ŠK Šurany v MFK Topvar Topoľčany
Športový klub Šurany / 3. Liga -West / 16th October 2016
“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort,” once said Jane Austen. With a busy few weeks ahead, I thought maybe staying put in Trnava for a weekend for some ‘real comfort’ may do me some good. Plus, my groundhopping pal Sheridan, along with his pals Andy and Glen, were in Slovakia and looking to go to a game near Bratislava; when they declared they’d be going to watch Spartak Trnava, I felt they could do with a Trnava-based guide for the day. With Spartak Trnava II also playing Sunday morning, I decided on a Trnava double-header (although Spartak II play in the nearby village Červeník). This was the plan at least…
A good day was had with the Southern Englanders hitting Trnava’s finest drinking holes and watching Spartak Trnava (somehow) lose 2-0 to second in the league Podbrezová. It was the going to watch Spartak II on Sunday morning part of the weekend’s plans where things went awry. When Jane Austen stated her views on ‘staying at home for real comfort,’ she didn’t take Wi-Fi into account – more specifically broken Wi-Fi. Friday evening saw our flat’s Wi-Fi go kaput and with no technicians available until Monday, our flat was plunged into the dark ages of no internet. Spartak II’s game would be finished by midday on Sunday and I didn’t fancy subjecting myself to being in a flat free of internet for the rest of my Sunday (a sad thought, I know.) A trip further afield was needed to escape my internet-less prison of a flat for the day.
This was a very last-minute call and I found myself walking the ten minutes down the road to Trnava train station with not a clue where I was going to venture to. As I walked, I scanned Soccerway and the ever reliable extensive Sunday fixture list in the lower leagues of Slovak football. It wasn’t long until I had my game and destination. In my remarkably broken Slovak, I arrived at the ticket office in Trnava train station to order a return to Šurany.
There were two main reasons why Šurany was chosen: 1) Me and Craig had ended up changing trains there a few weeks ago on our way back from Zlaté Moravce, so I knew it was easy enough to get to and not too far away and 2) ŠK Šurany were playing Topoľčany, a team who I’d seen play at their home the week before and who it seemed could actually play some football (unlike many other teams here).
Šurany lies in the Danubian lowlands in the south of the country in the Nové Zámky District and 100km southeast from the capital. It seemed that I wouldn’t be getting there directly today and a detour to the edges of Bratislava would be required.
I found myself in the buffet car of the 09:34 train to Bratislava and just like two weeks ago, when I sat in a buffet car to Nové Mesto nad Váhom, there was a man blind drunk next to me. Unlike, the wobbly lad of two weeks ago, at least this one was very static and lay passed out with his head on the table.
Bratislava is a beautiful city, but it’s outskirts are precarious in places to say the least. I found myself at Bratislava Vinohrady station and it’s fair to say that it is a rather dejected part of the city. I was happy to get out of there and board the hour-long train to Šurany; I even had my own train compartment to myself.
With Ralf Haley’s very humorous The Beautiful Dream to read to keep me company (synopsis: average guy travels Europe trying to become a professional footballer), the train journey went quick enough and soon Šurany was upon me – the station familiar to me having spent 30 minutes here with Craig waiting for a delayed train just weeks previous. Less familiar to me was what lay outside the station and having made such a last-minute decision to come here, I really had no idea what I’d find here.
First impressions were good, as I found myself amongst rather quaint little roads filled with rather quaint little houses. And then Tesco suddenly appeared and it all soured a bit from there. It quickly became evident that there wasn’t going to be too much to Šurany, especially when I quickly discovered that there wasn’t even a town square – a stalwart feature of every Slovak town I had been to thus far.
Next to Tesco, I found a rundown building called the Havana Bar (which probably wouldn’t have looked out place in the ghettos of its Cuban namesake). There’d be no sampling of Slovakia’s take on Cuba though, as I found the doors closed. Luckily, I suppose, there was another adjoining bar, but by golly was it rough. The walls were a dirty, fading tone of beige with everything looking worn and unloved; even the plug sockets were rusting over. At the bar sat two weather-worn men, one with two black eyes and a terrier at his feet, sipping away at beer and vodka. The aging barmaid was equally unwelcoming sight with her dirty apron and cigarette hanging out of her mouth. However, I broke my ‘cheap Slovak beer’ record with a pint of Corgon for €0,80.
I was further amused by the fact that the TV was showing a dubbed over version of Police Academy – this was the second time in two weeks I had found myself sat in a random bar in a random Slovak town watching Police Academy. It seems that Police Academy is big here, as days later, after a school excursion to see a British production of Oliver Twist in a theatre in Bratislava, I spotted a poster advertising Michael Winslow live at the very same theatre (the legendary ‘the one who makes all the funny noises’ guy).
Enough of the cheap beer and the amusing noises of Michael Winslow, I went in search of joy in Šurany. There wasn’t much to see really apart from a host of apartment blocks, a rather impressive two-towered church and a small river blocked up with plastic bottles (I’d never seen such litter in Slovakia!) I gave up on exploring and headed into the nearby bar/restaurant sat on the banks of the river.
Having had one more beer that cost twice as much as the wallet friendly €0,80 beers from earlier, I headed for the ground. It then hit me that I’d gambled here. Google Maps revealed that there was a football ground on the edge of the town, but did ŠK Šurany play here? Did ŠK Šurany even play in Šurany itself? I genuinely didn’t know and Google was proving remarkably unhelpful, thanks to this football ground I’d found on the map seemingly not having a name. I headed for it anyway with fingers crossed.
Past the Havana Bar and its edgy neighbouring pub I went and I soon found myself back on rather quaint little roads filled with rather quaint little houses. Then, just away from the residential area, emerged the football ground, surrounded by overgrown trees and grass. I was relieved to see activity outside and hear the thuds of the prematch warm-up getting closer. There was definitely a game here and it was definitely the home of ŠK Šurany as confirmed by the club crest displayed next to the entry gate. €1 was paid at the gate and I was officially part of the attendance figure for this Sunday afternoon’s 3rd tier fixture.
Like much of my experiences in the Slovak lower leagues so far, what I encountered here was an old, ramshackle, unloved ground; fortunately, I’d probably use those 3 adjectives when describing my ideal ground. Like Topolčany and Nové Mesto nad Váhom in previous weeks, the ground is dominated by one main stand, although here there was nowhere else really to go. The stand’s seating is raised above pitch level and flanking either side of the seating area are two raised viewing platforms. Predictably, hidden in the dark underbelly of the stand is the club bar and here I found friendly, smiley barmaids selling pints of Staropramen for €1. The beer was served in strange white, plastic cups which made the beer look almost pink from the exterior. With beer vesselled in a strange plastic cup, I headed out into the warm Sunday afternoon and up into the stand.
Backdropping the seemingly spectator-free, far side of the ground was an uncared for field leading towards the formidable structures of the industrial estate. Amongst the estate resides the town’s once prominent sugar factory, which, strangely enough has a link to a British national treasure. It seems that for an episode of the BBC’s ancestor-chasing show Who Do You Think You Are? the team ended up here, as they delved into the past of Stephen Fry. Tracing his Jewish ancestors, it transpired that Fry’s grandfather, Martin Neumann was once the manager of the town’s sugar mill, before being recruited by the sugar factory in Bury St. Edmunds, to apparently deliver to them his expertise on beet cultivation. And so Stephen Fry, on his mother’s side, is a descendant of Šurany and the Hungarian Jews that dwelled there (Šurany, being so far south in Slovakia, was previously occupied by Hungary.)
I took a seat in the stand and whilst Nelly Furtado and Pharrell blasted out over the speakers, I gazed out at the industrial backdrop of the ground. However, I was not to be left in peace, as it seemed a whole armada of random bugs had descended on the ground today. At one point I looked at my knee to see a wasp sitting upon it, along with two ladybirds and one grasshopper-y-looking thing. I looked around me and the whole air seemed abuzz with insects. I decided to move, but not before trying to swat somes flies away, only to accidentally launch my phone down the stand; it seems my new Samsung phone is remarkably durable as it dived two rows down the stand, yet seemingly had not a scratch on it after I hopped the seats to rescue it (feel free to give me free stuff Samsung after that plug.)
I’d enjoyed watching Topoľčany play a week ago, thanks largely to their Rwandan winger Jean Claude Iranzi. As I mentioned in the last blog, in a strange turn of events, Topoľčany had signed a group of Rwandans in the summer with 3 of them playing today. However, despite their fairly impressive showing last week, it was the home team who dominated early on here.
In the 10th minute, Šurany deservedly took the lead, but the penalty they earned to take the lead was soft to say the least. Up stepped Martin Dudáš to comfortably finish from the spot.
The player catching my eye this week was Šurany’s no.24, Michal Gábriš. Gábriš was controlling everything in the middle of the pitch with his all-action movement and powerful looking frame popping up all over the pitch. I couldn’t help being reminded of Swansea cult hero Michu by the way he ran powerfully across the grass and his slightly unorthodox gait. Šurany really should have been further in front mainly thanks to their no.6, who was an absolute lethal corner taker; he’d even come close to putting a couple of his corners straight in the net at times.
However, my favourite, Iranzi, slowly entered the game and was picking up where he left from last week. Also on the scoresheet for Topoľčany last week David Hopsevyan and he’d grabbed the equaliser here, as he tapped in following a nice passing move.
It was about time I witnessed a quality goal within the Slovak borders and nothing has bettered Šurany’s 2nd goal so far. Another excellent corner from the no.6 (who I learned was called Igor Schroner) saw the ball eventually cleared away from goal, where David Bencsik was waiting. A touch out of his feet and then Bencsik launched a 25 yard low drive that soared into the bottom corner. A certified screamer. And conveniently seconds before the half-time whistle too.
For once out here, I’d witnessed a thoroughly entertaining first half.
Half-time: ŠK Šurany 2 – 1 MFK Topvar Topoľčany.
I shuffled over to the other ‘viewing platform’ for the second half (having acquired another pink-looking beer of course) and I soon was approached by a stranger wielding a large camera. I had spotted this bespectacled stranger taking photos with his camera earlier and immediately ascertained that he was a groundhopper (we’re so easy to spot). Having seen my tweets about being in Šurany, he approached me and confirmed that he indeed was a groundhopper from Austria. This was Christian – a groundhopper with an impressive 800 grounds to his name. We had a good chat for the first part of the second half and he seemed a cool guy; plus, he was yet another Rapid Vienna fan that I had met on my travels. Christian has a football blog (in German) too, which features various groundhopping and football-related stuff, which you can check it out here; it features a blog about this very game too.
David Hopsevyan equalised for Topoľčany – but I can’t remember how. I went off to explore the more uncharted area over the other side of the ground. There was a curving path for a bit, circling the fencing around the pitch (once again, it appeared that a running track of some sort had once resided here), but largely I was forced to brave the overgrown grass, before arriving at some rusty sort of gates. I found a fellow adventurer to the ‘other side’ and so to mark this momentous crossing, he obliged to take my photo in front of the rusting gates.
Then, as I headed back round to the main stand, I missed it: my beloved Iranzi scored. I’m not sure how, but I did catch his wild celebrations to mark his goal in the 81st minute. The celebration’s wildness was probably a result of this being a rather feisty game with there being regular minor scuffles, as well as one bigger blow up, leading to the coaching staff of both teams having to break up ‘handbags’ between the majority of the 22 on the pitch. But, Iranzi’s goal would be the last action of the game to have a true impact and for the second week in a row I was seeing Topoľčany walk away with 3 points.
Full-time: ŠK Šurany 2 – 3 MFK Topvar Topoľčany.
There wasn’t too long until my train back to Trnava and so I dashed off to the train station with the idea of sampling the train station bar before heading off. This was a great call. I’m not even sure how at times, but I somehow struck up a conversation with a gentleman at the bar and we had a great chat whilst I drank my pivo and waited for my train. This was ‘Jerry’ and he was very proud of the fact that he had spent some months living in Northern Ireland. He was great company, as we chatted about where I had been in Slovakia so far and my general escapades. Inevitably, this brought us on to the topic of borovička and soon I was ordering one to end my day in Šurany. Jerry was driving and insisted on not having one – there is complete zero-tolerance to drinking and driving here, even a a drop of alcohol, and fairplay to the Slovaks, they follow the rule without fault. Which brings me onto another life lesson regarding alcohol and travel.
Never have borovička before getting your train home is my advice. I like to think I can handle borovička very well, but if there’s one thing it does do to me, it makes me sleepy. You can probably see where this is going…my old party trick was back…
For those less well-versed in my slumber history, I’ve performed the ‘unintentionally falling asleep on the train’ trick 3-4 times on my travels – to varying degrees of “For fuck’s sake!” Today was fairly low down on the “For fuck’s sake!” scale to be honest. A train change in Galanta and I was onto the last 30 minute of my journey stretch back to Trnava. Fair to say, I was confused as to why on leaving Galanta it seemed 20 minutes later that the train’s PA system was announcing that the next stop was Galanta. Eh? It then dawned on me: it wasn’t 20 minutes later, but 45 minutes later. I had fallen asleep, arrived in Trnava, stayed asleep and then the train had turned around and headed back to Galanta. It was lucky really that I had only closed my eyes for a short while, otherwise I could have slept through Galanta and ended up somewhere near the Hungarian border. I still felt a prat though. I tried to coerce myself into believing that arriving back in Galanta was a good thing, as in the 30 minute wait for the next train to Trnava I could sample another train station bar (no Jerrys this time though).
I did make it back to Trnava awake on my second attempt. I further placated my feeling of stupidity over falling asleep by reminding myself that, had I stayed awake, I would have been in Trnava an hour earlier and would have spent another hour in my flat devoid of Wi-Fi. Šurany had been a great escape, as I had discovered another lovely, ugly ground and actually witnessed an entertaining, lively game, featuring burgeoning Lost Boyos legend Jean Claude Iranzi.
Highlights: cheap beer in pub, another old ground. cheap beer at ground, good game, great goal from David Bencsik. more Jean Claude Iranzi action.
Low points: quiet town, not many interesting pubs/bars, train sleeping returning.
See all my photos from my day in Šurany here.