Oct 10 2011

A Tribute to Miroslav Karhan

Published by at 5:43 pm under Domestic,International and tagged:

The SFZ made one of their habitual balls-ups in their preparations for Slovakia’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Russia on Friday night. They were late booking the team into the hotel it normally uses for games in Žilina – somewhere on the road to Terchová, I gather – and, with the Russians having already secured the Holiday Inn close to the ground, were forced to book the Dubná Skala hotel in the city-centre.

This led to a short but unexpected encounter for me on the Thursday evening. I was leaving the Mirage shopping-centre (not a place I often frequent, let me say) when I almost bumped into a man who was on his way in. If I’d registered him without knowing who he was, I might have had him down as a super-fit middle-aged type, perhaps an army fitness instructor who spends his holidays climbing 8,000-metre peaks. The logo on his blue training-top might have given him away as a footballer, though, and he was in fact Slovakia’s most capped player, Miroslav Karhan.

24 hours or so later, Karhan was at the centre of the best moment of Friday evening. Just before the Russia game kicked-off, he was presented with a special UEFA award for players who have represented their country 100 times or more. The Slovak fans, naturally, responded with warm applause. So, to their great credit, did a healthy proportion of the visiting contingent. You could, I think, know your European and international football pretty well without knowing much about Karhan but you would have to be pretty mean-spirited to suggest he didn’t deserve this bit of recognition.

The game itself saw Karhan give his trademark performance. Strong, reliable, strikingly mobile for a 35 year-old and always constructive with the ball, he did everything in his own power to give his side a chance of the unlikely victory that would have kept qualification hopes alive. Sadly, it wasn’t quite enough and, being the one defensive midfielder left on the pitch, he was the obvious candidate to be withdrawn when Vladimír Weiss belatedly threw striker Filip Šebo into the mix towards the end of the contest.

Afterwards, showing a greater sense of reality than some of his team-mates, Karhan acknowledged that Russia had been the better side and that Slovakia had never really looked like winning the game. He also took the opportunity to announce his own retirement from international football, admitting in the process that he would have quit after last year’s World Cup if injury hadn’t prevented him from going to South Africa.

It is here that the real sadness of Karhan’s representative career lies. He was crucial to qualifying for the 2010 tournament, doing at least as much as any player to drag the side to one of its finest achievements, and fitness had never been much of an issue for him before. Although he tried to downplay the personal disappointment his injury caused, it was obvious that it had made him all the keener to participate in one tournament finals before he retired, hence the decision to play in the current qualification campaign. And overall, you would struggle to dispute the assertion that he has again been one of Slovakia’s better performers. He was a clear man-of-the-match in the battling draw at home to Ireland last October, saved the side from total embarrassment by being the only player with the necessary technique and composure to find the back of Andorra’s net at Pasienky in June, and he was pivotal to his team’s dominance of central midfield in the 0-0 draw in Dublin last month. There are several people who should be looking hard at themselves following Slovakia’s failings in Group B but Miroslav Karhan is not one of them.

Karhan still has some football left in him of course. His facial features might be those of a middle-aged man but he still runs around like someone in his mid-twenties, as my local team Žilina found to their cost when losing at home to his current side, Spartak Trnava, in August. I can’t say that I hope Trnava win the Corgoň Liga this season but I‘ll be happy for Karhan if they do, the more so because they are also the club he started his professional career with. The Slovakia national team will have to manage without him now, but Trnava and the domestic league are lucky to have him and I hope he’ll be around to be appreciated for a while longer yet.

Finally some details on Karhan’s Slovakia career ; he made 107 international appearances between his debut in1995 and last Friday, scoring 14 goals. He has always been a versatile performer, able to play in several positions, including centre-back and his more favoured holding-midfield role. He was named Slovak Footballer of the Year in 2002 and was presented with a special award for services to Slovak football at the Player of the Year awards night in March of this year.

James Baxter

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “A Tribute to Miroslav Karhan”

  1.   StaryJazvecon 11 Oct 2011 at 1:02 am

    I hope Trnava win the Corgoň Liga this season.

  2.   StaryJazvecon 11 Oct 2011 at 1:07 am

    Will you be at Trencin for the groundspotter meet up?

  3.   George Mon 12 Oct 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Well apart from all the sugar & honey , quite nicely put James . Playing over 100 times for Slovakia , scary stuff eh ? All those games, where there were more supporters for a Sunday league match at Hackney Marshes playing fields .

    I wonder what his greatest memory was ?

  4.   Estojaon 17 Oct 2011 at 12:29 pm

    It seems ages since he was playing in Spain for Real Betis. It was just one season but I remember him very well.

    Great career. I also think it would be nice if Trnava wins the title this year.

  5.   James Baxteron 17 Oct 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Well they seem to have recovered from their collective brainstorm against Ruzomberok a couple of weeks ago, so you may get your wish. It would make a change if they won it, I’ll admit that much.

    Some lovely skills from Trencin in the 1st half on Saturday, looks like you saw quite a decent game there. Weiss says it was the best game in the league all season.

  6.   britskibelasion 17 Oct 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Karhan is a superb player. I saw him for the first time live at Trnava v DAC earlier this season. He stood out head-and-shoulders above the rest. Obviously I don’t hope Trnava win the league this year, but I certainly do hope that Karhan stays to entertain us for a year or two more. Great article James, very nicely pitched.

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