal Palace stay in the league above you could play each other.  As a Slovakian are you aware what that means to the fans, the rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace?

No, I have no idea!

[he does now - Ed!]

At 31 you should still have a good few years left in you as a goalkeeper.  How would you like to see your career develop from here?  Can you see yourself returning to end your career back in Slovakia or Czech Republic?

Last season was quite hard, I couldn’t get a club and football changes every year so I have no idea what’s going to be after another year, so I don’t want to predict the future. I would like to come back to the Czech Republic, why not? I’ve got a girlfriend there so I would love to live there after my career so it would be nice to play for a team.

You’re a talented artist.  Do you have any plans for an exhibition?

I was planning to do an exhibition but I didn’t have time.  I wanted to do that in Czech and then I moved to Brighton.  I’m still doing my art, and when I come back home I’ll definitely do an exhibition and try to make some money from it.  It’s a good hobby and it can be a good business too.

Dušan Perniš [Dundee Utd & Slovakia GK] recommends our English readers to try babovka [a Slovak cake].  Would you agree with him or do you have another Slovak cake you would recommend?

I’m not a big fan of English food so I would recommend every single food from Slovakia!

What Slovakian food do you miss the most?

I just miss a bit of salt, pepper and garlic in every food – that’s the basic in Slovakian food and I just cant feel it in English food!

Peter, you’ve been absolutely brilliant, I am sure your fans would love to see you back in Brno and in the meantime, we wish you, and The Seagulls the best of success this season and beyond.  If you do think about returning home, I am sure that Slovan Bratislava are always on the look out for a goalkeeper as talented as yourself!  Besides, we are friends with Brno!

I have to thank Ralph Davies – a massive Brno fan, and friend of the site, for his help. Keep reading Britski Belasi for more from Peter’s old team-mates back in Brno!

I would like to thank Danny Last and Paul Camillin for their help and especially Will Jago at Brighton & Hove Albion for making this interview happen.

To echo previous sentiments, talking to guys like Frantisek, Dusan, Filip & Peter is absolutely fascinating and it really means a lot for the fans to get this kind of contact with the players they turn out to watch every week!  Hopefully there will be more like this to come, from Britski Belasi, the Slovak Football Blog!


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Jan 12 2011

Nathan Ashton to Slovan? Perhaps not!

Published by under Domestic

Expat interest in Slovak football perked up recently as news emerged that English defender Nathan Ashton was on trial at Slovan Bratislava.   Slovan apparently scouted Ashton from the nether regions (Isthmian Premier) of English football where he was playing at Cray Wanderers .. who are they, one may rightly ask?!

Not quite sky blue: to je skoda!

Who better to tell the full story about the guy who would have become the first Englishman to play in Slovak football than the excellent @lesrosbifs .. editor of the unique website documenting the trials and tribulations of English footballers abroad?!  Great work Gav!

http://lesrosbifs.net/2011/01/former-fulham-and-wycombe-wanderers-defender-fails-to-impress-in-slovakia/

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Jan 09 2011

FORTUNA VÍKEND ŠAMPIONŮ 2011

Published by under Czech Republic

Yesterday a special event took place in the O2 Arena in Prague, one that I feel deserves all the publicity it can get.  With the Czech and Slovak Republics in the middle of a painfully long winter break (league football doesn’t start until the end of February), this indoor football tournament is perfectly timed and seems to be gaining popularity amongst players and fans alike.

Winter entertainment, oh yes!

The tournament takes place over one day with six teams split into two groups of three.  Three Prague-based teams, Sparta, Slavia and Bohemians were joined this year by Slovan Liberec and two big guns from Slovakia, MSK Zilina and Slovan Bratislava.

I’m not a futsal expert (yet) but basically it looks like 5-a-side with rolling subs and no throw-ins and it seems mighty popular in the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and presumably other countries in the region.  There are several aspects that stand out to me as making this tournament so special, and I’ll get to the off-the-field stuff shortly!  What really impresses me on the field is that plenty of the big name players get involved.  How fantastic to watch Zilina take on Slovan in 5-a-side match with Momodou Ceesay (who may have taken the opportunity to have a chat with representatives from Sparta?!), Robert Jez and new boy Róbert Pich (signed recently from Banska Bystrica) for example, up against Karim Guédé, Filip Šebo and Martin Dobrotka?

Around 9,500 fans took this great opportunity to see lots of exciting players in action and there was significant support for all three Prague teams as well as a large number of travelling fans from Bratislava.  Belasa Slachta were out in force and provided especially vociferous support for Slovan throughout the day.

Slovan fans

Unfortunately beer wasn’t allowed into the seating areas but this was probably a good thing with Slovan fans in especially close proximity to their Slavia rivals.  From the pictures though the atmosphere seemed very good natured and what a totally unique situation with at least four sets of rival fans in the same Arena (Zilina & Liberec apparently didn’t bring any support?!)  Obviously in the indoor arena with the roof closed, the noise is amplified and what a refreshing change this is from the open athletics-track stadiums so prominent throughout Slovakia!

5-a-side Prague derby? Superb.

Slovan came into the tournament as holders after defeating Slavia 5-1 in last year’s final and were exceptional in their two group games beating Zilina 5-2 and Bohemians 5-1.  Togoloese Slovakia-wannabe Karim Guédé proved himself a master of this version of the game with 5 goals and I must make special mention of one touch of genius I saw from Robert Pich of Zilina. He managed to bring a high ball back over his head with his chest, turned and volleyed into the net, more quality like that and he won’t be in the Corgon Liga for long!

So both Slovans topped their groups.  Bratislava finished clear top of Skupina A,  Liberec narrowly took top spot in Skupina B despite losing to Sparta thanks to goals-scored (they beat Slavia 8-5 !)  This meant Slovan faced Sparta in the semi-final and a highly entertaining game finished 4-4.  Slovan unfortunately lost 2-1 on penalties so just missed out on the final.  Zilina were hammered 6-2 by Liberec so the two Slovak teams met again in the 3rd place play-off.  Slovan proved the first match wasn’t a fluke and have full futsal bragging rights in Slovakia after running out 4-3 winners to finish the day in 3rd place.

Unfortunately Slovan couldn’t hold onto their title, but they were the only undefeated team on the day and showed a good team spirit and rapport with the fans.  Hopefully this is a sign of how they will start back in the Corgon Liga post-winter break.

Credit to Liberec, they eased past Sparta 6-3 in the final and were obviously delighted to lift this coveted trophy, pity they didn’t have any fans there to celebrate!

Liberec-Sampion!

Credit also to the organisers, the players (who scored 83 goals between them), fans and sponsors for contributing to a quality event.  Here’s hoping for more like this in the future and I’m already plotting the Britski Belasi tour to VÍKEND ŠAMPIONŮ 2012.

Full summary and statistics as well as more photos can be found here.

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Jan 06 2011

Slovaks On The Move … (?)

Published by under Domestic,European

There are times, especially Wednesday afternoons in term-time when I’m trying my inadequate best to interest B4 in the nuances of some point of English grammar, when I wish I was a football journalist. But now is not one of them because I really wouldn’t fancy the idea of having to make my living from following the transfer window. It must be soul-destroying at times ; you follow discussions, speculative whispers, and finally put two and two together to deduce that Player A is certain to join Club X tomorrow only to discover that, in fact, he is staying with Club Y after all. A couple of days later, you find that he has signed a contract with Club Z, having been in secret (to you anyway) negotiations with them all along.

With all that in mind, the idea of writing an article summarising the likely comings and goings of Slovak footballers this January has held little appeal for me. On the other hand, it does seem worthwhile to have a look at some of the players under consideration and what they might have to offer prospective new clubs.

Nobody seems very sure what the next few months hold for Erik Jendrišek. Having signed for Schalke 04 last summer, he made only three first-team appearances during the first half of the Bundesliga season and looked certain to be joining Panithinaikos on loan. Then a few other German clubs expressed an interest and the upshot is that he seems to be going nowhere for now, other than to Turkey with the rest of the Schalke squad for a pre-spring training camp.

There have been times in Jendrišek’s career when his main strength was clearly his finishing. In the Slovak league, he hit 30 goals in 56 appeances for Ružomberok and formed an excellent partnership with Ján Nezmar duing the club’s Corgoň Liga title-winning campaign in 2005/2006. And it was largely his goals that fired Kaiserslauten to promotion last season. For Slovakia, he scored a famous goal in Prague that earned a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. But, thanks perhaps to his pace, preference for his left foot and willingness to help out in defence, Jendrišek has often been used as a left-sided midfielder and even, in his last outing for the national side, a friendly against Bosnia, as a left-back. I sense that his versatility would make him a useful asset to a smaller club – after all, one player who can do a solid job in two or more positions is likely to come cheaper than two specialists – but that at Schalke, a big, ambitious outfit, he has not yet been convincing enough to hold down any one role.

A Slovak player whose move is 100% definite is retired international Zdeno Štrba, who is returning to MŠK Žilina having terminated his contract with Greek club Skoda Xanthi six months early. Štrba has been quite forthcoming about his reasons for leaving Greece, which are related to the education of his three young daughters. His signing was not one Žilina were actively seeking but, once Štrba had made clear his wish to return to Slovakia, it was one they couldn’t miss out on. At the age of 34, and with 26 international appearances as well as a wealth of club-level experience behind him, Štrba would seem to be a welcome addition to the Žilina ranks. Coach Pavel Hapal might be wondering where to play him, though. Štrba’s preferred position is defensive midfield, but Ľubomír Guldan is hoping to make that his own. Central defence is another possibility but Hapal has plenty of options there too. Still, Štrba’s versatility will be valued. The fact that he knows and loves Žilina – he was occasionally seen at home games even during his spell with Xanthi – also counts in his favour. As a Žilina supporter myself, I just wish Štrba had been around for the Champions League campaign.

Juraj Kucka, reportedly about to join Genoa from Sparta Prague, is a rather different case. He is a powerful, energetic central midfielder who can both protect his defence and get forward to score goals. It says something about him that he was the only player to force his way into Slovakia’s World Cup squad despite not having made an appearance in qualifying. On his selection, coach Vladimir Weiss said of him that his performances and conduct (rather than words) at the 30-strong training camp ahead of the tournament made an unequivocal ‘you have to pick me’ statement. He was excellent in a late May friendly against Cameroon, truly magnificent against Italy in the decisive group game in the finals and has had solid games in the Euro 2012 qualification campaign so far. Resembling Steven Gerrard in both looks and playing style (the likeness even extends to the pained expression he affects when a miscued 40-yard shot has Row Z scrambling for cover), Kucka could well be a good enough player for a decent Serie A side, not to mention Slovakia, to build their team around for quite a few years to come.

Jendrišek, Štrba and Kucka are not the only Slovak players likely to be on the move this month. This site has already covered Crvena Zvezda’s interest in central defender Kornel Saláta. Saláta could hardly have been more open about his wish to play football in a country other than Slovakia but, for now, he is still training with Slovan Bratislava. At his best, he dominates in the air and plays with a calmness that complements the more openly aggressive instincts of the likes of Radek Dosoudil, his centre-back partner at Slovan, or Martin Škrtel, who plays alongside him for Slovakia. Saláta’s problem, and the reason why Zvezda’s offer seems to be as attractive as any currently on the table, is that he hasn’t been anywhere near his best since about mid-September. Then there is Kamil Kopúnek, who looks like he will have to seek new employers following the financial collapse of Saturn Moscow, and Marek Hamšík, who seems fated to be surrounded by speculation until the day he finally leaves Napoli.

It will be interesting to see not only where, but also how, these and other Slovak players perform over the coming months. With Slovak football’s interests at heart, I hope that any moves they do make will work out well. For now though, I’m happy to leave the ‘real’ reporting on those moves to the proper journalists. Good luck to them.

James Baxter

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