MTK Leopoldov v TJ Družstevník Dolný Lopašov
Štadión MTK Leopoldov / VI. liga – Trnava / 14th May 2017
Slovak football is shit. I feel more than confident declaring that now since it is May and I’ve lived here and watched football here for 9 months. I’ve seen enough of it now to confidently state that it’s utterly shit. Really, really shit. However, weirdly, in an almost sadomasochistic way, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. Plus, I’m not one to turn my nose up at free top flight football. Thanks to my school, I had myself a free ticket for my local team Spartak Trnava for their game against Zemplin Michalovce. Predictably, it was awful as Spartak scrambled to a 1-0 win. However, attending that game meant I could sit in Bokovka during the afternoon and watch my beloved Swansea beat Sunderland to inch their way closer to Premier League safety. An hour after watching Swansea’s vital 2-0 win, I arrived at Spartak slightly tipsy. Anyway, I digress…
Slovak football is shit, but as groundhopper, the grounds are usually great and full of character. And with the football being so bad, does it really matter what level of football you go to? These were my thoughts this weekend. The lowest depths of the Slovak football pyramid that I’ve sunk to so far is the 4th tier, when I went to watch Slovan Hlohovec. That was alright, so maybe the 6th tier would be even better. Maybe the football would be thrillingly out of control at that level. I wanted to stay local too for money-saving purposes, as I was to fly back to Wales in the week. Sadly i was for the funeral of my Nan. She regularly made fun of my football travels (when I told her about some of my trips she would regularly dub me “stupid” or “daft”), but she generally seemed to promote the travelling aside of things. She’ll be sadly missed in our local community thanks to her efforts working as a Labour counselor and then becoming Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil in the 80s. With her socialist views, I’m sure she’d respect me promoting the little men of Slovak 6th tier. So where to go…
Leopoldov is a strange place. It’s a name I’m very familiar with as one of ZSSK’s main trains from Bratislava doesn’t finish up at Trnava, but carries on 10 minutes journey down the line to the next stop, Leopoldov, and finishes there instead. That logic might have made me think that there’s something prominent in Leopoldov, but having gone through the town and changed trains there several times, I know full well there’s not much. Unless you are a prisoner – Leopoldov has one of Slovakia’s most high security prisons.
It was a glorious day in Slovakia as I set off at 12.30 to head 11 minutes down the track to Leopoldov. For a return ticket I had to cough up a whole €2.20. Scandalously cheap.
In the morning, I did a bit of research to see if there was anything of note to be found in the town, but early assumptions seemed accurate. The town seems to be purely a residential place. The only thing of note is Leopoldov Prison and that has had an interesting history to say the least. The building is actually a 17th century fortress built to defend against the Ottoman Turks, before it was turned into a prison in the 19th century. The prison was actually the biggest of the Hungarian Empire and over its years held some of Slovakia’s most notorious – and one ousted president.
I started where many of my days out end: in the train station bar. The bar was predictably weird with it being accessed by walking through a very dark room housing bandit machines. This led into the bar/restaurant area, where it really did stink to be honest. At the bar was an old-timer holding a shot of borovička and waiting for his Kožel. I ordered my beer – €1 a pint – but then accidentally picked his pint up instead of mine. He found this hilarious – and doubly hilarious when he soon learned that I couldn’t speak Slovak. I stayed here for 2 beers in the darkened bar, whilst watching a re-run of the latest El Clasico on Digisport 3; Messi’s last-minute winner and now iconic shirt holding celebration never gets dull.
Walking out of the dark, dingy bar of the station into the bright Slovak sunshine was disorientating, but I got my bearings and began my walk through the town. As always in such a place, I relied on my ‘head to the biggest church’ theory and take it from there. There was no towering church steeple to head for here though and instead I had to consult a map (a Google Map of course) to locate it.
As I’ve already insinuated, there really isn’t much to Leopoldov, but it still seemed a nice place to live nonetheless. The houses all looked very nice and there didn’t seem to be any sign of the usual Slovak tower blocks here either. Unsurprisingly for a small Slovak town on a Sunday, the streets were empty too and all was peaceful.
I arrived at the main part street in the town, where there was a small park with a stage and chairs setup bracing for some sort of Sunday performance. The church stood right behind it, but my eyes deviated away from the church to the ice cream parlour just down the street from it. Slovakia does love an ice cream parlour and I couldn’t resist indulging in one on this scorcher of a day. Ice cream was good, but I was positively shaking with excitement when I realised they were selling Kinder ice cream! I was completely unaware of such a concept – it sounded magical. However, it proved remarkably disappointing – there just wasn’t enough of that unique Kinder flavor going on for me. Anyway, enough of ice cream critiquing and let’s return to one of my other favourite past times: slating Staropramen.
I started this blog with the declaration of Slovak football is shit. Well, Staropramen is shit too – actually shitter. For a part of the world inhabited by so many good beers, why this seems to be one of the flag bearers for beer still baffles me. I had found a bar (the only bar it seemed) just across the street from the church and I was already fearing the worst when I noticed the Staropramen umbrellas outside. On getting to the bar, I spotted five different taps and thought I could maybe avoid being Staropramen-ed. Nope, the barmaid was soon informing me that all 5 taps spurted out Staropramen. I asked almost pleadingly, “Nefiltrovaný?” – I actually don’t mind the unfiltered version – but that luxury was unavailable too. It was still too early to go to the ground and there appeared to be nowhere else to go in town, aside from a pizzeria I saw signposted. Feeling under pressure from the barmaid and trapped at the bar, I couldn’t handle the embarrassment of just walking away from the bar, so I almost unwillingly ordered a Staropramen. It cost €0,90 – still too high for that stuff for my liking. It was a slow drink, but I had something to distract me – and it wasn’t the F1 on the screen.
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 – 0 HULL CITY. YES! This was the score line that flashed up on my phone and cause me to let out a little scream in jubilation. The barmaid thought I must have really been enjoying my Staropramen, but it was all about Palace. Why? Well, after Swans won at Sunderland the day before, a Palace win over Hull would confirm Swansea’s Premier League status and relegate Hull. My phone continued to please me as it told me of how Big Sam’s Palace went 3-0 and then 4-0 before the final whistle. Swansea had escaped relegation! The taste of Staropramen was no longer an issue as I buzzed with excitement. I couldn’t just sit there in the bar quietly, so my drink was polished off and I was soon skipping down the streets in the Slovak sunshine chanting “THE JACKS ARE STAYING UP!” and singing Palace fan anthem Glad All Over. My quick step down the street soon got me to a short bridge that didn’t seem to go over anything and next to this was the very clear sign above a gate stating ‘Štadión’.
The ticket hut was unmanned and I sauntered into the ground free of charge – I suppose this was to be expected at this level. The ground is a basic one, but a pleasant one. On one side of the ground is a white building housing the main amenities of the club (changing rooms, ref rooms etc.) and also a balcony for the club’s VIP; the building was like a Slovak version of Flixton’s Valley Road ground in the leafy outskirts of Salford. The other side of the ground had a large shelter, but calling it a stand may be a bit much considering it had no seating and just 2-3 large concrete steps to sit/stand on. The area behind the far goal was inaccessible and covered in foliage with the other end, where I had entered the ground, consisting of a grass banking with some more stone steps for sitting on.
I didn’t expect to find a mass audience here in Leopoldov, so I was unsurprised to find just a handful of people scattered around the ground. This was 6th tier of Slovak football after all. However, with less than ten minutes to go until kick-off, people began spilling through the gates – almost all of them on old bicycles. Now, I’m not saying that it was a vivacious, packed to the rafters atmosphere, but I was impressed with the eventual turnout considering the level. Most of the crowd consisted of men in their 40s and 50s, but they certainly cheered for their local team and certainly seemed to pour opprobrium on the opposition and the ref when they felt necessary. I suppose there really isn’t much to do in Leopoldov on a Sunday afternoon, so why not take in some local football? Plus, the children present were easily entertained as there was an adjacent football pitch to the ground for them to play on.
In the corner of the ground, there was a makeshift bar and with it being such a nice day, a beer was welcome. I paid my €1 and it soon became clear what it was: Staropramen. Damn it! Luckily, I had a very entertaining game of football to enjoy and to distract me from its cardboard-ish taste.
If you want entertainment went it comes to Slovak football, it seems the 6th tier is where it’s at. After a load of U2 and Pink songs being played over the PA system (guessing they were the only greatest hits albums available at the ground), the teams were out on the pitch and we were ready to go.
It took just 10 minutes for Leopoldov to take the lead and it was a great opener too. A sublime through ball cut through the Dolný Lopašov defence and their calls for offside were wrong in my eyes, as the striker ran on and tapped the ball around the keeper. The game was a game between 2 mid-table teams playing for nothing, but the locals were joyous with one brandishing and shaking an old-school football rattle loudly and proudly above his head.
In the 36th minute it was 2-0 to the home team. A great ball over the top of the defence saw Leopoldov in on goal again. The attacker was clearly taken down by the defender and a penalty was rightly given. One walloped penalty later and we had our second goal of the day.
I began my usual lap of the ground to get more photos and en route purchased some sunflower seeds – a much-loved snack in Slovak football. It’s main purpose though was to eradicate some of the leftover taste from the Staropramen. But it was whilst sitting down eating my seeds and sipping my shitty Staropramen that something occurred: this was a good game; this wasn’t shit. Both teams were attacking, both teams were committed and there was moments of genuine good football. I’d found the zenith of Slovak football and I’d found it in the basement divisions – low enough that this was a regional league for the Trnava area. And, the game got even better.
The home team already looked to be soaring to victory by the 43rd minute as another ball was played through for an attacker to tap home. 3-0 and it looked like the hosts could get more.
Half-time: MTK Leopoldov 3 – 0 TJ Družstevník Dolný Lopašov.
The first half was rather one-sided affair to say the least, but still great to watch. Well the second half was probably better as it looked like we had an unlikely comeback on our hands.
With the Leopoldov defence now defending right front of us standing on the terrace behind the goal, it now dawned on me the sickening act that the home team had committed: the centre back was wearing the number 9 shirt. Grim. For this treacherous act alone, I was happy to see Dolný Lopašov fire in a 30 yard screamer to make it 3-1. Admittedly, the ball did seem to go over the goalie’s head, who I now noticed was rather short for a keeper.
The Leopoldov keeper, as so often is the case, seemed to be a bit of character, as he seemed to be joking away with some of the locals behind the goal. He was also making some awesome saves. However, his defence couldn’t cope with a mazy run from one of the away team forwards and he was soon brought down for the second penalty of the game. That was converted to make it 3-2 and we had a possible comeback on.
The two quick-fire goals from Dolný Lopašov clearly woke up Leopoldov and they soon quashed those thoughts of a comeback. At the far end of the pitch a scramble unfolded in the box from a corner, before the ball was eventually bundled in to make it 4-2 and to wrap up the scoring for the day.
Full-time: MTK Leopoldov 4 – 2 TJ Družstevník Dolný Lopašov.
So I take back my opening statement. It seems Slovak football is NOT shit – as long as you go down to the sixth tier. A genuinely excellent game. It was also great to see a decent number of locals turn up to enjoy it. They all cycled off out of the ground like a not very motley band and I strolled back to the station not far behind them.
Leopoldov was a bit bland; the football was not. My next game would further emphasise what great fun it is in the very lower depths of Slovak football too.
Highlights: pleasant enough ground, free entry, great game.
Low Points: not much in Leopoldov
See all my photos from Leopoldov here.