KFC Komárno v TJ KOVO Beluša
Mestský štadión / III. Liga – West / 25th March 2017
Generally, I’m not a lover of fast food, but on this lovely, Spring Saturday morning, I was very much looking to my visit to KFC. However, there’d be less finger licking and more ground ticking, plus, no Colonel either, as this was not the KFC of Kentucky chicken fame, but instead KFC Komárno – a third tier Slovak football team.
There was a certain novelty to Komárno that had attracted me there in the first place: the opportunity to visit two countries in one town. Komárno sits directly on banks of the Danube with the town spanning either side of it. This means that half the town resides in Slovakia on one side of the river and the other half in Hungary (where the town adopts it Hungarian name Komárom).
I was up bright and early to make my journey to the very south of Slovakia and by 9am found myself in wild west of Bratislava train station. Unfortunately for me, I had an hour wait in Bratislava, where I hid in the bar to evade all the strange creatures you can find lurking in the station.
Soon, I was aboard the train bound for Budapest and of course that meant one thing: train bar – still probably my favourite part of my Central European life. A quick change in Nové Zamky, just short of an hour after leaving Bratislava, and I was rolling into Komárno at the timetabled 11.22am.
Like many places I’ve been to in Slovakia, on heading out of the station I wasn’t exactly given the most glitzy of introductions to the town. As always I was all for giving it a chance. And I’m glad I did. Komárno would turn out to be one of my favourite towns I’ve been to on my Slovak football adventures. But first, which way to Hungary?
My plan was to head for the Danube and seek a route across the river to Hungary from there – I was determined to have at least one beer over the border. Discovering a route across was remarkably easy as I followed the road signs to Komárom, which then led me to the first bridge across a small section of water where the town’s dockyards resided. I then encountered a whole host of booths exchanging Euros for Forint, which made me realise I had no Hungarian currency on me. This was clearly where the old Slovak border control would have been, as the sight of the impressive bridge across to Hungary stood dead ahead of me. With a few Forint now in my wallet, I began my walk across – not forgetting to tag the bridge with a #NoFlatCapNoParty sticker, leaving Lost Boyos in a sort of Slovak/Magyar limbo across the Danube.
“Excuse me dear, but is that the way to Slovakia?” was how I was warmly greeted into Hungary by an elderly couple. Of course, they were speaking Hungarian, so I have no idea what they asked, but I definitely heard a word that sounded like ‘Slovakia’ or ‘Slovensko’ and they seemed content with my finger-pointing over the bridge and my utterance of “Slovensko.”
As well as some lost OAPs, I was greeted into Hungary by the not very Hungarian institution of Tesco, as a huge store stood on the bank of the Danube. I had no need to wander the aisles of a large supermarket, so I went in search of a bar instead. I didn’t exactly venture too far, but I got the impression that there was less to see or do on the Hungarian side of town, but I did soon find a rather swanky-looking bar called Monaco in some tiny square. It would do just perfectly for my mission to have one beer in Hungary. I was looking forward to having Hungarian beer for a change, but annoyingly they had neither Hungarian nor Slovak beer on tap. The only beer available – initially much to my horror – was Staropramen, but fortunately it was Staropramen Premium which is nowhere near as offensive to beer as it’s un-premium counterpart. So my 30 minute trip to Hungary involved Tesco, a bar called Monaco and Czech beer – not exactly the whistle-stop immersion into all things Magyar I had wanted.
With my quick visit into Hungary done, I headed back over the bridge to my adopted home nation. On my way back into the Slovenskà Republika I did ensure to take a photo of the sign listing Komárno’s various twin towns, which included the small Czech town of Blansko – the HQ of Lost Boyos‘ Czech-loving brothers The Blansko Klobása.
I rarely delve into the realms of Trip Advisor, instead preferring to leave myself to being an oblivious ‘lost boyo’ in all these strange towns. However, on Friday afternoon, for whatever reason, I found myself plodding through the various opinions of intrepid travellers to south Slovakia on the famed travel forum. All seemed to say there was only one place to go in Komárno: the European Square.
The thinking behind the square is that there are buildings representing architecture from all across Europe. I arrived and it really was beautiful as the photos below will show. Sadly though, the project seems to have run out of money and so the incomplete final third of the square, which was a fenced off building site, sort of ruined the whole vibe a bit. I posed for my photo in the empty fountain and then headed to the Irish Pub. Aside from a very pleasant barman, who spoke perfect English, and a toilet accessed by going through a mock-up phone box door, there wasn’t a lot to see here and so I sauntered on.
Walking the streets of Komárno, I began to realise that it really is a cool place with its own distinct vibe – unlike some of the identi-towns I’ve been to in Slovakia (particularly in the south). With a bit of effort and maybe finishing their prized European square, Komárno has potential as a decent little tourist town. I mused as much to the barman in my next bar – if you could call it a bar.
I witnessed a lad sorting tables out on the street and for some reason I was drawn to the small door of this little bar. I peeked into the building and debated whether it was a bar at all: most of the small room was dominated by a glass display full of jams, sausages and cheese – the sort you’d find in a cute, little delicacy shop. The waiter had spotted me by now though and I felt too embarrassed to just walk away.
“Pivo? Beer?” I asked, testing out both Slovak and English.
“Well…we sell craft beer in bottles. Is that OK?” came back his joyous reply in perfect English.
This diminutive little shop-cum-bar was an awesome find. The barman, who owned the place, was very friendly, welcoming and humorous as he is and his girlfriend, who was sitting in the corner, tried to piece together their drunken night out from the previous night. More importantly though, the Radvaner craft ale was some of the finest I’ve had in Slovakia. Radvaner, a local Danubian brewery, seemed to produce the sort of fruity, flavoursome ale that I treasure so much. The beer may have cost €3 a bottle – rather high by Slovak standards – but it was faultless and some of the best I’ve had in Slovakia. To top my visit off, I noticed my barman friend had a rather fetching flat cap hanging from a peg; as soon as he confirmed it was his, I had him posing for a photo in it (although I was flat cap-less).
It was still a lovely afternoon in Komárno as I began the walk away from the historic centre and towards a more residential area, where KFC Komárno were to be found. I’d seen very few photos of the ground, so I was surprised to walk around the corner and see the rather unusual structure of Komárno’s Mestský štadión.
The main stand is certainly in need of a lick of a paint, but I thought even more so when it quickly occurred to me that the stand was not just a stand – it was also a fully functioning hotel. This was not a hotel like those you’ll find at shiny new stadiums like the plush hotel attached to Bolton’s Macron Stadium or even like the equally modern hotel I found housed within Slavia Prague’s Eden Arena a few weeks before; no, this was very much a more rundown affair. I liked this little quirk already. Plus, the presence of the hotel in the stand meant that Komárno’s main (only) stand was a more towering presence than any other I’ve encountered in the lower leagues.
I ignored the bar/restaurant attached to the back of the stand and headed for the entrance, assuming there to be a bar within the ground; I assumed wrongly. The ground followed the usual Slovak formula of a main stand with stone terracing curving its way around the rest of the ground. As I mentioned earlier, the main aspect that made this ground a bit more interesting than other lower league grounds was the height of the stand and to the top of that I embarked first. Admittedly, all I found at the top was an open area – and I felt a bar up there would have been perfect.
As Status Quo’s signature power chord-smashing chugged out over the PA system with their repetitive “Yeah, I like it, I like it…” lyrics reflecting my thoughts on the ground, I exited the stand and made my way around to the sunnier, more open side of the ground. I did wonder if I could break out back to the bar behind the stand, but with only one entrance/exit, I decided against battling against the queue of people waiting to get in. As I’ve mentioned before, Slovaks seem to love queuing and here they seemed in no hurry to get in the ground. Not that the man and woman manning the narrow entrance seemed in any hurry to take money off the punters and give them their tickets to get them in either. The queues number was no more than 10, but it didn’t seem to be moving along.
In a recurrent theme on my football travels this season, Strauss’ Radetzky March greeted the team’s onto the pitch. It was the ‘true’ version unlike the weird, more Slovak imitation that was blared out when I visited Sereď a few weeks earlier, although it still was a million miles away from the ceremonious, grandiose flag-waving, belting out affair we’d witnessed at Austria’s Ernst Happel Stadion months before (obviously).
KFC Komárno sat clear atop the III. Liga West before kick-off with today’s opponents Beluša in 4th place and battling with a few for 2nd spot. Should be a good clash…at least that’s what I thought or, more accurately hoped for…
I’m getting sick of writing it now and I’m probably once again sounding like a patronising twat, so I’ll avoid giving my views on the standard of lower league Slovak football again (see about 90% of my Slovak football blogs if you are desperate to know).
There wasn’t much to report in the first half…oh, there was a goal in the 10th minute that came from some sort of defensive mistake and Komárno’s Vahagn Militosyan broke in to make it 1-0 to the home team.
With the action not exactly thrilling me on the pitch, I began to look for things to do instead of watching the football in front of me. I decided to scan Komárno’s squad list on Wikipedia in case there was the unlikely chance of there being a recognisable name on the pitch for them. There wasn’t, but I did notice something else. As the only slight link to Swansea City in Slovakia, thanks to his 3 game loan spell at my beloved club, I get excited when I see anything relating to current Slovan Bratislava, and former Watford and Ipswich, striker Tamás Priskin. So I found it quite cool when I learned that Priskin spent some of his youth career at KFC Komárno and was in fact born in Komárno. Despite being a Hungarian international, Priskin was actually born on the then Czechoslovakia side of the border to Hungarian parents.
I carried on trying to distract myself from the football. ‘Oh, I’ve not had one of those trademark (quite cringey) thumbs up photos yet,’ I thought to myself. The gentleman behind me looked like a man equipped for the 21st century and more than capable of handling my camera phone. And so I did the whole ‘Brit-talks-to-foreigner’ thing of talking louder and using lots of hand gestures to explain to the lad that I wanted a photo. As is the case a lot of the time with this stance, it turned out he could speak excellent English and once again I felt a bit silly. Equally, when I ask a stranger over here to take my photo in English and they look at me blankly, I also feel like a bit of a knob. It’s a lose-lose situation this talking to strangers abroad malarkey (or you could actually spend a bit more time learning Slovak, apart from the casual 20 minute pockets of motivation you do it every 2 weeks or so).
Anyway, it transpired that my photographer was keen to chat and what a great guy he turned out to be. So much so in fact, I would end spending the rest of the afternoon at KFC Komárno with him. Initially, I misunderstood his vocation. For whatever reason, I believed that he worked in the shipyard, before the extent of my misunderstanding became clearer as he explained why knowing English was rather important in his line of work. This was no mere manual labourer in the docks, but this was Captain Andrew – the man tasked with captaining cruise liners down the Danube all the way to Amsterdam. Wow! I may have not met the Colonel at KFC, but the Captain would suffice (and I bet Captain Andrew is far kinder to chickens too).
We discussed his job and then how I was enjoying my time in Slovakia and my life here in general. I realised my Slovak life could be condensed into a real small nutshell: prices, beer, Kofola my job, trains, Trnava – all excellent; Slovak food – decent enough; standard of football…oh I promised I wouldn’t mention that in this blog.
Captain Andrew insisted that Komárno usually play nice football and that they thoroughly deserved to be at the summit of the league table. “You’ve come on a bad day,” he added. Story of my Slovak football adventures in general it seems.
There was no food hut or bar in the ground itself, which usually means that I focussed almost entirely on the football. Today though, I was just quite happy chatting away to Captain Andrew, who was great company.
Komárno had failed to build on their early goal and Beluša were probably the better team for large parts of the first half. The away team did score a deserved equaliser in the 23rd minute and then spent the rest of the half worrying Komárno from corner kicks.
The entertainment continued to dip and so Captain Andrew had suggested we hit the bar half-time. As the half closed out, we began making our way back around to the stand and the exit to the bar/restaurant.
Half-time: KFC Komárno 1- 1 TJ KOVO Beluša.
“I had my wedding reception here,” proclaimed Captain Andrew as we headed through the doors of the bar. Having seen the place from the outside, it didn’t at first strike me as a place to celebrate the happiest day of your life, but inside it was actually very nice. There was a small queue forming, but soon we were sat at the table with our beers. When I declared that the second half had probably restarted by now, we both shrugged our shoulders and carried on sipping away at our beers, instead of heading back out pitchside.
15 minutes into the second half, we reemerged from the bar with a second, now plastic-cupped, beer. It seemed we hadn’t missed much with the scores still 1-1, although that wouldn’t last too long.
Komárno grabbed themselves a fairly lucky penalty and converted it in the 73rd minute to take a 2-1. The rest of the half was a bit of a non-event and this was how the game would finish.
Full-time: KFC Komárno 1- 1 TJ KOVO Beluša.
Unlike me, Captain Andrew has a normal, functioning life and so we said our goodbyes outside the ground, as he headed home to his wife and six month old child. I, on the other hand, went in search of more drinking haunts.
I had about 1.5 hours until my train back north to Trnava (suppose everywhere was north of here in Slovakia). With a bit of a trek to go too, my pub stops were very limited, but somehow some waiter coaxed me into his empty restaurant on the main square. Not that I stayed in there very long, as I decided to enjoy the sunshine by sitting outside on the street watching the Komárno evening descend.
My flat-capped, hipster bar-owning bar friend from earlier had outlined to me how much I would love some bar/shop called The Gentlemen’s Beer Shop; the name alone was enough for me to think it sounded brilliant. Time was against me to pay the place a visit though and I cocked up my bearings and realised it was further away than was manageable for me to get my train home. It had to be left for another day. Instead, I wandered past the rather cool-looking tower photoed above, and found another cool, little corner bar, Hostinec Bažant, selling good beer. It was then time to head back out of the Magyar-ised south of Slovakia and back into the ‘more Slovak’ Slovakia.
As I alluded to at the start of the blog, I bloody loved Komárno and it ranked as one of my favourite towns I’ve been to here in Slovakia so far. It was quite small, but still big enough to explore too – plus, the country spans two countries, which is always cool. I could moan about the football again, but as you’ve probably gathered by now from my trips, the 90 minutes of football is far from being the be all, end all of my trips. I enjoyed Komárno enough that I’d even consider revisiting some time: great town, cool people and an awesome football stadium.
Highlights: walking to Hungary, Komárno is great town, European Square, the little, hipster bar, Komárno’s stadium, Captain Andrew.
Low Points: the football…again.
See all my photos from Komárno here.