FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce v FC DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda
Štadión FC ViOn / Slovak Super Liga / 10th September 2016
“When you first met me at Notts County 2 years ago, did you ever think that after that 10 minute encounter you’d eventually end up in a hotel room with me looking out on a random Slovak league ground?”
Craig’s answer to my question was a definite ‘no’ and his answer was applicable for me too. But, here we were, at the Hotel ViOn looking out of the window at Štadión FC ViOn – the home of FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce. More on the repeated love of ‘ViOn’ later.Since announcing my move to Slovakia, I’ve had countless friends expressing their desire to come visit my new home, but Craig was the first brave soul to take the plunge. I’ve loved my first month solo in Slovakia, but I was definitely very happy to see Craig emerge through the airport terminal in Bratislava on the Friday night – even if he was wearing a silly, garish leopard-print snapback .
By 10pm that night, we were out in Trnava and thus began cider-drinking Craig’s weekend long battle to find cider in bars. The ones that usually sell cider in Trnava claimed that they had run out of it, thanks largely to the England fans visiting Trnava the Sunday before for Slovakia v England. Having heard so much about it, Craig was keen to try local shot favourite borovićka as well, but he didn’t take kindly to it once the stuff had actually touched his throat. In one bar, I bumped into a colleague of mine, who on hearing of Craig’s dislike of borovićka took almost offence and so decided to address that by purchasing Craig a shot of the arguably more lethal slivovica. Thus a night out in Trnava left us a bit groggy as we walked to the train station the next morning ready to head to central Slovakia and, more specifically, Zlaté Moravce.
So why Zlaté Moravce? This was a town I had heard nothing positive about since my arrival in Central Europe. I’d asked a lot of Slovaks about the place and they all just laughed at the idea of me going there, before then expressing that the town was devoid of anything of interest. However, it was not my idea to go there – it was Craig’s. The real purpose of our visit was to see Craig’s new Slovak love: FC DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda. With me in Slovakia, Craig decided he was going to pick a top flight Slovak team to follow and seemingly randomly opted for the aforementioned club. DAC currently play away from their home as their stadium is being renovated, but the club are considered to have one of the best set of fans in Slovakia; also, possibly the most hated. The town of Dunajská Streda is situated in south Slovakia near the Hungarian border. Because of previous Hungarian rule and shifting borders, Dunajská Streda is very much a Slovak-Hungarian town and the town’s football fans associate themselves with the Hungarian side of things – a lot. It didn’t take a long time of living in Slovakia to learn that a lot of Slovaks are not too fond of the Hungarians, hence the general disdain for Magyar-centric DAC. “The Millwall of Slovakia,” one Slovak friend described them to me as, thanks to their similar ‘no-one likes us, we don’t care’ mantra. But, Craig’s heart was set on them, and our trip to the away end at Zlaté Moravce to watch DAC was planned weeks in advance. Plus, with a 7pm kick-off and no public transport back to Trnava, we had ourselves a hotel booked in Zlaté Moravce.
Craig seemed to enjoy his Slovak train experience involving compartments and crossing train lines to catch connecting trains – it’s certainly different to home. Also, unlike home, the trains actually run on time too. Our third train of our 2.5 hour journey to Zlaté Moravce was a rickety, one carriage train with a very smiley female conductor, but it got us to our destination (on time) and it was time to see if Zlaté Moravce was as bland as I’d been told.
Zlaté Moravce translates as ‘Golden Moravia’ yet there was certainly nothing golden about where we alighted. Craig had only seen beautiful Trnava the night before, so the outskirts of Zlaté Moravce was like a different planet to him. Colourless, crumbling old apartment blocks were guarded by small gatherings of Slovaks drinking beers on their steps. We were quite happy to get away from that part – not that things were really to improve.The road to our hotel was a long and dull affair and I began to realise quickly enough that those that had warned me about the town’s blandness were probably right. Although, I kept telling myself that I’d save judgment for once we hit the town later that night.
As mentioned previously, our hotel was located literally next door to the football ground in the northern part of the town, next to a large industrial estate. At first, we were not quite sure what ‘ViOn’ was, but they seemed to own everything in this part of town – including or hotel and the football ground and club. We did eventually figure out that the company is named after the owner Viliam Ondrejka (first two letters of forename and surname). Our vicinity to the ground was further emphasised by the fact that the Zlaté Moravce team were in the hotel restaurant having their prematch meal.
The hotel was nice enough and after having a bit of a break in our room, we figured we’d head next door to the bistro to see what was on offer there. Not a lot: just the usual Zlatý Bažant beer and some middle-aged, port-bellied Slovak men in tight cycling lycra; although the bar did have my favourite Slovak bar snack of tyčinky (I’d describe them as straight, stick pretzels).
We moved back across the car park to the hotel bar, where we thought we might befriend some Zlaté Moravce players, but they had already gone over to the ground. There were still some of the club staff mulling around though and it seemed as if the hotel was the hub of the football club with every wall plastered with photos of the club – a club only formed in 1995.
Beer was consumed by me in the hotel bar, whilst Craig was introduced to Kofola (communism’s ‘herby’ answer to Coca Cola) with cider still proving elusive for my southern pal. We kept ourselves entertained in the hotel bar, before heading next door to the ground with about 45 minutes until kick-off.
There had been a slight debate about whether to actually go in the away end or not, but on seeing cars and buses unload with a good crowd of DAC fans, our decision was made. At the ticket office we got ourselves two tickets for the away end, priced €5 each. After a body check from two stewards each, into the small fenced-off area behind the far stand we headed and we were now officially a part of the blue and yellow away following.
We ignored the bar (for now) and headed up into the stand to take in the ground. It was a warm evening in Zlaté Moravce and the ground looked wonderful with the sky reddening above us. It’s nothing too outlandish, but I liked Zlaté Moravce’s home. On one side of the pitch is a small, main stand flanked by open seating areas either side. The rest of the ground is largely open seating, only sheltered from the small roof that sits high above each stand. All the stands are raised a few feet above pitch level too – a feature I always like in a ground for some reason. All seemed good here, but my old Slovak nemesis was to come back to brutalise me again…
QUEUING! Why can’t Slovaks move quicker?! I mentioned in my Báhoń blog that as a fairly ‘fast-paced’ individual, the one part of Slovak life I’m struggling with is the slowness of things – especially when it comes to queuing. The queue for the bar was far from extensive, yet getting a beer took over 20 minutes with one man behind the bar literally doing nothing aside from staring gormlessly into space. Such slowness made me buy 2 beers when I got to the front to try to avoid further bar visits. I even convinced Craig to defy his ‘cider-drinker’ ways and purchase a beer too, under the unwritten rule that you cannot go to a European football match and not drink alcohol in the stand.
Aside from the Slovaks dislike for them, I had heard nothing but good things about DAC fans. And they were living up to their billing here too. The duration of the game was soundtracked by the DAC fans with the home end looking remarkably threadbare. We had definitely chosen well by going in the away end. As the teams came out, the away end was encouraged by a middle-aged man with a megaphone at the front coordinating the chants, while a drum banged alongside him. This was then followed by scarves being raised into the air for a lovely rendition of some sort of club anthem.
I was genuinely convinced that DAC were going to win today, even though this was the 8th game of the Super Liga season and DAC had only accumulated 2 points and sat rock bottom of the league. I felt that DAC’s newest fan Craig was going to bring them luck against a team who were just two places and three points ahead of them. The team started well enough too and kept the ball fairly well without creating much.
I had done my usual thing of perusing both club’s squad lists beforehand to spot any familiar names and I was surprised to find one in the DAC lineup. Playing in front of us was the towering presence of Ľubomír Michalík. I remember him best from his time at Bolton, where I recalled him scoring on the last day of the season at Stamford Bridge, but fans of Leeds, Carlisle and Portsmouth would have also encountered the big Slovak defender at their clubs too. He had a good game here.
As the half livened slightly, the game was definitely going in favour of the away team. There was a cross to the far post, which was met by a stretched volley, only for the effort to veer just wide. This was shortly followed by another DAC attack, which saw them go through one-on-one with the keeper; unfortunately for those in the away end, the home goalie, Pavel Kováč, was on hand to make an excellent save.
There was still time for DAC’s keeper to get caught in the midriff challenging for a high ball and then roll around (rather theatrically), but otherwise there was little other action in the half and we went in at half-time goalless.
Half-time: Zlaté Moravce 0 – 0 DAC Dunajská Streda.
Bracing myself for more extensive queuing, I had headed down to the bar a minute or two before the half-time whistle. I was pleased to find just a small queue, but my relief was misplaced. The serving took forever, so much so that Craig came down to check was I still here. I explained to him that I was buying us borovićka too, as I realised I had never done shots pitch side at a football match before (not that I remember anyway). Recalling the previous night, Craig was less enthused by the borovićka idea, but he was going to go along with it anyway. Our borovićka drinking was extended to 2 borovićkas too, as as we got towards the front of the queue, the lad in front of us heard us talking English; he queried us in Hungarian, before just dismissing the language barrier and ordering us borovićka, before toasting with us, downing shots with us and walking off without another word.
Some other fans had clocked the fact that we were not Slovak/Hungarian and began trying to speak to us. We hadn’t a clue what was being said, until one starting wielding his Liverpool wristband right in my face and shouting “Liverpool! Liverpool!” I responded to this by banging my chest and declaring “Swansea City.” My response was the wrong one it seemed, as our Liverpool friend began telling everyone I was “Swansea” which seemed to be greeted rather negatively with more angry shouting of the word “Liverpool.” It tried neutralising the anger by repeatedly stating the firs Liverpool-Swansea links that came to mind: “Brendan Rodgers! Joey Allen!” This didn’t help either mind.
After the initial complimentary borovićkas, I purchased our second batch and we headed back up into the stand just as the second half was kicking off. A quick “Na zdravie” before downing our borovićka and then it was back to focusing on the game.
It took 10 minutes for the home team to have a golden chance to take the lead. As they broke into the box, there was a slight touch on the shoulder from one of the DAC defenders, but the opposing player made a meal of the touch. Nonetheless, the ref pointed to the spot and up stepped Peter Orávik to convert it. 1-0 to Zlaté Moravce.
DAC fans must have felt like another loss was on the cards, although they continued to churn out the chanting. Their perseverance was rewarded minutes later. A freekick was played to the back post and headed powerfully at goal. Zlaté Moravce’s keeper palmed the shot away, but somehow back across his goal. Pape Sarr was there to tap into an empty net and cue celebrations in the away end. Me and Craig had both actually missed the ball go in, as the people around us were already jumping in anticipation of the ball going in and in doing so blocking our view. We definitely joined in the celebrations though.
DAC were in a good groove now and another long freekick led to a scramble and a shot at goal, which was saved by the keeper’s feet. The rest of the game was to be a series of half chances, although both teams looked like they could still steal a win.
There was more reason for Craig to celebrate in the stand, as one fan performed an act of generosity that I found impressive and know humbled Craig. Amidst the celebrations, Craig was given a DAC scarf to celebrate with by a guy behind us; he’d clearly worked out we were not of Dunajská Streda origins. After being photographed in the scarf, Craig handed back the scarf, only to be given another one by a girl behind him, for him to wear for the rest of the game. However, it wasn’t a loan it seemed and at the full-time whistle, with Craig offering the girl money for the scarf, she insisted he keep it and walked off, leaving Craig a very happy lad.Full-time: Zlaté Moravce 1 – 1 DAC Dunajská Streda.
A decent game for a 1-1 without ever being a barnstormer. The real winners on the night were the excellent DAC fans. I notice that Craig has already added their call to arms, ‘Hajra DAC!’ to his Twitter and Instagram bios and made a photo of the away crowd at Zlaté Moravc his cover photo on Facebook, so I’m sure he’ll be back to watch DAC again and I’ll be dragged into the away end with him again.
Me and Craig hung around for a bit as the away end cleared and partly because I was busy trying to talk to a gentleman in flat cap. Of course, he was forced into a photo. We were back in the hotel shortly after 9pm and we decided to have a breather before sampling/ trying to find the Zlaté Moravce nightlife.
The hotel ordered us a taxi, but with this being ‘Slow-vakia’ there was no sign of it 15-20 minutes after it was due. We began the mindnumbing walk into town centre again; if you can call the place a ‘town centre’ at all. Basically, me and Craig’s emphatic message to you, the Lost Boyos reader, is: never go to Zlaté Moravce – there is nothing there. We found about 3 identi-bar/restaurants and after one beer, we began debating whether there was more fun to be had at the hotel. The place was dead. There was still time for Craig to anger the lady serving him in the pizza takeaway for his crime of not knowing Slovak, before we opted to head back and begin that same dull walk back to the hotel. Our hotel did prove to be more fun, although I think anywhere that evening would have been.
Ever the optimist, I woke up the next morning determined to find something to celebrate in this god-forsaken town and so with 2.5 hours until the train out of there, we headed back into town. I’ll repeat the message: never go to Zlaté Moravce – there is nothing there. ‘Blande Moravce’ became my adopted nickname for the town. Craig got excited when he found out that there was a Tesco there (there are quite a few in Slovakia) and so apparently we had to go in there. He then got more excited when he discovered ‘Blue Fanta’ in there – a favourite drink of his on a previous holiday to Croatia apparently.
We completed a lap of the town, saw a pretty church (every Slovak town has at least one) and a fairly cool outdoor ampitheatre in the middle of a park, but that was it. Zlaté Moravce’s dullness had broken us and by midday we headed to one of the town’s crappy bars and got ourselves some cocktails to enjoy in the sun. This perked our mood a bit and more so when some cool Slovak pop music came on. My Shazam app revealed it to be Slovak popstar Rakby and his hit Svet Patrí Nám (which we translated as ‘The World is Ours’). Rakby and his cheesy pop gem brought us a bit of joy anyway.
We made it out of town, without boredom striking us down, aboard the same one carriage train we had got there. I informed Craig that next time he comes to Slovakia, I’m picking the town. However, in a way, I was actually glad that he had chosen Zlaté Moravce. My goal for this season is to visit all 12 grounds in the Slovak Super Liga (I’m currently on 3) with my adventure possibly being the topic of my first ever attempt at writing a book (emphasis on ‘possibly’ there – watch this space though). Zlaté Moravce would have had to be visited at some point, so I wasn’t half glad to have one of my best mates alongside me to keep me sane. I’d probably be writing a far more negative blog here if he hadn’t have been there to keep me sane, entertained and convince me to go in the away end. Despite my negativity, I did actually like the ground – but I also know I won’t be in any sort of rush to watch football in Zlaté Moravce again.
Weirdly, the place’s blandest had made me feel a bit better; until this point, I had found myself going around Slovakia all doe-eyed and awestruck by everything, but this town helped confirm that Slovakia is just like home with its dull, backwater towns too. For every Newcastle, there’s a Kidsgrove; here, for every Trnava, there’s a Zlaté Moravce. By golly, was I happy when we arrived back in Trnava after a train journey consisting of listening to Rakby over and over, as well as us reeling out our favourite Eurovision songs on my IPad. We arrived into Trnava to Budvar and Kofola and the barman in Bokovka agreeing to put on the Swans v Chelsea game for me. It was much needed. Oh, and as below shows, there was more borovićka to be had too…
Highlights: Craig visiting me, our hotel being next door to the ground, the ground was alright, DAC fans, scarf-giving stranger, borovićka-giving stranger.
Low Points: town was so, so boring, long walk to the ground from station, lack of nightlife, no cider (added in by Craig).
See all my photos from our trip to Zlaté Moravce here.