Lost in…Galanta

FC Slovan Galanta v FC Horses

Štadión FC Slovan Galanta / III. Liga – West / 9th April 2017

There was a bumper Slovak football fixture list on this Sunday afternoon and with nothing better to do, it seemed rude to not fit in a second game of the weekend. I’d been saving Galanta for a rainy day, as I had a good feeling about the town for some reason; I guessed that came from the fact there is a train route that starts at Trnava and finishes 25 minutes away in Galanta – and any town that has such a service must be something special, right? Well, maybe not quite it seemed. Maybe it was just the locals of Galanta who wanted a quick link to my more characterful adopted home of Trnava. I was heading to another small, fairly dull town, but at least the football ground was beautifully ramshackle and fun.

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Arriving in Galanta..

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…and there was even a map on the side of a building to let me know where in Slovakia I was.

I’d actually been to Galanta several times – if you count its train station and, more accurately, the train station’s bar. Many a time on a journey back from some Slovak backwater, I’ve ended up having to change and wait for a train in Galanta station to complete the final leg of my journey home to Trnava. With that in mind, as I arrived into Galanta at 1pm, I figured I’d seen enough of the train station bar in the past and opted to shun it and head straight on through to Galanta itself.

Galanta is located in the Danubian Lowland and is largely surrounded by agricultural areas. The town itself, like most of the south, has been passed back and forth between Hungary and Czechoslovakia and eventually Slovakia, although the majority of the town is still dominated by Slovaks, unlike the more Magyar-orientated towns further south.

It would be hard to tell it today with the usual communist tower blocks and grey squares dominating the town, but Galanta is one of the oldest towns in this part of Slovakia. Sadly, its more historic epicentre has virtually vanished thanks to a combination of destruction during the Second World War and the communists tearing down and replacing the more historic buildings.

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More tower blocks and Tesco.

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The main square.

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Heading towards the football ground.

I had a quick wander around the square in the centre, but the reason for it being a ‘quick wander’ was due to it being so small and nothing really there; aside from a young lad and a young girl cycling around the square on one of those bikes that have billboards on the back of it. With the square being so devoid of life, I was almost certain that’d they’d not be enticing anyone into the Orange shop to discuss phone contracts today.

What enticed me instead was the bar with a veranda looking out onto the square. With it being a pleasant, sunny day, a beer on the veranda sounded just delightful – even though I had to watch the dour faces of the Orange cyclists weave their way around the square at a very lethargic snail’s pace.

Irritatingly, the bar I found myself ‘veranding’ on was one that sold Heineken, which, in Slovak bars, always seems to be something to be celebrated exuberantly by the bar, even though I find that Heineken is 1) far inferior to the usual Czech/Slovak beers 2) usually costs a lot more than your usual beer in Slovakia. The Gazdovský Dvor were not helping themselves with the music either, as I had to endure an album of shrilling saxophone covers for 30 minutes. Couple this with my boring Australian lager and I was happy to leave the veranda.

There was one landmark I knew of in Galanta and judging from the very tourist-looking types heading down the street discussing something on their big cameras, I figured I was heading the right way. En route to the football ground you can find the Renaissance castle of Galanta.

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The nice part of the castle.

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The less nice part.

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It had nice grounds too.

Slovakia prides itself on its castles and with myself being from a nation that is also very fond of its castles, I still feel like I’ve not visited anywhere near enough of Slovakia’s fine castles. I arrived at Galanta’s castle and it wasn’t the typical kind of castle you’ll find in most parts of Slovakia. The influential Esterházy family originally built the castle in the 1600s, but the castle underwent several renovations in its lifespan, before in the 1860s they decided to attune it more with the Neo-Gothic style prevalent at the time. Back now in 2017, it was a strange mix of battered in parts and a glimmering manor in other parts. The glimmering manor section was particularly appealing as it appeared to have a very fancy looking coffee-house/bar within it. I pondered whether I had ever had a beer in a Neo-Gothic castle before, but before I had a  chance to ponder too deeply, I found myself sitting within. I sat in a room surrounded by fancy cutlery and large portraits of big-bearded men in garishly large costumes and hats, whilst a family in the next room, where there were cabinets of fancy looking plates, sat down in their finest Sunday wear for afternoon coffees. As I sat there in my snapback and hoody, I must have looked like absolute scum. I decided I wasn’t scum by drinking an overpriced bottle of Pilsner (although thinking back now, that may have added to my scuminess). I’m sure the bar (or ‘coffeeteria’ as I saw it haughtily described somewhere online) appreciated my custom as it hardly seem a place bustling with tourists. Having drunk a beer in a plush bar housed within a Neo-Gothic castle, I thought it was time to drop down to my usual social standing and get over to the tumbledown football ground to watch some proper tumbledown Slovak football.

5 minutes down the road I headed, past the old, battered tennis club, until I came to a gateway with the words ‘FC SLOVAN GALANTA’ brandished across the top. This is the sort of spot I’d usually have my photo with the club name in the background – but not today. I did ask the steward at the gate to take my photo for me, but on showing him the camera he seemed to think I had produced some sort of malevolent magical device and he raised his hands to his face in protest and genuinely looked terrified. There was no way this fella was going to be partaking in any photography this afternoon and on assuming he had suffered a tragic and traumatic camera accident in the past, I let him be. €2 was handed over to the lady sat in the claustrophobic booth housed within one of the gate’s pillars and I was into Slovan Galanta.

I’m used to receiving the odd funny look on arriving at football grounds like the one here in Galanta, but here it seemed more prominent than usual. On walking past a load of piercing eyes as I entered the club bar, I found a scary-looking lad inside who couldn’t take his eyes off me. I tried to work out whether he wanted to punch me or kiss me, but this being Slovakia it was most certainly the former. The club bar was cool though with the walls painted green to resemble a football pitch and with the room furnished with big leather sofas and a large TV. It was a perfect place to enjoy a prematch beer and I even snubbed the sunshine outside to have my beer indoors.

I had sat myself by a door that headed into the heart of the stand and with all the commotion of people in tracksuits hurrying back and forth through it, I guessed that kick-off was looming. Unlike my day before in Púchov, when I missed the opening 20 minutes of the game thanks to me getting the kick-off time wrong, I thought I’d actually head outside to watch the game begin this time.

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Another curving stone terrace.

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And another old stand.

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Pivo.

Big main stand in the middle, stone terracing around the rest of the ground – once again, another typical Slovak ground. It is getting a bit repetitive now, but, to be honest, I do still love this style of ground. If/when I move back to the UK, I know full well I’ll miss the crumbling stone terracing and the rickety, old stands at grounds like this. Undoubtedly, it was the stand that was the standout feature at Galanta, thanks to the wooden benches that made up most of it.

As per usual, I headed for a wander of the terracing as the teams completed their usual handshakes and waves to the crowd (‘crowd’ may be too strong a word here). It’s worth mentioning too that Galanta were taking on my favourite team name in Slovakia: FC Horses. I felt it was particularly fitting to see Horses play the day after I’d won a bet on the Grand National. I did have plenty of horse-based jokes ready too, but I’ve decided that I’ll save them for when I actually visit FC Horses’ ground (which I’m praying is calling ‘The Stables’).

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Prematch traditions.

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Match action.

The game proved to be a scrappy affair and it felt like most people at the ground were just there tocatch up with friends and to have a beer. With the football on show, I couldn’t blame them. The main stand did feature one old-timer who shouted at every pass, shot, refereeing decison etc. or just shouted ‘GALANTA!’ when there was nothing else to shout about.

In the 30th minute, Galanta hit the crossbar with a thunderous drive, which was then followed up with a wayward volley wide. That was about it for the first half. I asked two ladies – who I guessed were mother and daughter – to take my usual thumbs up photo for me and then I headed back around to the bar for the final minutes and to buy a beer before half-time. This is where the people who run Slovan Galanta were using their initiative.

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Thumbs up.

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More stoney terracing.

There were a few minutes of injury time to be played as I headed into the bar, but it seemed I wasn’t going to miss them. On the big screen was live coverage of the game happening outside. Brilliant! I then began to think – why don’t more clubs do this? Home and abroad. Especially in the winter months for the lower leagues. It’d get people in the club bar spending money at least.

Half-time: Slovan Galanta 0 – 0 FC Horses.

At the grill area attached to the bar, it seemed I had a choice of food today: klobása or cigánska pečienka. As my year in Slovakia has progressed, I’ve found myself favouring cigánska pečienka on the Slovak football food menu and today was no different. And it was epic cigánska pečienka here too, thanks to the chef grilling the bun for a short period of time to add extra crunch. Beautiful.

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Pivo and cigánska pečienka

The second half was much more fun than the first with it beginning with a 35 yard piledriver freekick from Galanta that almost smashed the top corner. It may have not gone in the actual goals, but much to everyone’s delight, it did sail into the corner of the smaller training goals left behind the goals.

In the 59th minute, we finally had a goal and it was Horses who had galloped into the lead (sorry, I had to get one little joke in). An awesome through ball from the Horses’ no.14, set off their winger to cross across the 6 yard box for their attacker to tap home into an unguarded corner of the net. 1-0 Horses.

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Match action.

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In the stand.

Galanta should have equalised not long after, but instead of scoring I witnessed one of the most amusing few seconds of football I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. I was now up in the stand as Galanta played a high ball into the box. The away goalie had fluffed his catch and he hit the floor leaving his goal open. The ball had gone slightly wide, so a Galanta player had headed back to his team-mate to score into an almost empty net. I say ‘almost’ as one of his team mates had ended up on the line following the original ball into the box. He tried to scurry out of the way, but instead ran into the path off the goalward shot and denied his own team a goal on the line. Horses cleared and survived the scare.

After such a strange passage of play, it seemed inevitable that Horses would win from here and they did generally dominate. If it had been a humdinger of a game, I’d have certainly stayed to see if Galanta could pull it back, but the game really was dead. So, with 5 minutes left and the potential for me to catch a much earlier train back to Trnava, I headed for the exits. I correctly guessed that there wouldn’t be any further goals.

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Match action.

Full-time: Slovan Galanta 0 – 1 FC Horses.

On my way out the gate, I found another steward, who was not camera-phobic, and so I got myself the photo I desired earlier.

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Eventually got my photo with the sign.

As much as I am a fan of the train station bar in Galanta, I ignored it again thanks to my train back to Trnava being there already waiting to head back up the line. Based on nothing whatsoever, except maybe gut feeling, I had perhaps expected a bit more from the town of Galanta; although it will always be remembered as one of the places (if not the only place) I’ve ever drunk beer in a castle. However, the ground was a sure winner with its wooden-benched stand and excellent club bar. Maybe a place to go again to watch football if I have an empty Sunday, largely thanks to it being so easy to get to from Trnava.

Highlights: easy to get too, castle visit, good club bar, excellent cigánska pečienka, decent ground.

Low Point: Galanta a bit dull, dull game.

See all my photos from Galanta here.

 

 

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