Archive for January, 2013

Jan 27 2013

Cvirik Sacked by Trnava

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Spartak Trnava’s season descended further into chaos this week when it emerged that defender and former captain Peter Čvirik had had his contract terminated by the club. The reason was Čvirik’s behaviour at the club ball at Trnava’s Holiday Inn on 19th January. The player was said to be ‘under the influence of alcohol’ and left the venue before 11pm. Reports in Slovakia’s tabloid newspapers have suggested that Zlatica Puškarová, a presenter with Markíza TV who was in charge of ceremonies at the event, asked Čvirik to quieten down and moderate his behaviour as early as 9pm.

The decision to terminate Čvirik’s contract appears to have been made at the request of coach Peter Zelenský. ‘Before the ball, I warned the players that they were representing the club and needed to behave decently. Everything I’ve heard since confirms that Čvirik disregarded my instructions. His actions embarrassed the club at an event where sponsors were present and, in drinking to excess, he failed to stick to the players’ winter training regime,’ Zelenský said following the announcement of the decision.

Čvirik himself appears to feel hard done by. ‘I wasn’t attending a funeral,’ he said, ‘I wanted to have a good time. I had a drink or two but I wasn’t drunk. I didn’t cause any disorder or provoke anyone.’ He goes on to suggest that there might be other reasons for his dismissal : ‘I’m not everyone’s favourite at Trnava. I’m sure there are people there who are glad I’ve been kicked out.’

A statement by the club’s co-owner Vladimír Poór, meanwhile, says that Zelenský has the final say in matters connected with team discipline and that the club backs up his stance over Čvirik. There is also an insistence that no factors other than what happened at the ball have influenced the decision. ‘We certainly have nothing at all against Peter Čvirik,’ the statement reads. ‘Indeed, we greatly value his contribution. His performances last spring in the Corgoň Liga were especially outstanding, and he has played very well in European competition too. But there has to be discipline in the dressing-room.’

The controversy surrounding Čvirik will doubtless divert attention from Trnava’s winter signings, who thus far number four. As reported earlier this month, striker Ivan Lietava has arrived from Ukrainian club Vorskla Poltava. He is joined by former Slovakia international Ivan Hodúr (from Zaglebie Lublin) and Dubnica youngsters Oliver Augustini and Martin Klabník.

David Depetris finally settled his immediate future last week, signing a three-and-a-half year contract with Turkish second-tier club Caykur Rizespor. The move was covered in great depth in Šport, with Depetris himself making the unsurprising claim that he has made it for sound footballing reasons. ‘I had offers fromRomania, the Czech Republic and Switzerland,’ he said, ‘but Rizespor’s vision appealed to me most.’ He also dismisses those who suggest that the move is not a step up from Slovak football, insisting that ‘I’ve talked to a lot of people who say that, actually, the Turkish second division is better than the Corgoň Liga’.

Another forward on the move is Slovan Bratislava youngster Karol Mészáros, who will spend the spring on loan with Vion Zlaté Moravce. Clearly, Slovan’s hope that Vion have the capacity to offer young players the ideal opportunity to develop outweighs any fear of them sustaining a serious championship challenge. Their judgement will probably be proved right ; Vion may be the Corgoň Liga’s current second-placed side, but are six points behind Slovan and have a small squad. But players such as Žilina’s Michal Škvarka and Adam Žilák have improved tremendously during loan spells with them. Mészáros, clearly a talent, should do likewise.

Banská Bystrica defender Norbert Gyömbér, like Mészáros a member of Slovakia’s Under-21 squad, should be on the move this summer, to Italian Serie A side Catania Calcio. He has been one of the most closely-watched youngsters in Slovak football for some time now, and his big step up seems overdue. Assuming the transfer does go ahead, Gyömbér will have a new centre-back partner during his final months at Bystrica, as Jozef Adámik has signed from Prešov.

James Baxter

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Jan 20 2013

David Depetris for Slovakia

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It looks very much as if David Depetris will soon be adding himself to the list of centre-forward options available to Slovakia national team coaches Stanislav Griga and Michal Hipp. The former Trenčín player – his contract ran out in December 2012 – is currently at home in Argentina (the country of his birth), but one of his first ports of call when he returns to Europe will be Bratislava, to see if his application for Slovak citizenship has gone through. ‘This is very important for me,’ Depetris told Šport, ‘I’ll be so happy when I’ve got the chance to fight for a place in the Slovak team.’

You sense too that Griga and Hipp will be happy.Slovakia’s goalscoring problems are well-documented, and are already undermining the team’s attempts to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In Depetris, they would have at their disposal a man who has just broken the Corgoň Liga’s autumn scoring record (with 16 goals in Trenčín’s 19 league fixtures up to December), averaged over a goal a game (31 in30) as the club were promoted from the II Liga in 2010/2011, and has an overall, all competitions record in Slovakia of 94 strikes in 144 appearances.

Depetris knows where the goal is, no question about that. But we should be very careful about hailing him as ‘the answer toSlovakia’s problems’. About this time last year, I was thinkingPlzeň’s Marek Bakoš would be the man to provide the goals. He had, after all, been a reliable marksman for his club, in both the Czech league and Europe. But, despite a succession of hard-working performances, Bakoš is still without an international goal. And, unlike Bakoš, Depetris has not been tested at European level yet ; his experience since he arrived on the continent in 2007 amounts to five-and-a-half seasons in Slovakia with Trenčín, three of which were in the II Liga.

Also, while Griga and Hipp will definitely be giving Depetris’ claims very serious consideration, they may have one or two question-marks about his all-round game, and how the style of football he got used to at Trenčín compares to the way Slovakia play. Since their appointment, the joint-coaches seem to have preferred a striker who is good with his back to goal and is either mobile (Bakoš) or big and physical (Martin Jakubko). Especially against stronger teams, you can see why such a player is desirable, not only to provide an attacking threat, but to help take the pressure off the defence. Depetris has good touch and occasionally drops deep to pick up the ball, but he is at his best in and around the penalty-area. The way Trenčín have usually been set up – in a 4-3-3 formation, with two wide attackers, two creative central midfielders and lots of ‘pressing’ in the opposition half – has contributed to him getting so many scoring opportunities. There is no doubt, of course, that he is good at taking them, whether with his head (he is excellent at heading for goal) or with either foot. It is just that, at international level, the chances wouldn’t come along so often.

But of more immediate importance than any of this is Depetris’ immediate future in club football. Certainly, his efforts for Trenčin over the years mean that he owes them nothing, a fact recognised by the fans, who gave him a prolonged standing ovation as he left the field minutes before the end of December’s game against Senica, his final home appearance. He had earned the chance to move on and develop his career. But, nearly two months later, he remains without a new club. There have been discussions with Slovan Bratislava and (reportedly) with Romanian club FC Cluj. Now, according to a rumour published in Šport, Slavia Praha are interested. Reading between the lines, it appears that money is an issue and that Depetris may be pricing himself just a little too high. Of course, it is right that he should try to secure the best deal he can. Still aged just 24, and with that remarkable record, he must surely be a very attractive proposition. But he shouldn’t leave it too long. Now is about the time to start meeting and training with new team-mates, preparing for the footballing spring. Assuming the citizenship application goes through, as it should do, that is whatSlovakianeed him to be doing as well.

 James Baxter


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Jan 14 2013

FC Nitra Guarantee Immediate Future

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The immediate future of FC Nitra, the Corgoň Liga’s 11th placed club, was secured following an extraordinary meeting on Thursday.Nitra had been fearing for their existence since the resignation of majority shareholders Jiří Magyar and Norbert Bödör in the wake of the punishments handed to the club as a result of the ‘Seydouba Soumah affair’ last September. However, the town authority has stepped in to guarantee finance until the end of the current season.

The local mayor, Jozef Dvonč says that, as a district town,Nitraneeds Corgoň Liga football. For a long time now, the town authority has been renting the Štadión pod Zoborom to the club free of charge, as well as paying its energy costs. Now, it is offering three more forms of assistance. The first is a sum of money sufficient to keep the club operating until the end of the season. Secondly, it intends to work with the Slovak football association (SFZ) on a plan to redevelop the ground. And thirdly, it will help the club in its search for long-term investors.

After the meeting, Jozef Petráni, Nitra’s general manager, expressed relief and gratitude for the help the town is giving. ‘From the start of these problems, we’ve been saying we needed the authority’s assistance,’ he said. ‘They have acted in a responsible way, which is a real declaration of what they feel football means to the town.’ Petráni is one of three new members of theNitraboard, along with sporting director Ivan Ondruška and the town’s vice-mayor  Štefan Štefek. There is also interest in joining the board, and potential new investment, from local businessman Vladimír Vikor.

Ondruška, while admitting that ‘the clouds over the club have lifted’, is conscious that, long-term, Nitra need someone to provide the 50-60% of funds previously accounted for by Magyar and Bödör. ‘That’s definitely not going to be easy in the current climate,’ he says. Meanwhile, Magyar and  Bödör themselves say they welcome the help the town is giving the club, and insist that they too ‘will continue to support it in some way’.

Attention can now be given to playing matters. It remains uncertain who will be coachingNitracome the spring phase of the season. Jozef Vukušič had charge of first-team affairs for the last four games of the autumn, two of which were won, but he is not currently under contract and has had offers to coach inSouth Africa. Petráni is confident, though, that his services can be secured until the end of the season. Meanwhile, the start of winter training is being overseen by youth-team coach Jozef Pavlík.

As for players, Nitra are two strikers light following the recent transfers of Soumah to Slovan Bratislava and Matúš Mikuš to Austrian club FC Admira Wacker Mödling. Reinforcements are clearly needed. ‘We have to build a squad that can ensure we finish 11th at the very worst,’ says Petráni. With a three-point deduction to come into effect at the end of the campaign, that isn’t a straightforward task. Still, bottom side Trnava are being forced into exile by work on their ground, andNitra may also believe that at least one of Prešov, Banská Bystrica or Myjava could be dragged into the relegation struggle. One thing for certain is thatNitra will not be joining the battle as strangers to adversity.

James Baxter

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Jan 07 2013

Slovak Football News Jan 2013

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A round-up of some of the developments in Slovak football as 2013 begins and Corgoň Liga clubs return to training :

It is something of a Slovak tradition that at least one top division club will spend the winter break or close-season under the clouds of crisis. At present, it isNitra’s turn. Their problems began with last September’s infamous Seydouba Soumah incident, which precipitated, amongst other things, the resignation of the club’s two main shareholders. An extraordinary meeting is to be held next week at which, it is hoped, potential new backers will announce themselves. With the team struggling at the bottom of the league, a three-point deduction to come into effect at the end of the season and average attendances of just 600 or so, it is easy to see why Nitra may not be an attractive proposition. But the very best of luck to them.

At leastNitraare due some money – 150,000 Euros according to some reports – from Slovan Bratislava for Soumah’s winter transfer. At one stage last autumn, Soumah trained with Viktoria Plzeň, but they did not follow up their interest in him. When his six-month ban finally expires in mid-March, the exciting 21-year old Guinean should add to Slovan’s already formidable attacking options. He said in a recent interview with Šport that he would welcome the opportunity to apologise to Michal Mastiš, the referee he assaulted during the fateful Trnava game that led to his ban, but has no intention of making a similar gesture towards any of the Trnava players. So the next Trnava v Slovan fixture should be even more spicy than usual.

One player who will not be figuring in the Corgoň Liga this spring is Filip Šebo, whose Slovan contract expired in December. He had been out of the first-team squad since September, having said he had no intention of signing a new deal. Šebo has openly admitted that he would love to play in theUSA, but recent newspaper rumours suggest he will be crossing only the Morava river, as opposed to theAtlantic ocean, with Slavia Prague reported to be interested in signing him. Slovan have also said they will not be pursuing David Depetris, the Corgoň Liga’s current top scorer, whose Trenčín contract also ran out last month. He is said to have attracted the attention of Romanian side FC Cluj.

An interesting transfer that has been completed is Ivan Lietava’s move from Ukrainian club Vorskla Poltava to Trnava. Lietava is a big, physical striker who has redefined the term ‘much-travelled’. If he produces his best form at Trnava, the sort of performances that saw him help Žilina to the 2009/2010 Slovak title, or score 11 goals in 21 games for Dukla Praha in 2011/2012, ‘Bílí Andeli’ should have enough firepower to avoid relegation.

The first week of 2013 has also seen two clubs change coach. Zdeněk Psotka has left Senica after six months on their bench to take up a directorial role at Sigma Olomouc. Neutral followers of the Slovak game may regret this, since, after a slow start immediately following his appointment, Psotka had re-established Senica as one of the league’s best sides and as the most likely spring challengers to Slovan. His replacement is Vladimír Koník, the man who led Šamorín to a first ever promoion to the II Liga in 2011/2012.

Finally, some news concerning my local club – and it does not come as a great surprise. Žilina have sacked Dutch coach Frans Adelaar, the man appointed last April to introduce Cryuff-style ‘total football’ to central Slovakia. Adelaar safely negotiated his first nine games, guiding his team to a league and cup double at the end of 2011/2012. But this season has been harder ; two players, Tomáš Majtán and Peter Šulek, were effectively banished and several youngsters have been introduced to the first team. Results, predictably, have been mixed. The teenagers, notably midfielderMilanŠkriniar, clearly have great potential but are also susceptible to dips in form. And ultimately, the Žilina hierarchy are unable to accept a run of three wins from the last 15 games, or the idea of their side in 5th place in the league, 8 points behind Slovan.

Adelaar will be temporarily replaced by his assistant Štefan Tarkovič, whose main role until now appears to have been translating the Dutchman’s instructions from English to Slovak. In the summer, Adrián Guľa, currently in charge at Trenčín, will take over. Incredibly – we are, after all, talking about the club that sacked Adelaar’s predecessor despite a 13-game unbeaten run – Guľa has been offered a 5-year contract. He is, along with Slovan’s Samuel Slovák, one ofSlovakia’s genuinely exciting young coaches and Trenčín are naturally upset at the thought of losing him. Hopefully, he will be able to adapt to an environment where the occasional limp defeat or frustrating 0-0 draw is not seen as ‘part of the game’ or ‘an aspect of the learning process’ but as something deeply unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Adelaar’s parting words to his Žilina players were simple but wise. They were a reminder that, while Slovan are probably too far clear at the top of the league and, let’s face it, too good to be caught, there is still a trophy to be claimed. ‘I hope you win the cup,’ he told them. Hear, hear to that.

James Baxter

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