AS Trenčín V Spartak Myjava
Štadión na Sihoti / Fortuna Liga / 10th April 2016
I had stayed out partying in Trnava into the early hours of Sunday morning, so I woke up rather groggy in the morning. Plus, I was rather annoyed that it was 8am and I hadn’t had my planned lie-in. In bed, I lay there realising that I had not put on my hotel TV once since I’d arrived 4 days before – now seemed as good a time as ever to investigate Slovakian TV. And what a delight: I turned it on to be immediately greeted by Duck Tales! In Slovakian! The cartoon is as joyous in Slovakian as it is English, although Scrooge McDuck sounds a lot less Scottish in the Slovak version.
Today was going to be the day that I went exploring the Slovak capital, Bratislava, and acting like a proper tourist and stuff. I’d been invited by the headteacher of the school I’d be working at in August (I’m moving to Slovakia in August to teach if you didn’t read the last blog) with her living in Bratislava. However, I received an early morning text to say that she could not make it into the city because of work. That was fine with me and I figured I’d head to Bratislava solo. Then, that oh so familiar thought invaded my brain, “I wonder if I can get along to any football today?” Soon, ideas of heading to Bratislava were extinguished.
AS Trenčín. I had done some very quick research of Slovak football clubs and grounds before heading over and from my early scavenging of information AS Trenčín looked like my favourite of the grounds in the Slovak top flight. So, how convenient on this Sunday – when I had a free day to go wherever the hell I wanted – that AS Trenčín would be taking on Spartak Myjava at 5pm that very evening. Sold.
Eventually, I did drag myself away from the trials and tribulations of Scrooge McDuck and went for breakfast in the shopping mall attached to Spartak Trnava’s ground. It was then onwards to Trnava train station to hop on the train to Trenčín.
“Bitte eine Fahrkarte nach Trenčín?…Zurück,” I tentatively asked on being met by a blank face when attempting English and being asked do I speak German. My German proved successful again, and I was now ready to head off to Trenčín.
Apart from the night time drive from Bratislava Airport to Trnava, where I saw nothing because of the dark, this would be my first time venturing out of Trnava and getting to see some more of Slovakia. It really is a pretty country with the 55 minute train journey offering me a chance to see a chunk of the west-side of the country in all its beauty. Generally the landscape reminded me of home in Wales with lots of countryside interspersed with small communities backdropped by hills and mountains.
By 1.30pm I arrived into Trenčín just as my pal Sean was phoning me to ask how I had enjoyed Slovakia. I quickly told him I was still in Slovakia and I’d phone him back. Sean was treated to my reaction over the phone as I exited Trenčín train station. I gasped on walking out of the station as I was greeted with the sight of the elegant looking Trenčín Castle looming over the town below. This had been a gasp of ‘wow’, but the next thing that caught my eye led me to produce a more orgasmic sort of sigh. I’d seen the floodlights of AS Trenčín – and they were beautiful. So, so beautiful. I was in love. After yesterday’s fairly bland stadium experience at Trnava, this was more the sort of thing I had been looking for.
I decided to head into the Club Jaguar Pub next door to the train station for a beer to start the afternoon. It was in this small pub that I ended up googling AS Trenčín and learned that they are a pretty unique club. Firstly, I should mention that they are the current league and cup holders of Slovakia having finished runners-up the season before. Some may remember them from a few seasons ago when they were pitted against Hull City in Europa League qualification, with Hull bringing the Slovaks European adventure to an abrupt end.
The club were only formed in 1992 as TJ Ozeta Dukla Trenčín, but after finishing a position below TTS Trenčín in the Czechslovak Third Division the two Trenčín teams merged to create the current club. Now the club is owned by former Dutch international Tscheu La Ling, a player who carved out a highly respectable career playing for FC Den Haag Ajax, Panathinaikos, Marseille and Feyenoord. Since taking over Trenčín, La Ling has slowly built them into a force in Slovakian football. Basically, he has bought well-scouted players from all over Europe, sold for profit and continued this process repeatedly, accumulating hefy profit for the club. If you want to read more about AS Trenčín I highly recommend this brilliant article about the club on In Bed With Maradona – ‘AS Trenčín: The FC Porto of Central Europe‘. Today, the club sat well clear at the top of the league and looked on course to clinch the title comfortably once again.
I headed towards the town and there was only one place to aim for first: it was time for some castlehopping again! Trenčín is populated by about 56,000 people, so, like Trnava, it is not the most thriving of metropolises. However, once again like Trnava, the place is beautiful. The city is located in western Slovakia and is very close to the Czech border. Undoubtedly, the centrepiece of the city is the castle which looms over the town on a large rock and obviously I had to go see it.
I began the zig-zagging route through the winding streets of Trenčín,until eventually a long, sloping passageway led me up to the castle’s gates. I was abruptly stopped by a woman shouting in Slovakian at me from a small kiosk hole in the castle wall – small enough for me to miss. The only reason I was heading up to the castle was to take photos of the football ground below and so I paid the cheapest entrance of €3 – I wasn’t too interested in a guided tour of the castle itself.
The money spent was more than worth it, as from area seemingly designated for open air concerts on the castle grounds, I was provided with an incredible view of AS Trenčín’s brilliant looking Štadión na Sihoti. Oh, and those floodlights…I just couldn’t take my eyes off them. I could describe their magnificence more, but I’ll never do them justice with mere words. Just gawp at the photos below. The city of Trenčín looked rather lovely below me too with the green hills backdropping around it. Castles…hills…once again I thought of Wales.
The walk down from the castle was predictably less arduous and within minutes I found myself back in the town square. I’d already earmarked my pub of choice earlier in the afternoon and that was how I found myself in the superb Trenciansky pivovar Lanius – the town’s brewery pub. The passageway leading through the brewery led up to some marble steps and to the well-stocked bar complete with fancy looking beer menus. There was one moment when my heartbeat raced as I spotted a can adorned with my beloved ‘BrewDog’ but on querying they did sell BrewDog beers the answer I seemed to get from my Slovak hosts was ‘sometimes, but not now.’ Gutting. Not to worry though, as the Amber Lager I opted for, from the local Lanius brewery, was immense too. More Amber Lager was purchased.
By the time I had finished with my Amber Lagers, the time was ticking past 4pm and with less than an hour to go until kick-off I decided to head over to the ground and go perve on those floodlights properly. It felt like you could see the huge floodlights from anywhere in the city, but despite being close to the ground, I couldn’t find the actual entrance to the ground. A lot of backtracking towards the train station eventually led to me finding an opening that led to the road running behind the ground. When I spotted the Spartak Myjava team bus, I knew I had arrived.
I ignored the bar to my left as I decided that I’d have my prematch drinks in the ground itselfand so I headed for the crumbling entrance emblazoned with the words ‘Mestsky Štadión’ (all the information I’ve found tells me the ground is called Štadión na Sihoti though – I’d be open to finding out which name is correct). For a mere €6 I was into my second Slovakian football match.
It was exactly what I wanted. A crumbling ground, klobásas cooking on the grills and beers being sold out of a converted red double decker bus. Perfect. Plus, the floodlights looked even more majestic now with the castle backdropping them (sorry for repeatedly talking about the floodlights, but they deserve all the attention that they get).
What I had noticed since arriving in Trenčín was that there was a lot less English speakers than in Trnava and finding the club shop took a lot of gesticulating, pointing and doing that very British thing of talking louder and slower. Eventually, a security guard pointed me through a rather non-descript door at the back of the stand. This was indeed the club shop and within I found a small room resided over by a man and woman overseeing the small collection of AS Trenčín merchandise. My rule has always been that you have to buy a scarf when watching football abroad, but I think this may have to stop when I eventually move to Slovakia, otherwise I’ll be swamped with scarves from all over the country. But, for now, I figured I was still a visitor and I left the shop with a rather lovely looking AS Trenčín scarf for a couple of Euros more than I had paid to get in.
Back behind the stand with my new scarf around my neck, I headed for the double decker. Like the day before at Spartak Trnava, the beer of choice was Corgon, but it seemed the lady behind the bar spoke very good English and on ordering my beer she refused to give me my beer until she had given me a lesson on Slovak pronunciation as my harsh pronunciation of ‘Corgon’ was not satisfactory for her. Following passing her Slovak elocution test I was given my beer and then I headed to the stall next to it for my klobása to accompany my beer. I will not be the first groundhopper to delve into this part of the world, as I’m well aware, being a big fan of the superb groundhopping blog Blansko Klobasa – which features fellow Welshman and Swansea fan Ralph. The blog’s tagline reads, ‘In search of football, beer and the perfect klobása’ – these guys are obviously far more well-versed in klobása than me, but this one here in Trenčín was delicious and it was a great introduction to the world of klobása. Me and Ralph have already discussed a Blansko Klobása/Lost Boyos collaboration in the near future once I’m settled in Slovakia, so I’m sure I’ll learn what truly makes a good klobása then.
Kick-off was near, so it was time to head up into the stand. The ground itself is basic, but definitely resonates character.The ground once held 22,000 fans, but after years of disrepair the capacity was reduced to 16,000 and then to 4,500 in 2008. There are plans to extend the ground and build on the site, so the reconstruction has lowered the capacity further to 3,500. There’s not much to say about the stand, although the Spartak Myjava fans were left away from it with their small contingent being placed on the small curving open terrace to the left of the stand. The other three sides of the ground, surrounding the plastic pitch, are all unused. Oh, and did I mention the floodlights yet? They are magnificent.
The teams came out onto the pitch to cheers from the stands, although, just like yesterday at Spartak Trnava, I was a bit bemused as to where the boisterous Ultras were. There were generous applause and shouts of “AS!” but nothing particularly crazy. I was particularly intrigued by the Ultras at AS too as I had read that unlike the vast majority Ultras present in Slovakia who hold more right-wing beliefs, here in Trenčín they are a more left-wing and anti-fascist collective.
The first surprise of the afternoon came when I spotted a familiar face playing up front for AS Trenčín: former Wolves flop Stefan Maierhoffer (who also showed up briefly at Bristol City and Millwall). I was disappointed to find fellow Brit James Lawrence on the bench for Trenčín – and even more so when I was informed via Twitter that he is half-Welsh too. I was hoping he’d at least get a run out (sadly, he didn’t).
Despite Spartak Myjava being in 3rd place in the league, the gulf in class between the two teams was clear from the off as Trenčín dominated proceedings, as I watched on from the top corner of the stand with my Corgon in hand.
Trenčín were creating a host of half chances yet showing poor composure in front of goal. Maierhoffer was playing as clumsily as he did in his days on our shores. One thing that did develop over the half though was the atmosphere, as steadily the Ultras banded together in the lower part of the stand ahead of me. I thought it’d be rude to not join them.
The Ultras provided me with entertainment throughout the half as they were led by a lad clad in a Nike jumper and wielding a megaphone at the front of the stand. I had not a clue what he was imploring them to chant or what indeed they were chanting (apart from the easily understandable “AS!”).
The game slowed down a bit, although Trenčín looked like they’d eventually break the duck. However, it was a surprise that the game made it to half-time at 0-0.
Half-time: AS Trenčín 0 – 0 Spartak Myjava.
At half-time I was presented with the same lady behind the bar and without thinking I once again butchered my pronunciation of the word ‘Corgon’. She was not impressed that I hadn’t learned from my previous lesson and so ensued a bit of a telling off. I was annoyed with myself too as over the previous days my attempts at Slovak were commended with particular reference to my pronunciation of difficult words. I eventually walked away with a beer though having once again delivered a more accurate pronunciation of the word ‘Corgon’.
Exactly like my first few days in Trnava, the locals were friendly here even if they didn’t speak English. 3 fans got chatting to me…well just laughing at our complete inability to understand each other…and soon one of them unveiled a sort of vinegar bottle with some sort of drink inside. He then whipped out some shot glasses from his pocket and I knew what was happening here: it was borovička – a much loved alcoholic juniper berry shot in Slovakia. God bless football fans who provide you with random spirits at half-time – it was like being back in the stands with my Morecambe pals again.
This would probably be my last 45 minutes of football on the continent this season, so I thought it’d be rude not to buy a beer to take up to the stand with me as I heard a whistle signalling the commencement of the second half. I’d made sure I had my pronunciation of ‘Corgon’ down to a tee this time and past the test at the third time of asking with flying colours. What I had cocked up though was not being in the stands for the first goal of the game. Oops. Having watched the highlights back on the club website, it seems I missed a worldie too. A superb volley into the top corner from 20 yards by Nigerian Rabiu Ibrahim.
The Ultras were definitely in good voice now and they were undoubtedly the highlight of the second half, despite the game being very entertaining too. I still had no idea what they were chanting but from what I gathered from asking someone next to me was that the chants were all pro-Trenčín rather than deriding the opposition.
All the bouncing around and beer drinking made me need the toilet, so I ran up the steps and down to the toilet behind the stand. Of course, as soon as I reached the toilet door I heard the cheers signalling Trenčín’s 2nd goal of the game. It seemed me not being in the stand was bringing the home team far more luck. This time it was Rabiu setting up his compatriot Samuel Kalu to score. Once again, the highlights I watched showed to this to be a hell of a finish too -a powerful drive into the near corner from the edge of the box.
I returned to the the stand to find a jubilant band of Ultras, although after generally chanting throughout the majority of the second half, the lad at the front began demanding that everyone sit down and be quiet. I’ve seen this done at some clubs before (usually it involves someone belting out Madness’ One Step Beyond here in the UK), but here I was unsure what the hell was going to happen. Slowly the fans began to clap and then faster and louder clearly building up to something. The crescendo finished with the fans flying up into the air and suddenly there was a downpour of confetti over us thrown from the fans’ hands. At least, I thought it was confetti. A whole load of it had gone in my pint and it was only on pulling bits out of my drink that I realised they had ripped up the free programmes to use as makeshift confetti. I know many groundhoppers swear on buying a programme at a game, but I’ve never really been that bothered. For me, this was a far more fun use for a matchday programme, although I imagine the poor soul who had spent hours creating, editing and publishing the programme would have been heartbroken to see their work literally torn to shreds and thrown to the wind; I wondered what Gibbo would do if I did something similar with an Atherton Collieries programme that he had lovingly cradled to life.
Post-confetti throwing, there was a lot more bouncing and chanting, before suddenly, from nowhere, Spartak Myjava scored with 8 minutes left. A scrappy finish from close range brought the away team back into the game. By now, I was sure me being in the stand was jinxing Trenčín.
Both teams had their chances to add to their tallies with Trenčín smashing the bar with a freekick and Myjava going close with a long range effort.The goalscoring was wrapped up in the final minute and it deservedly went the way of the table toppers. The goal was once again superb. A passing move, which started on the halfway line, suddenly sparked to life and an incisive through ball played in Matúš Bero, who comfortably slotted past the onrushing goalie, before wheeling away to celebrate in front of the Ultras.
Full-time: AS Trenčín 3 – 1 Spartak Myjava.
A far more entertaining game than the borefest I witnessed the previous day. Before leaving, the players all clutched hands and headed over to celebrate with the Ultras and to shake their hands. I always love seeing teams do this on the continent and I wish it was an act mimicked more in the UK.
I exited having very much enjoyed my second experience of Slovakian football and headed into the bar opposite the ground with over an hour until my train back to Trnava. In here I was treated to watching the end of Tottenham’s hammering of Manchester United, as well as the company of a lad who thought I was some sort of crazed loon for deciding to move to Slovakia from the UK in the coming months; a lovable loon I’d like to think though.
Shortly after 8pm, I was on the train back to Trnava and heading towards my final day in Slovakia the next day. Obviously on arriving back in Trnava I made one last visit to my beloved Čajka.
It seems you can expect to be seeing a lot more of Slovakia and Central Europe on these pages in a few months time. I absolutely loved Slovakia and I cannot wait to get back over there properly, but for now…čau Slovensko.
Highlights: lovely town, great views from the castle, brewery bar, cheap tickets and beer, klobása, good game, antifascist Ultras, and of course those floodlights.
Low Points: missing two brilliant goals.
See all my photos from Trenčín and AS Trenčín here.
Also, if you want to read the first part of my Slovakian football adventures, you can find the Spartak Trnava blog here.