Feb 28 2012

Banik v Jablonec

Published by at 10:26 am under Uncategorized

‘If you told a Czech you were going to Ostrava, he would think you’re mad.’ Thus ran the opening line of the Ostrava entry in the first Rough Guide to the Czech Republic. So what must you be if you go to Ostrava in February to watch the struggling local football team in action? Let’s not answer that one…

I’ve been to Ostrava a few times and never thought it was that bad. True, it wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but if you accept it for what it is, ie an industrial city fallen on hard times, it’s got a few things going for it. Its best museums and attractions are connected with the coalmines and the Vítkovice steelworks, but it also has quite a rich cultural life for a city of its size and type, as a look at the fliers for upcoming events will show. Best of all, mainly thanks to Stodolní, a street with upwards of 100 pubs, bars and clubs, it is regarded, in the Czech Republic and beyond, as a fantastic night out.

And then there’s poor old Baník. These days, if you go to their website, visit the club-shop or buy a programe at the ground, you’ll be greeted with the message ‘let’s save Baník’. The club needs saving in three different ways. It has an estimated debt of 10 million Czech Crowns, the team has just slipped into the Gambrinus Liga’s relegation zone, and Bazaly, its home ground since 1959, is under threat of having its licence to stage games removed by the Czech football association. It is hoped that new ownership, renewed local authority support and a campaign to get fans to buy merchandise will help with the debt issue, that special offers on half-season tickets will create an intimidating atmosphere and help the team win enough home games to escape relegation, and that ambitious redevelopment plans will transform Bazaly.

How realistic any of this is, given the current financial climate, is another matter. But when you see and hear 7,000+ Bank fans getting noisily behind their team, as was the case on Saturday, you can’t help but wish the club well. And Bazaly itself, for all its inadequacies, is a classic of a ground. It’s in the Silesian part of the city, where Baník’s roots are, and that, of course, is why the club is so desperate to stay there rather than move to Vítkovice, as the local authority would prefer them to do. It is located halfway up a hill and basically follows the contours of the land. Thus, there’s a high open bank on one side, which sweeps round behind the goals and falls away at an angle before meeting the main stand, the only covered area. Despite the ground’s openness, it has good acoustics and the fans know well how to take advantage of them.

Initially at least, the team responded superbly to the backing they were given. Before visitors Jablonec had got their bearings, Ostrava were 2-0 up. With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Tomáš Vrťo hit a brilliant pass to Antonín Fantiš on the left. Fantiš jinked inside and rattled a 20-yard shot just inside the left-hand post. 10 minutes after that, Václav Svěrkoš, who had an excellent first-half, found Vrťo with another precision pass. The number 7, faced with the sort of chance players often miss through having too much time to decide what to do, calmly slipped the ball home.

Jablonec had come into the game in fifth place, with an impressive record of 40 goals in their previous 17 fixtures (19 of them scored by David Lafata) and a reputation as the Gambrinus Liga’s most attractive side. Now they had to start living up to their billing. They got a generous helping hand from Dawid Pietrzkiewicz after 27 minutes, the home keeper inexplicably failing to cover his near post as Pavel Eliáš drilled in a low cross from wide on the right. After that, the longer the game went on, the more possession Jablonec had, and the more work Benjamin Vomáčka and Jozef Adamík had to do at the heart of Baník’s defence. It was interesting to see these two in action, especially as I was familiar with them from their Slovak Corgoň Liga days. Vomáčka was a highly popular figure during his five-and-a-half years with Žilina, a period in which he won two championship medals, while Adamík made a total of 150 appearances for Dubnica and Banská Bystrica between 2005 and 2011.

But another man who has enjoyed success in Slovakia, Jablonec coach František Komňacký, had possibly the biggest influence on the second-half. For a start, he sent his side out late ; the Baník players seemed to have been warming up for several minutes before the men in green finally emerged. Then, with 35 minutes still to play, he made a double substitution, which involved putting on Lukás Třešňák as a strike partner for Lafata. The visitors’ attacks seemed to get more dangerous, and Baník’s defending more panicky, as a result. The last-minute equaliser, a flicked header from Karel Piták following a long free-kick, seemed cruel on Baník, yet it also felt like it was coming. That said, the home side had come close to wrapping the game up ; Lukáš Magera hit the bar with a header and Vrťo failed to replicate his earlier coolness after being sent clean through.

On this evidence, Baník have some good players, but their collective self-confidence seems low. I can’t help thinking that Pietrzkiewicz, who was anything but assured on Saturday, might be a factor in this and that a better goalkeeper is needed. Meanwhile, the next home game, against a České Budejovice side just three points better off (at time of writing), looks crucial. If the team’s strengths don’t prevail over its frailities in that one, relegation will start to look likely, rather than simply possible. If it happens, any plans for Bazaly will surely be shelved, or perhaps abandoned altogether. No wonder the ‘let’s save Baník’ campaign has such an urgent tone to it.
James Baxter

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Banik v Jablonec”

  1.   George Mon 28 Feb 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Why do we ever need to save another , empty of idea`s club from deserved extinction ?

    With any luck Glas Rangers will actually go down the tubes , they have been living on `history ` rather than actual income, for far too long …I am sure the English run HMCE would love to make an example of one of the big boys …just they dont have the balls to do it to an English club ….

    I note that Mr Kiss , Filip to his mates, took yet another giant step to being the next plank of the year Slovak footballer, by getting himself booked within moments of coming on as a sub, by wacking 5`6 Craig Bel ….

    Thumbs up ………G

  2.   George Mon 29 Feb 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Once again James , the comments are a bit light ? Very Sad .

    I see Skirty became Slovak Player of the Year . Yes a shortage of any real talent made the choice all a bit limited …still if some daft Slovak wants to vote the Iain Dowie look alike, as there start turn, then God help us all!

  3.   britskibelasion 04 Mar 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Skrtel has been playing superbly for Liverpool this season. Very pleased to see him get the recognition he deserves ahead of glory-boy Hamsik. Mind you, the quantity and quality of goals being scored by Miroslav Stoch of late, could he be in for a big move this summer?

  4.   britskibelasion 04 Mar 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Apparently Kiss has signed a 4 year deal with Cardiff worth around €500k to Slovan. Decent money that, wonder how it will be spent. Hopefully not on boosting Sebo’s wages for next season.

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