AFC Nové Mesto nad Váhom V MŠK Žilina II
Areál AFC Považan / 2. Liga – West / 2nd October 2016
Since declaring a matter of weeks ago, “Oh, the trains in Slovakia are always on time,” it seems the train gods have begun to conspire against me. Semi-regularly I’m now encountering train delays of 5-10 minutes, which I feel is perhaps more fitting with the whole laid back vibe of this country. However, on my way back to Trnava from Myjava on Saturday night, I found myself experiencing my first quite lengthy train delay. To get back to Trnava, I needed to change trains in the town of Nové Mesto nad Váhom, about 40 minutes from Trnava. Sadly for me, I found myself stuck there at 9pm for 45 minutes, thanks to a train delay; more fortunately for me, there was a bar next to the station, where I enjoyed a beer on the large courtyard watching some B-rate action film dubbed in Slovak on the huge projector screen.The delay was a minor blip on my journey really and not a real hindrance. In fact, the delay would inspire me the next day it seemed.
Not being able to get back to sleep Sunday morning, I decided to get up at 8am and do some work to free up the rest of my day. “Maybe I’ll have a day of relaxation,” I thought. Then I remembered how crap I am at relaxing and figured I’d soon be bored. I was well aware that there were a host of lower league games on in Slovakia that day and it wasn’t long before I found myself on Soccerway scouring the fixture list. There was only ever going to be one winner here: I figured I’d spent a small portion of my Saturday night in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, so I may as well go and see what the rest of the town was like in the day and, obviously, check out the football club.
40 minutes after being sat at home in front of my laptop looking at Slovak football fixtures, I found myself in the buffet car of the train heading east to Košice. My day out was to start with me literally catching a long, scruffy-haired, middle-aged man, who was beyond wasted, falling off the stool next to me – several times. This crazy guy was trying to make conversation with anyone he could in the carriage and even though I can’t really understand Slovak, I could still tell that his words were slurred, mumbled and generally inaudible. His every utterance sent alcohol-fueled fumes frothing through the carriage, so I took everyone’s else lead and completely blanked him; when he did eventually try talking to me (he was crazy, so I knew my crazy-person-magnet would eventually kick in) I resorted to putting my earphones in. However, I did feel the need to intervene when he almost fell straight on his back off a high stool. A train conductor soon led him away to another carriage to sit down on more conventional and less hazardous seating. This loon did inspire me to have one of the ice cold beers staring at me through the glass of the fridge though.
Around 11.30am, I was rolling into Nové Meston nad Váhom (which translates into English as ‘New City upon the River Váh) and I could now actually see the town after it being shrouded in darkness the night before. I shunned the Relax pub from the night before (fittingly, for laid back Slovakia, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of bars named ‘Relax’ here) and also the several other small bars near the station. Instead, I opted to go explore the town centre.
I’m fairly confident I could draw an accurate map of any small Slovak town by now, as they all seem to be virtually the same. First, you find a train station a little away from the centre, surrounded by the apartment blocks left over from Slovakia’s period under socialism (although I’m told they were far less colorful under that regime). Then, you find a sort of nicer suburban area with a potpourri of random houses of all shapes, colours and sizes – but usually all rather pleasant. Finally, you arrive at the town centre, where it is compulsory to have a town square – usually eerily quiet on weekends from what I’ve experienced on my travels so far. And as I’ve mentioned in almost every blog of my Central European travels, there HAS to be a pretty church. I found such a church very quickly, although this one had the audacity to have scaffolding encircling its tower. The small grounds surrounding the church were beautiful, even though they were full of parents trying to calm crying babies, who clearly couldn’t get through Sunday mass quietly.
On arriving in the typically vast, empty town square surrounded by small cafes and restaurants, I decided to head into the small bar draped with European flags across its entrance. No beer on tap here and instead I was landed with a bottle of Pilsner, whilst the barmaid giggled away at my attempted Slovak.
Next up, I found myself in a Spanish themed restaurant called El Paso watching Police Academy dubbed over in Slovak, whilst a long-haired surfer guy served me a pint of Bernard. It seemed the locals were not so fond of Spanish-themed restaurants as it was sparsely populated to say the least; or maybe the locals just hated the slapstick nature of the Police Academy series
Now incessantly humming the Police Academy theme music, I ventured more towards home comforts having spotted a sign for an Irish bar down the road. Like other Irish bars I’ve visited in Slovakia, the bar wasn’t very Irish-like at all. However, it was here I was introduced to a rather wonderful beer called Maestro – well, it was wonderful at first as the appeal of it had come from the ‘avalanche effect’ of the beer that the barman had described and sold to me. Once this novel effect had worn off, the beer was rather ordinary really.
There was now just 30 minutes until the 3pm kick-off, so I headed away from the town centre and towards the hilly backdrop of NMnV (I’m tired of repeatedly typing Nové Mesto nad Váhom) in search of a football ground. In a more residential area, I initially found the Zimný štadión – the hockey stadium – before spying the football ground behind it. My concentration was yet to turn to the football ground, as I was more excited to find four big piles of snow by the turnstile. It had been consistently sunny and 25-30 degrees in Slovakia since I arrived, so I assumed this snow came from the hockey stadium; unless NMnV has a really strange and unique climate.
When it was time to turn towards the football stadium, I was genuinely stunned by the beauty of this old place. After paying 2 Euros to get in, I found myself on a concrete, open, curvaceous terrace running around the whole ground, with the concrete steps largely covered in grass for much of the terrace. This old-school terrace runs around the whole ground, until it is met by the large, ramshackle main stand. This is also bloody magnificent with its crumbling two-tiered structure and smashed side panels. Stood atop the stand’s roof is the ground’s name: AFC Považan – where the ground’s name comes from, I never learned, nor did I discover if AFC Považan were an old club or an old resident of the ground (it sounded like a football club to me at least).
There was a decent little gathering behind the stand, where the ground’s bar could be found. Finding a bar behind the back of the stand is hardly unusual – I was more confused by the washing hanging out of some of the stand’s back windows, as if people actually lived within this glorious structure. A curious child poked their head out of a first floor window as I tried to suss out whether this stand actually housed residents as well as football fans on matchday. Maybe the owners of the bar and the massage parlour just across from the stand lived here. To be honest, I think I’d quite like living in a football stand.
With beer purchased for a measly Euro, I shunned the main stand and headed to sit on one of the wonderful, grassy curves behind one the goals.
The teams came out to some sort of weird Slovak rock anthem, before lining up for the customary handshakes. They then performed one of my favourite Slovak football traditions of turning to both sides and waving to the excited masses; I love this tradition mainly because the players are definitely not waving to ‘excited masses’ and usually rather unexcited and fairly uninterested pockets of people. I would say that for today’s 2nd division game we may have got an attendance over 200, but it was difficult to work out with the ground so vast and people spread out in the stand, the surrounding terraces and the bar. You can add an extra two onto that attendance too, thanks to the large fire engine parked near the halfway line and with the two firemen manning it. Why they were there and never found it? Maybe someone called them declaring “(Insert name of star striker) IS ON FIRE! YOUR DEFENCE IS TERRIFIED!” and they took the call suitably serious.
A couple of weeks previous, I had seen MŠK Žilina play in the top league – the league they now lead by 6 points. I declared them the best team I’ve seen in Slovakia so far – in fact, they are probably the only good team I’ve seen in Slovakia so far. Well today’s away team were MŠK Žilina II and none of their ranks look like bothering the first team any time soon. We remained in default Slovak football mode for the day: awful football.
It took minutes for me to realise that I was in for more Slovak football drivel, so once I had finished my beer, I decided to go entertain myself by exploring this large ground. I immediately noticed that most in attendance had seemingly got bored of the game too and were just sitting and chatting instead of becoming in engrossed in the football in front of us.
Žilina II were arguably having the better of the game, but without creating anything of note. Off-the pitch I was trying to respond to questioning from a grandad who I’d asked to take my photo and who couldn’t seem to quite get his head around the fact I couldn’t speak his language. It seemed that he had no alcohol on him either, as the Slovaks usual response to me not being able to speak their language is to provide with some sort of homemade spirit in a hope that it’ll somehow lead to me suddenly unearthing the ability to speak the Slovak language (I should add here, after correcting several English speakers over the past few months, there is no such term as ‘Slovakian’ – so don’t use it).
By the time the ridiculously dull first half was coming to an end, I had completed my extensive lap of the NMnV’s home and headed back to the bar. I figured more beer was needed and maybe some klobasa (2 Euros for the pleasure) to help me get through another half of that dross.
Half-time: AFC Nové Mesto nad Váhom 0 – 0 MŠK Žilina II.
I headed back to my original spot on the curve, as a friendly, smiley couple came strolling into the ground. They wished me “Dobrý deň,” (“Good day”) and clearly my response back in Slovak was good enough this time to invite their confidence and lead to them sitting near me. They then pointed at the game and asked me something. I took a punt on that they had asked me the score, so just as I was about to say my usual phrase of “Anglický, sorry,”(“English, sorry”) I stopped myself and uttered the score “Nula-nula.” I was flying, but obviously my responses triggered another response and I was forced to resign from the conversation by admitting I was no Slovak and instead an English-speaker; although, as always here, I made it very clear I was a Welshman and not a measly Englishman. In a strange turn of events, for the second time in less than an hour, Slovaks had engaged me in conversation and not then offered me alcohol once the communication breakdown had occurred.
Aside from my trip Žilina and one or two random bursts of stormy rain, sunshine and hot weather has been virtually ever present whilst I’ve lived here. Everyone has told me it turns very cold in the winter and I write this now with grey skies and wind and rain outside my bedroom window. This seemed to all start at the second half of this game with the greying skies leaving my shorts and t-shirt choice a bad call. It never actually started to properly rain, yet I felt I should play it safe and head up into the stand for shelter and to explore some more. The stand was as beautiful within it, as it was eyeing its worn exterior from outside of it.
MŠK Žilina had probably been the better team throughout, but the second half saw the away goalie, Dominik Holec, make a string of saves – a couple of long range efforts were thwarted and some excellent one-on-ones too. Holec clearly enjoyed himself as on Žilina’s official website later that evening it had quoted him saying in an interview how ‘attractive’ a game he thought it was. I’m really hoping something got lost in translation – it was shit.
It had been seemed inevitable since the first half really, although I found myself with fingers crossed for an unlikely goal to halt a 0-0 from occurring. That goal never came.
Full-time: AFC Nové Mesto nad Váhom 0 – 0 MŠK Žilina II.
I saw two 0-0 draws in 2015 – both coming on a 3 day, 3 game trip to the south-west of Germany – but I’ve counted that I’ve already seen 5 so far in 2016; Slovak football isn’t exactly filling me with hope that this will be the end of the goalless draws either. In a sad stat-seeking exercise, I’ve just counted that I’ve seen 19 goalless draws since the Lost Boyos groundhopping started in January 2012 – a whole 413 games ago. Suppose 19 0-0s in 413 games isn’t too bad really.
With some time to kill, before my train back to Trnava I headed to the bar behind the star again to find that punters were now allowed indoors to enjoy the bar section. It was here I witnessed the final stages of Spurs taking apart of Pep Guardiola’s previously imperious Manchester City, before heading back towards the train station to head home.
My fast walking got me back to the train station much quicker than anticipated, so I decided to sample one final bar near the station. As mentioned earlier, there were a few options; I decided to snub Relax again and instead I opted for the far dodgier-looking bar around the corner. It was certainly a dive, yet that brought the positive of being one of the few bars I’ve been to in this country where a pint fell below the Euro barrier with a Corgoň costing an almost scandalous 0,90€. It was a fun and economical way to finish off my day in Nové Mesto nad Váhom.
The town itself was hardly a thrill a minute on a Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t as bad as I had possibly imagined. To be honest, I probably preferred it to their neighbours Myjava from the day before. Undoubtedly, the highlight of my Sunday though was that wonderful, wonderful ground: old concrete terraces, a magnificent stand and cheap. I could even ignore the running track and the dire football.
Highlights: some pleasant bar, beautiful football ground, concerte terraces, great stand, cheap food and drink.
Low Points: not much happening on a Sunday, running track around ground, awful 0-0 draw.
See all my photos from my day at Nové Mesto nad Váhom here.