FC Slovácko II v FK Blansko
Stadion Na Bělince / 3. Liga MSFL / 25th September 2016
Arguably the biggest initial influence on my groundhopppping escapades came in my teen years reading the semi-pioneering European Football Weekends blog by Danny Last. Danny’s tales of him and his pals heading to obscure European destinations, hitting the local bars and generally making merry, alongside attending a game at the local football club sounded like the most magnificent thing in the world to a teenage me. No doubt a lot of my Lost Boyos groundhopping blueprint came from those blogs.
Sadly, European Football Weekends was discontinued, although the blog still stands frozen in time and its philosophy still lives on in the form of the European Football Weekends Facebook page, where people go to share information, stories and photos of their European football trips. Since then, there have probably been many other blogs that have inspired my groundhopping and who I turn to for information and general entertainment. Amongst many, there is Laurence Reade’s rapidly growing catalogue of football grounds on his blog Football: Wherever It May Be, always a great, concise read, usually about some of the less charted nether regions of the football pyramid; also, my groundhopping companion back in the UK, Gibbo, probably doesn’t realise quite how much of an impact his blog Gibbo’s 92, and his dry northern humour accounting his travels in non-league, had on my own writing. However, in regards of European groundhopping and certainly in regards of a place to turn to when I started seriously considering this whole ‘moving to Central Europe’ thing, one blog stood out above the rest, mainly because it is one of kind: The Blansko Klobása. If you are not familiar with their excellent work, then you really should go check it out here – obviously after finishing reading this blog first.
My introduction to The Blansko Klobása came through following fellow Swansea fan Ralph Davies on Twitter. Having lived and worked in a school in the Czech Republic for the best part of a decade, Ralph has followed Czech football for a while, originally through watching his local team Zbrojovka Brno. However, a few seasons ago, through another British expat living just outside Brno in the town of Blansko, he discovered FK Blansko – a team in the lower Czech leagues. I’m not quite sure how, but 5 British expats were all eventually drawn to this small Czech club and unwittingly stumbled into to becoming the club’s hardcore fanbase. A blog and a name was invented and The Blansko Klobása was born with their philosophy being: “In search of football, beer and the perfect klobása.” Their blog is a humorous account of their travels around Central Europe visiting local breweries, drinking local beer, eating klobása and watching bog standard football – usually their beloved Blansko. All this goes on alongside bemused Czechs looking on wondering why a gang of Brits are ardently following little, old FK Blansko. In fact, I’d learn quickly enough that even the folk at Blansko still hadn’t quite ‘got it’ as to why these men from all over the UK were following their humble team.
I’d been in contact with Ralph a bit before moving over to Slovakia and we had decided that a Lost Boyos/Blansko Klobasa meet up would have to happen once I began residing in my new home on the continent. Conveniently, I had planned to watch FC Slovácko on Saturday evening. On asking Ralph whether the club were worth a visit, his answer was a resounding yes, as the mighty Blansko would be playing Slovácko II the very next morning in the 3rd division. That seemed as good a reason as any to stay in Uherské Hradiště for the night and make my weekend a Slovácko double header, as well as finally getting to meet up with ‘The Klobasa.’
This plan saw me wake up Sunday morning just before 8am, ready to make the 1.7km walk to the small district of Kunovice on the outskirts of Uherské Hradiště. It was one of those mornings when, as I walked past the masses walking to the large church in the town square, I questioned how had my life ended up with me walking a couple of miles before 9am on a Sunday morning to watch Czech 3rd tier football. Then, as always, I reminded myself how much fun this all is.
The walk south was a fairly dull one involving a stroll down the side of a busy main road, dodging the many, many cyclists soaring past me on the roadside path. I did however learn never to purchase any soft drink dubbed ‘syrup’ again. I thought Lidl’s ‘orange syrup’ may have been a rough translation of ‘orange juice’ – but no, it was definitely a very ‘syrup-esque’ beverage. 2 swigs and that was in the bin.
It wasn’t too long before I was at the red-crossed sign revealing I was leaving Uherské Hradište and the above sign revealing I was entering Kunovice. It wasn’t exactly a welcoming entrance as I was met with a sort of industrial/retail estate and a flyover overhead. Of course, after more walking, I’d find a pretty, little church; I’m going to eventually find one place in this part of the world that doesn’t have a pretty, little church I’m sure.
I arrived at the road leading to Kunovice train station just as Ralph was walking up it. The Blansko gang were diminished in numbers today with their usual collective consisting only of a duo: Ralph and fellow Klobasa-ite Craggy, a name familiar to me from the blogs. He was introduced to me as an Aston Villa fan, so I apologised immediately; although he rightly pointed out that Swansea are heading the same direction at the time of writing.
Having just walked through the sleepy town, I informed Ralph and Craggy that finding a pub, let alone one open at 9.15am, would be a tough ask. No sooner had I declared this than we walked around the corner from the church to find a host of men sitting in a beer garden with beers aplenty, having quite a little party. With the football ground visible from the beer garden and very close by, this bar would definitely do.
It was not even 9.30am, yet we were tucking into our first beer of the day and, like good groundhoppers, we were sharing our stories from the road. It seemed I was inadvertently providing the main comedy for the morning with my butchering of both Slovak and Czech place names; I love learning languages, so I really need to be less lazy with learning the actual pronunciation of place names (especially ‘Jihlava’ and ‘Znojmo’ it seems). Nevertheless, for making the effort to join a FK Blansko away day on a Sunday morning, Ralph morphed into a sort of groundhopping Santa Claus, rewarding me with Welsh football pin badges, Blankso Klobasa stickers and, best of all, a Blansko Klobasa bottle opener key ring. I really need to up my Lost Boyos accessories game it seems.
We were now past 10am and so we made our way down the small hill to the ground, although not before passing through an eerily quiet, traveling fun fair. It was weird. We dubbed the small, rusty ferris wheel ‘The Kunovice Eye’, although we took more joy from the rather abstract painted images above the dodgems, images of women posing with monkeys and men blowing trumpets in their ears. Bizarre.
I can’t remember exact pricing for entry to this Czech 3rd tier game, but it was predictably peanuts. The ground was definitely a far cry from the modern arena I had been at just a mile or two up the road on the previous evening. Not that that was a bad thing either. There was a small, sheltered seating area near the entrance to the ground and the odd, sporadic open concrete terrace littered around the place, but the true essence of the ground exuded from the excellent main stand. The stand was a two storied structure with the seating and bar sitting upstairs. There was even a sheltered balcony area around the back of the stand offering an elevated view of the arse end of Kunovice. Czech-speaking Ralph was put in charge of ordering the beers, whilst I surveyed the mass collection of trophies that adorned the shelves around the bar.
Ralph informed me that FC Slovácko actually have 3 grounds: the main team’s modern ground, where I found myself the day before; a small, old-school ground in Staré Město used by the Slovàcko U19s; and this quirky, little ground in Kunovice. The ground is actually the true home of Fotbal Kunovice – a Czech 7th tier side. I know nothing about the Czech 7th division, but I imagine that this may be a rather good ground for that level.
As the interesting sounding Blansko fan known simply as ‘Pavel the drummer’ wasn’t in attendance this morning, this was apparently our excuse to not bother with the main stand and instead our cue to switch to the open side of the ground. This would be The Blansko Klobasa‘s base (featuring a ‘Lost Boyo’) for the duration of the morning’s game (it still seems weird writing about a morning football match).
Having initially unfurled the Blansko Klobása flag over the pitchside boards, Craggy and Ralph decided to hang it from one of the spare set of goals near us instead. I was horrified when I noticed on the flag that the word ‘klobása’ has an ‘á’ in it and not a regular ‘a’; I’ve been scrupulous in my efforts to spell all Slovak and Czech accurately, so please forgive me for spelling it ‘klobasa’ in previous blogs rather than the correct ‘klobása’ – I understand that I deserve no forgiveness for such a heinous act though.
A hi-vis clad steward looked on smilingly from behind his sunglasses as we tied the flag up inside the goalmouth; undoubtedly he was confused as to why Engkish-speaking lads were putting up a FK Blansko flag with 2 of the party also draped in Blankso shirts. In a lovely tale, the Blansko players, despite clearly finding the whole Blansko Klobasa support all a bit bonkers, chipped in to buy the whole gang this season’s home shirt. With Ralph and Craggy in their Blansko shirts, I was given the honour of borrowing a FK Blansko scarf for the morning.
Less than 24 hours earlier, I had watched some very drab top flight Czech football. I’m a firm believer that the level of the football does not dictate the quality of the game, so, as always, I was hopeful of an entertaining game today. Once again, like most of the on field showings of the nascent stages of my Central European tour, the football was poor.
Blansko made a good start without really creating too much. Instead I found more entertainment from Ralph and Craggy regaling me with their humorous stories of following Blansko and their general veneration of 3rd division Czech Players, especially their beloved goalie David Juran, who was on the bench today; they displayed their love for the man with a chant about him following them on Instagram. Speaking of chants, undoubtedly my favourite of the Blansko repertoire was to be their ode to their right-back Petr Gromsky to the tune of Human League’s 80s classic Don’t You Want Me (“DONT YOU WANT ME GROMSKY! DONT YOU WANT ME, OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH!”) There was a hell of a lot more to the song that this, but I cannot remember the intricacies of the verse sections. The lads were very insistent that today wasn’t a true representation of a proper Blansko away day with their fan numbers diminished and the early kick-off hindering their appetite to be more raucous. They were insistent I should join them for a ‘real trip’ soon.
The game evened out, but there was still little excitement on offer. Amusement was provided by the sunglass-wearing stewards (aside from one, they all had gone for the tough-guy-in-sunglasses look made iconic by Arnie’s Terminator). Directly behind where we were standing, there were a series of back gardens, protected by some netting placed above the high fencing. Of course, one Slovácko defender made a point of clearing a ball over the fencing and netting and I was slightly disappointed not to hear the smashing of greenhouse glass from one of the gardens for comic effect. Instead, comedy was provided by the bumbling stewards, who just wandered up and down the fencing seemingly devising a plan to get the ball back which didn’t involve the classic of knocking on the front door and delivering the line, “Can we have our ball back, please?” I’m fairly sure no masterplan was ever hatched by the bright sparks in the sunglasses and that football probably still resides in a cabbage patch or something.
Half-time: FC Slovácko II 0 – 0 FK Blansko.
Following the half-time whistle, I had made our third pilgrimage to the bar, which involved circumnavigating the whole ground. Despite my lack of confidence in carrying 3 plastic pint glasses of beer down from the stand and around to the our ‘away end’ over the other side, I did actually manage it without a drop spilled. The second half had now begun and it seemed I had missed nothing of note (or so I thought).
Blansko began upping the ante and pushing for an opening goal. Their glorious chance would come around the 70th minute when a scramble in the box saw the ball fall to a Blansko player at the back post, only for him to blaze his effort over, much to the frustration of Ralph, who was letting out a cry of anguish. I figured his anguish was a result of Blansko not taking the lead, but then I glanced up at the electronic scoreboard in the corner…
“Wait a second – have I missed a goal?!” I blurted out in annoyance.
I was soon informed that it was indeed 1-0 to Slovácko II. I quickly sussed out that the goal must have occurred straight after the second half kicked off, while I was on the beer run; Ralph and Craggy had just assumed I’d seen the goal and not wished to dwell on it it seemed.
With me now knowing the actual score, I understood Blansko’s more determined pursuit for a goal, although it just wasn’t happening for them today. Even The Blansko Klobasa’s chants of “K.U.T.A.L.” were ignored and didn’t see one of their favorites, Petr Kutal, introduced to the action to salvage a point.
Full-time: FC Slovácko B 1 – 0 FK Blansko.
In a game devoid of excitement, I had gone and missed the only goal, although apparently that goal was nothing to write home about either. Even though a lot of the Blansko players may not understand the unorthodox Blansko Klobása support they now receive, a few gestured that they should come over to us and applaud us and that they did, before they headed off down the tunnel.
The highlight of our time in the ground would arguably come when we were exiting. Ralph had nipped off to the toilet, but by the time he came back, me and Craggy were sipping away at some sort of homemade spirit straight from an old glass bottle, formerly holding some apricot-flavored liquor, according to the faded label at least. Moments before, we had both been approached by a Slovácko-scarf wielding lad, insisting we drink his homemade concoction because it was his birthday. We obliged and I probably enjoyed it more than I should have. Of course, I knew our new friend wanted to know why there had been 3 Brits cheering on FK Blansko from our makeshift away end; as our new pal, who we soon learned was called Stanley, could only speak a bit of English, we left it to Ralph and his trained Czech tongue to explain the whole Blansko fandom setup.
Rather predictably, with Stanley and fellow Slovacko fan Tereza entow, we ended up back at the pub, opting for more beer instead of catching the trains home that we had initially planned to get. “I like good people,” repeatedly stated Stanley and judging from his insistence on giving us more of his mysterious, homemade spirit, he clearly adjudged us to be ‘good people’.
Our first post-match beers were purchased in the pub’s beer garden not long after midday and our revelry in Kunovice continued. Stanley and Tereza were great company, even though a lot of conversation was being translated through Ralph. “Good people!” as Stanley kept declaring and he definitely was a good person too.
Being not the most adult-like adults, we turned to having photos near the old-school Czech police car, althoguh our excitement was to skyrocket beyond when three police officers actually showed up to claim the car. Ralph and Craggy literally sprinted back to the car park from our tables to catch the police officers before they could get away. I wasn’t far behind them. Fairplay to the police here, they weren’t half half-arsed about us messing around with their police car like kids, as we all posed for photos inside. Two of the officers were in hi-vis jackets, whilst the other guy had a more militant-looking uniform on; I asked him for a double thumbs up, only to be met by arm lock. He’s clearly not a fan of Lost Boyos.
The police saluted us by pulling away and giving a quick blast of the sirens and it was not long after their departure that we felt that we should make our own departure. Me, Ralph and Craggy left the pub chanting at Stanley (nothing too clever – just repeating his name rhythmically) and then headed our own ways, as The Blansko Klobása duo headed back to Kunovice station and I began the walk back to Uherské Hradiště and it’s double-award winning train station (see the blog about the previous day).
My weekend in Uherské Hradiště and the conjoined village of Kunovice had been a good one. The football had been so, so bad, but when have my travels ever been purely about on-field matters? I feel there’s more to come from the Czech Republic for me on the road, but this was a great, gentle introduction to the country and its football.
“See you in Blansko,” was the send off I had had from Ralph and Craggy and I definitely crave a true Blansko Klobása outing. For one thing, I realised I hadn’t even had a klobása with them – which is surely wrong when you are hanging around with people who state #NoKlobásaNoParty. Maybe a trip to Brno and then onwards to Blansko will have to be the destination of my next Lost Boyos adventure in the Czech Republic…
Highlights: early morning pub, meeting up The Blansko Klobása, cool ground (great stand), free booze from Stanley, dicking about with Czech police cars.
Low Points: awful game, early morning kick-off.
See all my photos from our day in Kunovice here.