Jan 15 2011

A look at the Tipsport League

Published by at 11:35 am under Czech Republic,Domestic and tagged: , ,

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

4 Responses to “A look at the Tipsport League”

  1.   britskibelasion 15 Jan 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Good result for Zilina James, but I am sure the Třinec players were handicapped by the fact they were all running around in old-school track-suit bottoms! What was that all about? Even Ceesay was in his shorts!

    It’s just as well you went, tipped to attendance up to 350, without you it would have been a lowly 349 .. how was it?!

  2.   James Baxteron 15 Jan 2011 at 6:29 pm

    We were packed in like sardines in Strazov’s one stand! The tacksuit bottoms lost me too. Leggings or tights I could have understood. Comfortable for Zilina, as the score suggests. Trinec were disappointing and Styvar was subbed at ht having done precisely nothing. Zilina appear to be trying a few new central midfield combinations, perhaps because the latest to be linked with a move is Robert Jez. Apparently, there’s interest from Gornik Zabrze and one or two clubs in the CR. My feeling about that is akin to yours about Salata possibly going to Serbia. Neither Poland or the CR would represent a step up from Zilina.

    Pich and Poliacek (one of the central midfield experiments) were good, Ceesay’s 45 minutes were the usual mixture of the brilliant and the inept.

  3.   britskibelasion 15 Jan 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I remember that Poliacek from when he was warming up in front of me at the Litex Lovech game, he seems to be doing quite well in this tournament, maybe he will start to feature more, especially if Jez is leaving. Gornik Zabrze, who are they?! Hardly a step-up from Champions League the previous season is it?!

  4.   James Baxteron 15 Jan 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I can understand Jez wanting a change, he’s had a good few years at Zilina now and given outstanding service. I just think he could make a better move than the ones mentioned so far.
    Poliacek has been mostly ineffective as a winger but his passing today, from central midfield, was very good and he scored a fine goal. Was only a friendly of course and the squad’s so big there’ll be others coming in over the next few games to stake their claims.

    Glad I didn’t stick around for the 0-0 between Mikulas and Trencin. It’ll be Zilina playing off for the semi-final place for sure.

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