Lost in…Karviná

MFK Karviná v Bohemians 1905

Městský stadion Karviná / Czech First League / 26th November 2016

It was 5.30am and I found myself on the train from Trnava to Bratislava with the taste of mulled wine from the opening night of Trnava’s Christmas market still prominent in my mouth. Bratislava was the first stop on a morning long journey. Today I was going to the Czech Republic for the second time – the small industrial town of Karviná in the east to be more precise. The attraction there? Watching MFK Karviná of the Czech First League and visiting the club’s recently redeveloped footballing home. Karviná was the end of the line for the day, but first it was decided that we would pay a visit to the nearby and more prominent city of Ostrava – the third largest city in the Czech Republic. The ‘we’ in question being me and The Blankso Klobása gang.

I arrived into Ostrava shortly after 9am and not long after I was joined by Ralph and Craggy, as well as Czech native Michael, who despite claiming to not really being a football fan, is slowly becoming charmed by the mighty FK Blansko apparently. As we left the train station, it soon became clear that Ostrava wasn’t going to be the glittering, modern industrial city I had envisioned in my mind (where this vision had come from, I had no idea).

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Ralph gets chatting to a graffiti artist…

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…and then leads us to the Town Hall Tower. Yeah, no way was I going up that.

Our itinerary for the day was a mystery to me, so I let a sleep-deprived and hungover Ralph call the shots. On the nippy walk into Ostrava’s centre, and having stopped for a chat with a female graffiti artist, Ralph mentioned going up the town hall tower. That was fine with me, until we rounded a corner and it became apparent to me how high the tower was; it was the dominant force of the Ostrava skyline. I then had to reveal my pathetic fear of heights and that there was no chance of me heading up the 86 metres to the top. Even from the bottom looking up at the 3 of them stood on the viewing deck at the top made me feel sick. Following their descent back down, I was told I hadn’t missed much as it was very foggy and they even had had to pay a few coins for the pleasure. Scandalous. The next bit of sightseeing was more to my liking at least.

We headed away from the town centre and over the Ostravice river, until we arrived under a motorway bridge covered in graffiti. Most of the graffiti talked of notorious hooligan gangs with frightening names such as ‘Silesian Hunters’ and ‘Hool’s Banik’ (yes the superfluous apostrophe annoyed me too). This confirmed to me that we were approaching Bazaly – the now abandoned former home of the mighty Banik Ostrava. Before visiting the city today, all I knew of Ostrava was the football team, who I had a certain soft spot for thanks to the precocious young striker I repeatedly poached from them on Championship Manager; his name was Milan Baros. Despite my love of the player in the virtual world, I floated the idea that the football career one of Banik’s most famous sons, Baros, never really took off successfully anywhere else in the real world.

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Ralph doesn’t get the message of trying to look tough next to the hooligan graffiti…

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The steps up to Bazaly.

From the outside, the Bazaly was a crumbling blue shell and a bit of an eyesore. However, glancing through the gates, the stadium’s magnificence became clear. We headed around the main stand and Ralph had a few shakes of a locked gate, before we began to consign ourselves to the idea that our only interaction with the stadium would be from outside it. Much to my surprise, a lady then poked her head out of the entrance to the main stand. Ralph engaged in conversation with her and whatever he said to her worked, as she began letting us in through the open door and into the main foyer of Banik’s old home.

Down a small tunnel we headed and we were soon pitchside and by the dugouts, walking along the pitch where, back in 1993, Ryan Giggs once played in a rare Wales away game for him. I would have loved to have watched a game here – especially in the huge sloping, open terrace opposite us and the main stand.

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Pitch side in Bazaly.

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Shame this place isn’t used by Banik anymore.

It was now gone 10.30am and we went in search of a bar. With this being a Saturday in a city in Central Europe, I thought this would be an easy task, but it proved hugely arduous. We first found a bar alongside the river that wasn’t open until 11am. Then, we plodded on to the city centre where I figured there’d be an abundance of bars and ones that would be open. How wrong I was. Ralph seems to know his Ostrava bars, but his early tips were all closed until 12 or 1pm. Even the Christmas market in the town square failed to have beer on sale and none of us were really feeling early morning mulled wine. The lack of open bars did mean we walked around more of the city in hunt of a drinking hole and so I got to know Ostrava a bit more; to be honest it wasn’t the prettiest place I’ve ever been to with a very industrial feel to it.  Additionally, if you’re an alcoholic and need a beer before midday on a Saturday, this may not be the place for you.

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In Ostrava’s centre.

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More big graffiti.

Eventually we found a bar just away from the town square and we settled here for some beers amongst the motorbike paraphernalia that adorned the walls; even the stools at the bar were in the shape of motorbikes. The local beer, unoriginally called Ostravar, was a bit bland, but I’ll remember this bar for one thing more than anything else: warmed up crisps. A simple idea which was completely alien to me, but undoubtedly it is the future. Perfect with the spicy chilli dip provided.

It was only in this bar that I learned that Craggy and Michael had opted to spend the day drinking in Ostrava, rather than come and enjoy the delights of top flight Czech football in Karviná. So it was just me and Ralph who departed the bar, hopped on a tram back to Ostrava’s main station and then onto a train heading 20 minutes east to Karviná.

We were far enough east now that the Polish border was approximately a mere 5km away (I plan on crossing that border for the first time in a couple of weeks time). From what little I saw of Karviná, it seemed to be a very non-descript town with nothing of any real significance to write home about. Much like it’s far larger neighbour, Ostrava, Karviná is a industry-heavy town.

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Just some chickens in the street…

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The brewery bar.

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Obligatory town square photo.

We made our way through a small residential area before we found a large Billa being circled by various police cars and vans. It soon became clear that today’s away team, Bohemians 1905 from Prague, had brought a fairly sizable following and the police were keeping a close eye on the area. Me and Ralph evaded such suspicion and headed for the town square, where Ralph knew of a brewery down one of the side streets.

In the brewery bar, we found a dimly lit setup amongst the stoney flooring and stoney pillars. The customers also seemed remarkably quiet and someone who speaks fairly loud like me was probably the last thing they wanted. Ralph got us in two Radegasts and it was definitely my favourite beer of the day. It was so good we stayed for more of the stuff and long enough that we had to eventually book a taxi to the ground.

En route to the ground, Ralph got chatting to our taxi driver in Czech, while I was distracted by the amazing ‘F00TBALL’ number plate on the BMW driving in front of us. 5 minutes after leaving the pub and we were rocking up outside the home of MFK Karviná.

With Karviná being so close to the Polish border and being a part of the historical region of Cieszyn Silesia, the area once boasted a whole host of different football clubs at the start of the 20th century, thanks to the multi-ethnicity of the region; Czech, Polish, German and Jewish communities all had teams representing them in the area up until World War I. Post-war the Jewish and German clubs never reformed, whilst the Czech and Polish teams were forced to play under separate national club banners at the arrival of Communism: the Czech teams were all forced to join the club ZSJ OKD Mír Karviná; the Polish teams were united as part of the club Polonia Karwina.

The Czech side, ZSJ OKD Mír Karviná, became FC Karviná, via many other names, and made it to the Czech top flight twice in the late 90s – getting relegated on both occasions. The club would plunge down the leagues to the 4th tier until they merged with Jäkl Karviná in 2003 and became the MFK Karviná we see today.

Last season saw MFK Karviná win the second tier and gain promotion to the top league for the first time since they’ve played under the name of MFK Karviná.

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Ignore the floodlights and does this really look like a football ground?…

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Really?…

Karviná’s stadium, built on the grounds of their old relic of a ground, is still very much in its nascent days having only opened in its new look at the start of the season. From the outside it didn’t exactly take my breath away, as it seemed to be just a dark grey, shiny building that you could imagine a local council opening as a new base for their operations; this, however, was the exterior of the main stand. If it wasn’t for the green clad fans milling around outside the building, I’d never have thought this the footballing base of MFK Karviná, as there appeared to be not the slightest hint of this on the stadium’s outer shell.

Our first port of call was the club shop adjacent to the ticket office, where Ralph was seeking a pin badge to add to his collection. I was after a scarf to add to my collection too and the club shop duly obliged in providing me with a lovely green number for 150kc. Bargain.

Next stop was the ticket office, where we encountered a delighted ticket seller once she realised she was dealing with English speakers; however, Ralph shot down her hopes of practicing the English language by communicating in Czech. He requested that she place us near the Ultras (if Karviná had any) and so she pointed out two spots on the map of the main stand. It seemed a bit strange to me placing the louder fans down the side of the pitch instead of behind the goal, but I figured she knew better than me.

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The main stand.

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Adopted home fan for the day.

Our entrance to the ground was right next to the club shop and the shiny, yet dull, main entrance. I realised then that I had a large bottle of Kofola in my bag and began to anticipate the fury of the stewards at accidentally trying to smuggle a bottled drink through the turnstiles and into the stands; then, Ralph reminded me that this wasn’t the U.K. and they wouldn’t care – and they really didn’t care.

The exterior of the ground hadn’t interested me too much, but the interior was much more impressive. The three sides of the ground were single-tiered stands all connected together, whilst the stand we resided in was the far swankier, far larger and far more glass panel-loving main stand. Don’t ask me why, but I do enjoy a club whose main colour is green and this stadium was very green; even more so thanks to the opponents today, Bohemians, also being a green-wearing club. This brings me nicely on to the away fans…

They were flipping awesome! As soon as we had entered the ground, the small pen containing their sellout away end was bouncing and singing and causing a general racket. It soon became clear that me and Ralph were nowhere near the small contingent of Karviná Ultras, who were, like I predicted, based behind the far goal. We both admitted that we’d have rather been in with the raucous Bohemians fans if that had been possible.

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The Bohemians fans.

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Almost time for kick-off.

We took up a spot right in the bottom corner of the main stand as the teams emerged onto the pitch – Karviná in mainly white with a touch of green on their shirts; Bohemians in green and white stripes. The away end became a parade of scarf-waving, flares, smoke and noise as the teams lined up.

Fairplay, the game was actually excellent, much to my surprise. My only other experience of Czech football had come at FC Slovácko back at the end of September and, aside from a wonder goal, that game had been monumentally dull. This was far more action-packed.

The game started  at a frantic pace, but Bohemians were being the more aggressive on the attack. Bohemians started the day two points clear of the hosts in mid-table and quality-wise there appeared little difference, it was just that the away team were more incisive.

While the Bohemians fans retained their lively, raucous support, Karviná’s fans responded by waving around green and white balloons; it wasn’t the most intimidating act I’d ever seen by a set of fans. In fairness though, as the game went on, the home fans did get louder and it was great to actually hear all 3 sides of the home end joining in the shouts of “Karviná!” on a few occasions.

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Match action.

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Match action.

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Me and Ralph.

The away team was still on top as the half developed and it was only goalie Jan Laštůvka, who was keeping the away team at bay with some great saves. Laštůvka began his career with the club before returning back this season after 16 years away; more importantly, Laštůvka had the highest honour in football by being given the chance to play for Welsh managerial god Chris Coleman whilst on loan at Fulham in 06/07 (although he only featured 8 times).

In the closing stages of the first half, the Karviná substitutes began warming up right in front of me. The tall, blonde, lanky no.27 looked familiar to me for some reason;it took a long time for me to realise that he looked the spitting image of my good pal and Lost Boyos regular Craig. The Karviná 27 was thus dubbed from thereon as ‘Czech Craig’.

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Filip “Czech Craig” Panak.

Half-time: MFK Karviná 0-0 Bohemians 1905.

Lo and behold, after clearly impressing with his stretches before half-time – and with Karviná’s attack being remarkably blunt – on came Czech Craig for the second half.. And what an impact he’d have.

Three minutes into the half and the lively forward was to turn the game in Karviná’s favour. Czech Craig (who was actually called Filip Panák, but was now already landed with his nickname) stole the ball from the defence on the edge of the box and cut down the goal line to the left of goal; it initially looked as if he was going to roll the ball across goal, but instead he slotted the ball past the keeper from an acute angle (having seen replays of the goal, I’m still debating whether he actually dummied the keeper with his eyes or just fluffed the low cross).

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Match action.

The noise level in the ground had shot up with the home fans jubilant – not that the Bohemians fans had stopped though. They were brilliantly relentless. Sadly for them, their efforts in the stand were not being rewarded on the pitch.

The game had certainly not seemed out of sight for Bohemians, but Czech Craig had certainly instilled a hell of a lot of life into the home team and it was 2-0 to Karviná in the 73rd minute. The 2nd was ridiculously easy as a high looping corner landed on the head of a home attacker, who directed the ball to the back post, where a simple tap back across goal left Marek Janečka to prod into an empty net.

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Karviná celebrate their 2nd.

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Match action.

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Czech Craig on corner duty.

With the home team 2-0 up, the 3 points began to look a foregone conclusion and Karviná even had the luxury of introducing their rather flash looking blonde-mohawked attacker, Erik Puchel. His contribution would be worth the (rather cheap admittedly) entry fee alone. The clock had struck 90 and a great long ball was played to Puchel. Puchel clearly couldn’t be arsed to run and instead launched an audacious volleyed lob over the goalie from 25 yards. The Bohemians keeper wasn’t even far off his line, but the ball still flew over him and into the net; I was declaring “IN!” as soon as it left his foot. What a bloody goal! A superb way to finish off a fun game. If you want a link to this beauty of a goal, you can watch it here.

Full-time: MFK Karviná 3-0 Bohemians 1905.

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Football is an emotional game as a Bohemians player shows when he collapses to the floor in despiar as Puchel scores a beauty.

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The pyro from the home end floods the pitch at the final whistle.

The game had been a strange one with a 3-0 win feeling a bit harsh on the away team. By now, smoke was crossing the pitch from the home end’s pyro and smoke bombs, but it was still the away end which was the most boisterous as the players headed over to them and were applauded by them; remember, these players had just lost 3-0, but were still having support poured down on them. The flares were back out amongst the Bohemians fans and as we left the ground, the smoke from the away end was still streaming out of the stand creating this lovely image below.

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Smoking streaming out of the away end as we leave the ground. Superb away fans.

Ralph spoke of there being a bus back to the train station and as we exited it was there directly in front of us. It wasn’t long before we were back in the warmth of Karviná train station, where we had enough time to indulge in some beers before we had to part ways with Ralph heading back to Ostrava and me heading to Český Těšín right on the Czech/Poland border.For the sake of affordability, I was taking a different route home back to Trnava.

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Final beers in the Czech Republic.

I arrived into Český Těšín to catch the Regio Jet to Žilina and then another Regio Jet from Žilina to Trnava. No, I haven’t taken to flying from town to town in Slovakia, Regio Jet are the train company who run their own private trains across the country. I’d seen their distinctive yellow trains many a time on my travels and it seemed that they were my cheapest option back to Trnava. I soon discovered that Regio Jets are just plain awesome. For my €10 ‘Relax’ ticket to ride the Regio Jet, I got myself the most lovely and comfortable of leather seats and my own waiter…oh and a free bottle of water, but that was ignored. In fact, life was probably too good on the train from Žilina to Trnava…

I imagine it was a combination of factors such as the 5am alarm clock, the consumption of a lot of beer and those wonderful leather seats, but I looked out the window and the train was flying past Pezinok. I’d performed my old party trick again: I’d slept through Trnava and was now heading into Bratislava. D’oh. This was an irritant but fixable, as I hopped off my Regio Jet at Bratislava and onto a boring, proper train back towards Trnava a 30 minute train journey back the way I’d come from. I was back in Trnava in time for beers in the now legendary Lokal Pub at least and that’s all that really mattered.

Karviná hadn’t exactly excited me as a place, but the football there definitely did. Plus, that 3rd goal will certainly be one of the best I’ll see on the road this season. Also, despite my early misgivings, the stadium won me over too.

I’ll save my true judgements on Ostrava for a time when I visit properly, but it was great to go along with the Blankso gang again and I’m sure it won’t be the last time either.

Highlights: day with the Blansko Klobasa, visiting Bazaly, warmed up crisps, brewery pub in Karviná, great game at Karviná, Czech Craig’s performance, Puchel’s lob, Regio Jet home.

Low Points: finding a bar in Ostrava, Karviná bit dull, stadium bit dull from outside, waking up in Bratislava.

See all my photos from Ostrava and Karviná here.

6 thoughts on “Lost in…Karviná

  1. I have been to Ostrava. What an eye opening experience. We parked at that spot under the motorway when we went to game following Middlesbrough.

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