Spartak Myjava v Senica
Stadium Myjava / Slovak Super Liga / 1st October 2016
I do love a good wedding. If there’s one thing I wouldn’t mind missing football for on a Saturday, it’d be a wedding. So it was with much happiness that this Saturday I found myself doing shots of homemade slivovitz with the father of the bride, while the newlyweds watched on laughing at my distorted expression as I heedfully drank away at the area’s local delicacy. The peculiar, yet joyous, aspect of this particular wedding drinking session was that it wasn’t happening in your usual wedding reception venue, but instead in the more incongruous setting of a stand of a football ground, whilst a local derby game was unfolding in front of us. Why choose between attending football or having a wedding reception when you can do both at the same time? I should probably start at the beginning and explain how I ended up at the scenario described above and videoed below.
Myjava had been chosen as my destination for the day purely because Spartak Myjava would be taking on Senica in the ‘Záhorie-Kopanice derby’. I could find zero information about the derby (aside from its name), so I was not convinced of it being a particularly animalistic encounter like certain others across Central and Eastern Europe. But, maybe nobody had reported on it so far and maybe it was a brutal, wild derby waiting to be unearthed by a football traveler like myself. Spoiler alert: it definitely wasn’t ‘brutal’ or ‘wild’.
After a train change in Nové Mesto nad Váhom at about 1pm, I was on to my second train of the day and properly en route to my destination of Myjava. My train was a rickety, old two-carriaged thing with no lighting, leaving us shrouded in complete darkness every time we went through a tunnel. There wasn’t even a bottom to the toilet, meaning that I found myself pissing directly on to the train track, which made me feel slightly unnerved when I began to think about what else had gone down that toilet hole and onto the track…Anyway, the train conditions didn’t matter as the views outside were stunning. Myjava is located just 10km from the Czech border meaning my route north took me through some of the more hilly, mountainous areas of the west side of Slovakia. Quaint little villages gracing quaint little hills rolled by and everything seemed peaceful – apart from the train clumsily bumbling about on the track. Then, with little fanfare, I was in Myjava and what can only be described as a very depressing looking train station.
Slovakia is a very clean country, and you’ll rarely see litter on the floor, but the Slovaks can’t leave a wall bare – every wall has to be plastered in graffiti. Myjava was about as graffiti-plastered a town as I’ve seen on my travels around Slovakia so far, with the words ‘DEPECHE MODE’ being particularly prelevant on the walls here; I learned on my first visit to Slovakia in April that Depeche Mode are a very big deal here.
My reading up on Myjava had informed me that it’s a small town largely associated with folk traditions. I assumed this meant I would find a very traditional town, but apart from some graffiti depicting folky-looking people in traditional Slovak folk clothing, I saw little to support this at first. In fact, I’d be cruel enough to say that Myjava is a bit ugly. The hilly landscape is dominated by apartment blocks looking down on the small town centre and it all felt slightly out of-sync with the wonderful landscapes I had seen from the train.
As well as being far from eye-catching, there wasn’t too much to do in the town either. A bowling bar sounded fun, but that wasn’t open until 4pm, so instead I spent the duration of the afternoon drinking in ‘Movies Bar’ – a bar of semi-chqiue, semi-tatty, 80s style furniture and fish tanks. I entertained myself by following the Swansea v Liverpool game on Twitter, but that became far less entertaining once Swansea sacrificed their 1-0 lead and went on to lose 2-1.
Spartak Myjava v Senica didn’t sound like a vociferous derby, so I was unsurprised to find the streets quiet as I headed away from the town centre and towards the ground. Walking down an alley down the side of the ubiquitous supermarket chain Billa, led me into a complex of apartment blocks. It didn’t seem like the sort of place to plonk a football stadium, but soon enough the floodlights of Stadium Myjava were in sight, alongside the small river running through the town.
Bizarrely, I found a Flintstones-style car positioned outside the ticket office with no explanation as to why, so once I was done posing with that, my ticket for today’s derby was purchased. Once again, a mere €6 got me into top flight football here.
Myjava are a bit of a slow burner of a club. They were formed by local merchant Samuel Vráblica in 1920 and opted to play in black and white in homage to the male folk costumes of Myjava. Myjava generally lingered lower down the leagues, but in 2012/13 made it to the top-flight for the first time, where they have remained ever since. After finishing 3rd in the league last season, the club even made their maiden steps into European football this summer, although they were knocked out by Austrians Admira Wacker in the qualifying rounds for the Europa League (shortly after I visited Admira Wacker last month actually).
Because of Myjava’s brief dip into European football, their football ground has been slightly revamped to fit UEFA’s ground grading criteria. On walking through the gate, I found myself behind the neat, curving, IKEA-esque flat-pack stands. It’s a small stadium holding just 2700, but it’s all very neat, tidy and shiny. With 40 minutes until kick-off, most people were congregated around the small bar/food hatch enjoying some beers in the sun. No klobása on the menu today, so I was landed with a ‘chicken steak’ burger instead.
I’d had a few beers through the day so nature was now calling. It then occurred to me that there were no toilets to be seen anywhere. In a strange quirk, I soon learned that the designated match day toilets were located in the school next door to the ground. So once I had used the school’s facilities, I headed back around the ground and up into the stand behind the near goals.
Undoubtedly my favourite feature of the ground was the huge board behind the opposite goal emblazoned with the words ‘SPARTAK MYJAVA’ in huge letters; in case you needed reminding of who plays at the ground (although I should add here that the Slovakia U21 plays here too). The stands were fairly bland, but it was a pleasant enough environment to watch football in.
It was a landmark ground too, as Spartak Myjava’s home would become the 250th ground I had visited. As I’ve said countless times, I never actually planned on getting into groundhopping, so I’m surprised I made it all the way to 250. I suppose if I went back in time and told my younger self that I’d visit 250 football grounds in a few years and the 250th would come in northern Slovakia, whilst actually living in Slovakia, I’m not sure if he’d be impressed, confused or saddened to hear of what had become of his future; probably, a mix of all 3 – although probably more confused by a future version of himself turning up to deliver such strange news.
I’d also made sure to position myself near the small band of Spartak Myjava Ultras in hope that they’d create some atmosphere. Their two drums fired up as the teams walked out onto the pitch, accompanied by a small group in folk costumes, and the drumming only ceased for the playing of the rather imperious Slovak national anthem; after my mocked efforts of trying to sing the Slovak national anthem at the Slovakia v England game last month, I didn’t bother attempting it this time.
Sorry to sound like a moaning broken record, but once again the football was dire in the first half. There was very little of note to report on and even the Ultras’ noise level waned with little to get fired up about. There were a couple of half chances, but that was our lot. Predictably, this wasn’t an intense derby and I’m fairly sure Senica had brought an away following less than double figures – at least from what I could tell anyway.
Half-time: Spartak Myjava 0 – 0 Senica.
At half-time, I headed back to the school toilets and then to the bar for a top up. However, much to my joy, I found I didn’t have to queue when I noticed girls walking around selling and dispensing beer from a small beer holder. Even better, just like at FC Slovácko a week earlier, these girls took their beer selling into the stand in the second half. After posing for a photo with two girls adorned in folk gear (who were very insistent that I put my arms around them for the photo) I headed back into the stand hoping for some better football and some goals. And so begun one of the most memorable 45 minutes I’ve ever had in a football stand.
No doubt my visit to Spartak Myjava will always be known by me as ‘the wedding reception game’. With the game still being a bore, I decided to move a bit closer to the industrious Ultras to at least absorb some remnants of atmosphere. 5 minutes into the second half, I began to behold a strange sight as a whole wedding party descended on the stand and joined the Ultras’ section.
I’m still not sure how, but I was soon in the midst of the wedding party and generally having an absolute ball. It was wedding crashing that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn would have been proud of. Nobody could speak English amongst the gathering, yet, like always in Slovakia, I was still made very welcome to the party; if you can’t speak the language in Slovakia, then usually alcohol is used to communicate. Soon, I was somehow best friends with the father of the bride, who was plying me with the local favourite of homemade slilovitz (it’s generally translated as ‘plum brandy’ here, but it tastes nothing like brandy to be honest).
I’m not sure how, but it seemed that the arrival of the wedding party seemed to improve proceedings on the pitch too; although maybe the alcohol they were feeding me convinced me it was better than it actually was.
Spartak Myjava were now taking the game to Senica and in the 80th minute they took the lead through Tomas Kona. I only just caught the goal as I was being pestered from all quarters by the wedding party, who it seemed found having a foreigner amongst them an amusing novelty. A free kick was played into the box and before I knew what was happening, the ball was being driven in from close range. The celebrations were superb with the father of the bridge jumping on my back at one point, whilst the Ultras hammered away at their drums behind me. (Below is one of my Snapchat videos after Myjava went 1-0 up – with the crazy father of the bride).
The celebrations for the second goal were even better. The 87th minute saw a great ball to the far post volleyed in by the prolific Luboš Kolár, who with that goal had put himself joint top of the league’s goal scoring table with 6 goals. This time I had two fans hugging me as well as the bride going mental in the row in front of me, before hugging me too. I took a second to take in what was going on as a bizarre mix of people dressed for a wedding, people dressed in traditional folk costumes and tattooed Ultras (plus a now semi-inebriated Welshman) all celebrated together. This all being soundtracked by some sort of horn and 3 drums, as the wedding party thought they should bring a drum with them too. (Another Snapchat video below as Myjava go 2-0 up – I was rather drunk by then).
Before things could get any weirder, the final whistle was blowing to end one of the funniest and funnest 45 minute football experiences I’ve ever had.
Full-time: Spartak Myjava 2 – 0 Senica.
I’ve now been to 5 top flight games in Slovakia and through pure chance 3 of them have featured Senica as the away team; each time they have lost, so they are probably sick of the sight of me at their games by now.
There was time for the players to come over to shake the fans’ hands, before lining up on the edge of the box to receive chanting of love from the fans. This all concluded with the fans shouting “SPARTAK! to the response of “MYJAVA!” from the players. The love-in soon finished and I was back out in the midst of the housing estate.
A bit of beer shopping in Billa to help keep me entertained on the train home was undertaken, before I headed back up the long lane to the dilapidated train station. There was still time for me to sample the narrow little bar in the crumbling station before boarding the train back south to Trnava via Nové Mesto nad Váhom (more on that town in my next post).
Myjava wasn’t a striking place and the football wasn’t striking either; however, Myjava will probably go down as one of my memorable trips – thanks to the institution of marriage. I wish the happy couple a happy future, wherever they may be now, and if any other of my friends are getting married soon, can I recommend having the reception at a Slovak football match.
Highlights: decent ground, friendly fans, the wedding party scenario, celebrating Myjava’s goal.
Low Points: dull town, dull game.
For more of the Snapchat at future games, add ‘lostboyo’
See all my photos from my day in Myjava here.