FC DAC Dunajská Streda v Tatran Prešov
DAC Arena / Slovak Super Liga / 25th February 2017
“Well, maybe I’ll just support, I don’t know…FC DAC Dunajská Streda…” – Craig Bratt – May 2016.
On telling Craig that my move to Slovakia was all but confirmed, talk between the two of us soon turned to the nation’s football scene. He was already scouring the league table when he declared the statement above – the pause mid-sentence was the momentarily pondering of which club he thought had the silliest name. He had known nothing about them, but, Craig being Craig, within minutes he had done his research of DAC and, being a fellow football shirt lover, he now had his heart truly set on the club having seen the rather garish bright blue and yellow garments worn by the club. By the end of our conversation, he was planning his first trip out to Slovakia and days later he had genuinely booked his flight to Slovakia before I’d even booked mine to move out there. The lad was keen on DAC.
DAC are a rather big anomaly in Slovak football, largely thanks to the fact that they don’t really see themselves as Slovak at all DAC are Slovakia’s Hungarian team. To the locals, Dunajská Streda is actually the Magyarised ‘Dunaszerdahely’ with the majority of the 22,000 inhabitants being of Hungarian ethnicity, thanks to the town’s proximity to the Hungary border. Thus, the town’s football club have become a beacon for Hungarian nationalism in the area – something that does not go down well with some of Slovakia’s more nationalistic clubs, such as Spartak Trnava and especially Slovan Bratislava. I’m no Slovak nationalist, but since I’ve been adopted by Slovakia, my loyalties lie with Slovakia rather than the Hungarian side of things; not that I have a real problem with Hungary or DAC either – it’s not my battle to be involved in. In fact, I have a lot of respect for DAC from our previous experience with the club.
At the start of the season DAC were homeless as they begun the deconstruction and ambitious renovation of their old ground. This saw them playing their home games in Senec at the home of second tier team ŠK Senec whilst the building began. Craig wasn’t keen on his first DAC experience being at a temporary home, so instead he opted to pick an away game. This saw me head along with him to Zlaté Moravce back in a September, where we watched both teams bundle their way to a 1-1 draw. The football was awful, but the DAC fans were superb and possibly the most vocal I’d encountered in the country, along with maybe the away support at the two Spartak Trnava games I’d been to.
At that time, DAC were struggling to win any games at all and it seemed they weren’t enjoying life at Senec. The club seemed to hasten the building of their new stadium and in November the club opted to move home and to their new build, even though only 2 stands had been built. This move back coincided with the appointment of Csaba László as manager and the team have been remarkably resurgent ever since. With DAC back at their true, admittedly unfinished, home, Craig decided now was the time to pay a visit to the DAC Arena, as we entered the second weekend of the Slovak Super Liga following the winter break. It also gave me the chance to tick off another top flight club as I continued in my quest to visit every ground in the Slovak Super Liga in one season.
Craig had arrived into Slovakia early Friday morning and having had no sleep, he spent most of Friday lazing about my flat as he caught up on some sleep. This was then followed by an evening of Trnava’s finest pubs and bars, beer, cider, borovička and watching Mammia Mia back at the flat (don’t ask). So, with slight hangovers and the tune of Dancing Queen still in our heads, we made our way to Trnava train station to begin our venture into the rather more quiet depths of south Slovakia.
Beer in the train bar was still a bit much for me on the 10am train to Bratislava, so I instead indulged in a Slovak favourite which I rarely partake in: drinking caj – or tea to you and me. Those few Slovaks who don’t enjoy alcohol always seems to be drinking fancy-looking teas in bars and for whatever reason – despite being more of a self-confessed coffee addict – I found myself desiring some fruit tea. It did the trick and I was fired up for the rest of the day as we alighted at Bratislava train station.
Bratislava train station can be a terrifying place thanks to the various grisly, usually inebriated folk that roam its forecourt, so instead of hanging around there, I directed us straight to bar within the station. Thanks to the heater being on and the smoke from the cigarettes being puffed by a man resembling a hipster Jesus, this bar proved equally uncomfortable. Even worse, the only beer on sale was the cardboard-esque Staropramen; as per usual, no alcohol for Craig as finding cider in such dingy bars still proves tough going in Slovakia.
Shortly after 11am, we were aboard the small RegioJet train south to Dunajská Streda. Despite being just 45km south-east of Bratislava, the train journey to the town would prove irritatingly slow as we stopped at every backwater stop en route. As well as that, as beautiful a country as Slovakia is, the south of the country is remarkably dull in regards of scenery so there wasn’t a lot to see out the window.
Due to the Magyarisation of the club, we both knew fully well that wearing a DAC shirt openly around many parts of Slovakia – especially Trnava and Bratislava – would be a monumentally stupid thing to do and asking for trouble, so Craig’s DAC shirt was safely stowed away in my bag. But as we got further south and nearer the Hungarian border, we began to notice more and more people boarding the train in DAC merchandise and Craig saw this as the opportunity to sport his own. He grinned happily as he put it on and noted that it even matched the colour of the RegioJet’s seats.
After 1 or 2 more small, isolated towns, Dunajská Streda was upon us and we alighted. Colleagues in work had balked at the idea of me going to Dunajská Streda as they declared it a ‘boring town’ (although, admittedly, after 6 months, they’ve just come to accept that I’ll go to these sort of towns for the simple matter of watching some football). My fellow Central European football travelling compatriot Ralph had even stated that he couldn’t even recommend one pub to me there – and he’s usually very good for a pub recommendation. Fortunately for me and Craig though, we’d spent the past few months talking to Stoke fan Ashley, who regularly goes to watch DAC thanks to his girlfriend’s family being from area. With DAC being his second team (he has a flag and everything) he was the man to ask and he told us to head to the bar opposite the stadium; a place me and Craig referred to solely as ‘The Green Bungalow’ from the photos we had seen.
Kick-off was at 2pm today, as the stadium was having work done to its floodlights, so we headed straight there with 2 hours to go. Plus, from the quick glancing about, there really wasn’t much to be seen in Dunajská Streda and my colleagues seemed spot on with their analysis of the town. Getting to the stadium was remarkably easy as we virtually went in a straight line down the road from the station; plus, it was signposted all the way – with the signs being in Slovak and Hungarian of course.
It took us just over 10 minutes to find ourselves outside the DAC Arena and it was a far more impressive sight than I imagined, especially considering a large part of it was still a building site. We found ourselves behind the only remaining original stand of the ground’s previous incarnation, complete with shabby hotel entrance; whether it was a hotel in use or not, I was unsure – it seemed more of an executive box to me. This stand was now dwarfed by the right angle of the two new stands to its left. Obviously, I’d seen photos of the new stadium, but the new stands looked far larger in reality than in the photos and still looked gleamingly new too.
We navigated our way around the stand until we found the ticket office. Neither me or Craig are versed in Slovak or Hungarian so we pointed our way through ordering tickets, which cost us €6 to go in the ‘B’ stand behind the goal. I was happy with that, but less happy about having to buy a fan card to participate in what I see as the pointless ritual of the ‘cashless card’ system. This meant that we had to put money on the card to purchase any food or drink in the ground. I’ve encountered this system many times on my travels around places like Germany and Belgium, but this was the first I’d come across it in this part of the world. We got one card between us (Craig was happy I had no interest in keeping it as that meant that he had another DAC memento), put €10 on it and then headed for the ‘Green Bungalow’.
Ash had told us beforehand that this bar is run by a rather eccentric chap called Csiscó. He’d sent us a photo of Csiscó and his bar and I recognised him straightaway as he stood out in the street looking particularly bemused. There was a gathering of young DAC fans drinking on the little veranda attached to the bar, but we headed inside and found that the Green Bungalow was indeed pretty much a house turned into a bar. The clientele inside were colourful characters and there weren’t many in there under 50. We ended up on a table next to a rather round and rambling man, who of course was sipping a shot of some sort alongside his beer. Again, there was no cider here, so Craig opted for his beloved Kofola instead. As well as drinks, the bar man wearing a bizarre gilet came over to us and, like every other table, provided us with slices of bread smothered in some sort of onion paste with onions on top for free. Nice one!
I inadvertently made eye contact with the boisterous gentleman to our left and with my track record of attracting ‘characters’ I was almost certain he’d soon be attempting to chat with me – especially as the two elders he had been speaking loudly and gesticulating at had now deserted him. But, we got out of there without such an encounter and on finishing my second beer we headed back around to the stands.
I’ve done 6 months of Slovak football now and the idea of a decent crowd is becoming more alien to me by the month. I knew DAC had a loyal support, but I was a bit taken aback to see queues snaking back way from the turnstiles. I’ve learned over the time that the Slovaks love a good slow queue, but it seems the Hungarians are much quicker at getting the queue down, so soon we were at the front being searched by security. I completely forgot I had a bottle of Kofola in my bag and I began my apologies to the security man. He laughed and said it was fine, before gesturing that I could take it in as long as I gave him the lid – it was like being back in the UK! Although they may love the bottle top rule in the UK, they certainly wouldn’t let you in with a bottle not bought in the expensive kiosks of their stadium concourse.
Craig had gone ahead of me in sheer excitement and I knew where to find him immediately: he was like a kid in a sweet shop as he eyed up the various DAC merchandise on sale at the little makeshift club shop tent on the concourse. He came away with a new scarf (he already had one as he was kindly given one by a fan we met when we went to Zlaté Moravce), a key ring and a small pennant for his car to go along with the various other random football memorabilia he has knocking around in his Fiat Panda.
I believe the theory is that by using cashless cards to buy food and drink in stadiums, the waiting time at food and drink kiosks is supposed to be massively reduced. This certainly wasn’t the case here as the queues weren’t budging one bit. The locals were even getting restless, certifiably proving that these folk were definitely not Slovak; from my experiences, the Slovaks seem to love nothing more than waiting patiently in a long queue. We were next to be served, but the lads behind us were trying to tell us something. Through broken English they were telling us that we should tell the lady serving to hurry up, although right on cue she turned to serve us (once again, no cider for Craig, so our order was one beer and one Kofola again). The lads then spoke to me in German asking had we been here before; when I told them this was our first time they stated that they hoped we’d bring them good luck. Then, instinctively as he music belted out from pitchside, they whipped off their scarves and held them proudly above their heads. The club anthem was beginning.
I wrote in my blog about Slavia Prague that I love a club that shows off its colours and DAC were definitely showing off their distinctively vibrant yellow and blue here. Me and Craig walked up the steps into the stand and were met with a small sea of yellow and blue scarves held aloft and a rousing rendition of the club anthem. Craig soon joined the yellow and blue wall as he raised his scarf to the air, although he didn’t brave the Magyar lyrics of the song being brandished across the big screen in the corner karaoke-style.
The teams were now out on the pitch each in their respective and distinguishing kits – DAC in their yellow and blue, and Tatran in their usual green. Both clubs have spent most of the season down towards the bottom of the table, although neither team can be relegated now thanks to Spartak Myjava sadly quitting the league mid-season. However, DAC have been resurgent since László came in as manager. Today would be as resurgent as one team could possibly be too.
I’ve seen very few performances or games of real quality after 6 months in Slovakia and Tatran’s showing definitely followed this theme for of football abjectness. Sadly, for them, DAC were the complete opposite and were absolutely superb. They completely blew their opponents away and delivered as good a team performance I’ve seen all season.
From the opening minutes, they threw everything at the Tatran goal and were cutting open the away defence seemingly at will. It took just 9 minutes for DAC to take a deserved lead. A superb inswinging cross from out on the right headed to the far side of the box, where Erik Pačinda expertly sidefoot volleyed with his left past the goalie. Cue lots of scarves swinging around me, including Craig. Fairplay to the DAC lot, they can make a lot of noise. I was also a big fan of their electronic advertising boards having the word ‘GOAL!’ frantically bouncing all over the place – much cooler than any advert.
It was to be as one-sided a game as I’ve seen all season. It was hard to tell whether Tatran were playing that bad or were DAC playing that good. With me being a football romantic and with football supposed to be fun, I tend to always lean towards the attacking team being the better when presented with such a notion.The only real surprise was that DAC were not hitting the back of the net more often in front of the old stand at the far end to us.
There was still time for one clear one-on-one missed as Tatran’s defence played in their opponents, a couple of half chances for Tatran and one speculative 25 yard volley from DAC smashing the crossbar, but the home team had been so dominant, I was surprised to see them go in only 1-0 up at half-time.
Half-time: DAC Dunajská Streda 1 – 0 Tatran Prešov.
More queuing was required to get more beer and Kofola, although things were speeding up now at least. I may well be wrong, but I got the impression that this was the first game that the club had deployed the cashless card system and inevitably there could be teething problems (I still hate it though).
DAC had been miserly with their goalscoring exploits in the first half, but the second half saw them being far more generous in that department. Again, Tatran still seemed to be on their winter break and seemed to have forgotten how to play football. It took until the 56th minute for DAC to make it 2-0. After a succession of corners and freekicks into the box, DAC finally finished one off with Pape Sarr heading low into the far corner.
It was now very much floodgates open as DAC truly went for the jugular. The 65th minute saw DAC break down the left and a great low ball into the box was clipped goalwards by a defender, only to be poked over the line by Kristopher Vida. 3-0 and the least that was deserved.
2 minutes later it was 4-0 to DAC after more quite frankly horrifying defending from Tatran. A ball from the right seemed to be bouncing harmlessly towards the near post; defenders nor goalie reacted at all and in popped Pavol Šafranko to turn in a weak volley from a tight angle, which just sort of bumbled slowly over the line. More scarf twirling ensued.
Following the 4th goal I was on my way to get my next beer and found a rather deserted concourse this time, as the natives opted to bask in their 4-0 win rather than top up on beer. However, I was soon joined by others and it was the lads I had spoken German to earlier. Without even speaking one of them hugged me and said that ‘The English’ (as per usual, I cringed at being called ‘English’) had brought them luck today. We were apparently welcomed back. I’m sure Craig would be more than keen on returning. I was just more concerned with the fact that apparently there was no longer enough money on our fan card to buy our round of one beer, one Kofola. Of course, I did the decent thing and bought myself a beer and left Craig Kofola-less. I reasoned that he’d be happy enough enjoying DAC’s barnstorming showing.
5-0 seemed inevitable and in the 72nd minute that was the case as Pačinda scored his 2nd of the game. A ball was played low and a good 30 yards across the pitch from right to left, but the Tatran defence carried on their comedy act and let the ball go all the way through to Pačinda, who ran at goal, fired into the far corner and then ran off arms outstretched celebrating. His celebration was completed with him placing his foot on a team mate’s knee and performing the classic boot cleaning gesture.
There was time for DAC to put in a 6th, but the ref rightly ruled it out, as DAC took their clever passing freekick whilst the ref was still spraying his magic spray at the feet of Tatran’s 3 man wall. It was a shame though, as the goal seemed a well-rehearsed routine.
The game petered out slightly as DAC took their foot off the pedal a bit in the closing ten minutes, although the fans were still in buoyant mood as their team sauntered to their biggest ever win in the Slovak top flight.
Full-time: DAC Dunajská Streda 5 – 0 Tatran Prešov
(Or ‘DAC Dunaszerdahely 5 -0 Tatran Sároseperjes’ if you want it in Magyar).
We stayed behind for the usual ritual of the fans and players saluting each other – especially fitting today after such a mercurial performance from the home team. We waited for the DAC Arena to clear, before exiting behind the army of yellow and blue heading through the park behind the stand.
A quick glance around town told us that we may as well head back to the station for 16:50 back to Bratislava. With a bit of time to kill, though, we headed for the petrol station for some treats for the train back – and Craig even finally found some cider this time! Onto the train and Craig exited DAC fan mode as we headed back towards the ‘Slovak part’ of Slovakia
DAC really do see me to be on an upward trajectory with a good, loyal, passionate fanbase and a stadium that’ll be very good once it is the finished product. DAC have been loving life back since they’ve moved back to the DAC Arena and it’ll be interesting to see what they do next season with a full season under László.
Highlights: good new stadium (even though not complete), good fans, entertaining game to watch.
Low Points: not much to the town, that bloody cashless card system.
See all my photos from our day at Dunajská Streda here.