Archive for the 'Austria' Category

Feb 13 2011

Austria Wien 1-0 SV Ried

Published by under Austria

With the re-start of the Slovak season still 2 weeks away, James Baxter takes a trip over the border into Austria to get his fix of top-flight football:

I might have a clue to the mystery of where Bratislava’s football fans have disappeared to. Stepping onto the platform at Reumannplatz tram-stop at 2pm on Saturday, I saw my first Austria Vienna scarves. Their wearers were three teenage boys. No surprise so far but, on moving closer, I was a little taken aback to hear them speaking Slovak.

Of course, there are any number of reasons why a bunch of Slovak lads would follow Austria Vienna. But the first possibility that came to my mind is that they are originally fans of either Inter or Slovan who have become disillusioned with the current state of their club. If that is the case, I wouldn’t blame them in the slightest. Inter Bratislava have disappeared completely. They are, supposedly, a partner in the merger with Senica but none of their identity lives on in the new club. Slovan still look strong in many respects, especially in the quality of their squad, but, currently homeless and with reclusive benefactor Ivan Kmotrík not giving many clues as to his future intentions, they are in a kind of limbo. Certainly match-days at their temporary base of Pasienky (Inter’s former home) must be depressing ; a less atmospheric venue is difficult to imagine.

By contrast, Vienna, just 40 miles down the road from the Slovak capital, offers two big(gish) clubs with rich, if contrasting, histories, intimate grounds and consistently successful teams. Rapid are the city’s working-class club, Austria, currently celebrating the centenary of their foundation as an amateur sports club, are considered to have a more genteel following.

I don’t know whether the Slovak youngsters I encountered have taken up with Austria Vienna as a means of climbing the social ladder. I do know that I was heading for the Franz Horr Stadium because I’d had more – far more – than enough of this season’s winter break. With the Slovak league not resuming until February 26th, the start of the Austrian league’s spring phase offered, at long last, the prospect of some live, competitive football. The fixture computer had been kind as well ; the game, between the 4th placed hosts and surprise league leaders SV Ried, was a promising prospect.

Austrian football, I soon found out, offers a few interesting comparisons with its Slovak counterpart. The first thing that struck me on arrival at the Franz Horr Stadium was the corporate takeover of the place. The stadium sponsors Generali (the ground’s ‘official’ name is the Generali Arena) had their own marquee and there were lots of girls giving out Generali balloons. Nike and T-Mobile also had their logos plastered all over the place. Žilina’s Champions League campaign had given me a taste of this sort of thing but you don’t get much of it in the Corgoň Liga. Even Corgoň themselves stick mainly to what they do best, which is serving beer.

Inside the ground, I was rather bemused by an official firework display, carried out just before the teams came onto the pitch. I’m no great fan of pyrotechnics at football matches but at least when the supporters are in charge of the displays, you can see them as an expression of independent ‘fan culture’. Anything organised by the clubs themselves, on the other hand, just seems sanitised and, that word again, corporate. Oddly enough, though, the visiting Ried fans had plenty of flares of their own, while Austria’s didn’t.

Austrian Footy: Colourful

More positively, there’s a hell of a lot of colour in Austrian football. Partly, this is down to the team strips, many of which, Rapid’s green and white stripes, for example, are highly distinctive. Saturday’s game pitted Austria’s beautiful violet against Ried’s change kit of Žilina-like yellow and green. Again, the preponderance of sponsors’ logos, even on the shorts, spoiled the effect just a little but it was still a nice change from the whites and pale blues you get a lot of in Slovakia and was vastly preferable to the sad greys and blacks many Premiership clubs favour for their away strips. The flag-waving from both sets of fans was as impressive as well ; a few of the Ried fans were even tough enough to rip off their shirts and wave them in the air along with the flags.

On the field, well, I’ve long been fascinated by the question of how Slovak football compares to that played in neighbouring countries. I recall some fairly knowledgeable Czech friends saying years ago that Czech and Austrian football were fairly comparable. If they still are, and that’s a big ‘if’ given the recent decline in the Czech game, the Slovaks are not too far behind but, on the evidence of Saturday’s match,  I very much doubt that any Corgoň Liga side would fare well against either Austria or Ried. It was a very good, very even game between two talented, well-organised teams. The main points of interest were Ried’s innovative 3-3-3-1 formation (have you heard about this Zonal Marking?) and the performance of the home side’s Zlatko Junuzovic, Austrian player of the year for 2010, and new Dutch signing Nacer Barazite.

It was Austria who just about prevailed. They had a promising first 20 minutes, with Junuzovic prominent and Barazite drawing a fine save from Hesl in the Ried goal but then rather lost their way as Ried’s tactical plan began to work. The players in the most advanced of the visitor’s lines of three combined beautifully at times, with Spaniard Carill-Regueiro at the heart of most of their best moments. Significantly, however, Heinz Lindner in the Austrian goal was never made to work too hard.

Austria brought on Czech striker Tomáš Jun at half-time to replace the disappointing Roland Linz. Jun was neat and busy but the crucial goal was, inevitably, set up by Junuzovic. With just over an hour gone, he swung in the perfect corner, giving tall centre-back Georg Margreitter the simple task of heading home from inside the six-yard box. Ried continued to play plenty of football as they searched for an equaliser but still they couldn’t force Lindner into a serious save. They are clearly an admirable side but, on this evidence, they might struggle to score enough goals to maintain their place at the top of the league.

Even if it hadn’t been a good game, I’d have enjoyed it. Two months is, after all, a long time for an addict of the live game to be without a fix. There was a minor disappointment in that Austria’s former Slovak international Peter Hlinka didn’t figure. He only missed four of their autumn games and has played in most of the winter friendlies so I can only assume he’s injured. If so, I hope he’ll be back soon. Meanwhile, in his absence, his compatriots in their violet scarves provided just about enough Slovak interest for one day.

James Baxter

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