It’s our first guest post in a while and a first ever from Slovenia (not to be confused with Matt’s next destination, Slovakia). Filip Pušnik, a Welshman residing in Tokyo, writes about his long overdue visit to see NK Krško in the Slovenian top-flight.
NK Krško v ND Gorica
Matija Gubec Stadion, Krško/ Slovenija Prva Liga/ 6th August 2016
Ever since my parents decided to move to Slovenia 8 years ago due to my father’s Yugoslavian background, I wondered which local football team I would have the obligation of following. Krško for the best part of the decade were a mid to lower half of the table team languishing in Slovenia’s second division. Much to my excitement having tried to follow their endeavours in my current home city Tokyo, they won the 2. Slovenska Nogometna Liga earning themselves a place in the Prva Liga where they could flex their guns against Slovene powerhouses such as recent Champions League participants Maribor.
A debut season in Slovenia’s top flight saw them top after 3 games, but that was short lived as they were in a relegation battle for most of the season. I should mention here that NK Krško were the only amateur team in the Slovenian Prva Liga last season with all players holding regular day jobs as life as a full time player is not going to pay enough to make a decent living. The ‘Nuklearci’ or Nuclear Power Boys (also the name of the club’s ultras) as they are known due to Krško being home to the only Nuclear Power Plant in the former Yugoslavia region, were given a couple of hidings, 5-0 away to eventual champions Olimpija and 6-0 away to who were the then reigning champions Maribor, however restored some pride by beating Olimpija 1-0 in Ljubljana along with beating them 2-1 at home. They also beat Domžale away, 3-2. Some of you may recall Domžale as they team who beat West Ham in their first leg of the Europa League qualifiers before getting trounced in London.
Today’s visitors hail from the border town of Nova Gorica, a town which literally spills from Slovenia into neighbouring Italy interestingly enough. ND Gorica have been frequent competitors throughout the continents European qualifying campaigns for the best part of a decade, but have never actually qualified for any competition proper and were recently beaten 4-0 over 2 legs by Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel at the first hurdle of the Europa League qualifying stages.
After 8 years later of talk, I was finally about to get to see the boys in green play. I met with some locals at the bar Stiblc where the Nuclear Power Boys gather frequently for a catch up and to make new acquaintances. A couple of Coronas later I was off to the Matija Gubec Stadion where I was happy to pay the 7EUR entry fee for a club that, to these of my knowledge, are not the most financially stable. A quick pint of Laško beer (1 of the 2 main breweries in Slovenia) amongst the locals who gather religiously to watch their home town play and we were good to go. May I add here that 2.20 EUR a pint was better than what I was about to witness on the pitch.
I managed to get in the end where the Nuclear Power Boys sit despite there being a list of who is allowed in their stand that covers the length of the pitch at the scenic Matija Gubec Stadion. I was also frisked on the way in by some old boy with my most impressive of Balkan moustaches I have ever seen and got a laugh when I complimented his non hipster style. He was proud of the fact that he had it for 30 years or so. Good man. The guy next to me moved his seat from the stadium and replaced it with a drum that proceeded to deafen me for the first 45 minutes.
On the field, the visitors owned the first half, but couldn’t create any clear cut chances. Number 17, Bede Amarachi Osuji of Nigeria looked to be one of the stand out players for Gorica as did the Italian Gianluca Franciosi. NK Krško seemed unable to compose themselves or get a hold of the game in the first half much to the frustration of the very vocal and impressive home fans who did not stop singing for the entire 90 minutes. Captain Dejan Urbanč, a homegrown player who had a stint at Olimpija Ljubljana resembled Johnny Williams, the Crystal Palace and Wales midfielder, something I commented on and got a few laughs. I was surprised that people knew who Joniesta was in this part of the world. The captain went up 50/50 for an aerial challenge only to be clattered and stretchered off. Much to the delight of the home fans, 10 minutes later he reemerged all bandaged up and good to go.
Goalless at half time and time for a kebab (Slovenian kebabs are the best in the world without being biased) and another 2.20EUR pint of the Slovenia’s finest. I had a chat with a typically tall Dutch man who was on holiday at a border resort (the Slovenian/Croatian border lies 15km from the town of Krško) and had brought his 3 kids to watch the game. Having killed enough time, it was time to take our seats for the next 45 minutes.
The second half saw the home team find their feet and dominate a bit more possession and it wasn’t long until 18-year old loanee from NK Maribor, Martin Kramarič found space in the area from a counter attack that game out of nowhere and put the ball in the back of the net. 1-0 to the home team which is how it would finish despite late pressure from the guests, but who were ultimately unable to get anywhere near scoring. An uneventful first experience of the Slovenian Premier League in terms of what went on on the pitch, but a great experience overall thanks to the great hospitality by the friendly locals. Their loyalty was acknowledged by the home team who came over to give thanks for the support during the game, which was NK Krško’s first win of the new season. A first three points sent the home fans wild and out came the great flares which shrouded the stand in green mist.
Prior to kick off, a friend of mine kept telling me about how great Gorica’s coach was and that we would drink with him later. I took little notice of this until full time when he turned up in his team polo and tracksuit pants standing at the bar, cigarette in mouth and pint in hand. “This is life” he told me much to my amusement in his broken English. I asked in Italian (with Nova Gorica being a border town, its common for all inhabitants along the border to be bilingual) where his players where… “on the bus” I was told. Miran Srebrnič, a man of Pirloesque stature, had spent his whole career at Gorica gaining 6 caps for his nation in the process. He was a man of few words, but his company was enjoyable all the same. Where else would a manager come out and have a beer with the away fans? Fantastic.
Highlights: Miran Srebrnič’s social skils’, cheap beer, view from the stadium, the Fantastic hospitality of the Nuclear Power Boys.
Low points: The standard of football.