Lost in…Smolenice

OŠK Smolenice v FK AŚK Slávia Trnava

OŠK Smolenice / VIII. Liga – Trnava / 21st May 2017

After a few days back in Wales, I landed back in Bratislava at 11pm on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, this meant I was going to miss the last train back to Trnava and there wasn’t another one until 4.11am. In that last sentence, I use the word ‘unfortunately’ very loosely, as I do enjoy a night on the town in Bratislava. I’d done this ‘land at 11pm-stay out until 4am’ trick once before following a previous trip back to the UK and ended up having great night out in Bratislava. So, I landed in Bratislava late at night and met up with Ju, who was back in Slovakia again, and we frequented some Bratislava bars on a very rainy night in the city. The idea of going to watch football the next day was discussed and although I knew I’d probably be knackered, I knew I’d be up for it too. I already had a sort of plan in place too to be honest.

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Despite my early hours return to Trnava on the Sunday morning, I still had a football plan for the Sunday afternoon. A Smolenice plan had been derived.

A class in my school are doing a project all about Trnava. The students were split into groups and had to provide information on a certain topic relating to Trnava: e.g. Trnava architecture, tourist attractions in Trnava, sport in Trnava etc. Some were showing me their projects and one group was covering ‘attractions near Trnava’. One student was telling me about Smolenice Castle, which got my interest as my friend Mark lives in the village of Smolenice. Young Edo then said the words that really got my attention:”There’s a nice football ground in the village too.” Straight to Google I headed and although there were limited photos of the home of OŠK Smolenice, from what I could tell it was a little gem of a place (as I hope some of my photos will show). It was decided, if I could muster up enough energy after my lack of sleep, I would be heading to the lowest level of Slovak football I’d been to so far: last Sunday I was at MTK Leopoldov in the 6th tier, but this Sunday I’d trump that by dipping two tiers lower and down into the 8th tier.

After our early morning drinking session in Bratislava, I made it back to Trnava at 5am and was up and about again just after midday. I’d agreed to meet up with Ju in Bokovka in Trnava at 2pm, before hopping on the 3.03pm up to Smolenice. The village of Smolenice is located 19 miles north of Trnava in a rural area just in the shadows of the Little Carpathians mountains. It’s a small place, but this is apparently the village that created the man who invented the parachute; although, whilst dining in the French capital at Christmas time, a waiter in a Parisian restaurant overheard me declaring that the inventor of the parachute was Slovak and he contested my claim – apparently the inventor of the parachute is a contentious subject.

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Or graffiti covered train would take us to…

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…Smolenice.

Despite the relatively short distance from Trnava, the train journey still took close to half an hour, thanks to the graffiti-covered train stopping at every tiny rural settlement en route. We trickled past places like Šeplice, Boleráz and Bíňovce, but we were soon rolling into the tattered station of Smolenice.

Smolenice really is a small village, but rather inconveniently, for us on this Sunday afternoon at least, the train station is located slightly isolated to the east of the main hub of the village. The village was in sight down the country road ahead of us, flanked by fields and farmland. It certainly didn’t look much of a distance, so I was caught slightly off guard by the 30-40 minutes it took us to walk to the main part of the village having repeatedly predicted “it’ll only be a ten minute walk.” Not that I had too many complaints – it was a beautiful day in Slovakia and perfect for a walk in such a rustic settlement. Plus, the scenery wasn’t bad at all. The fields led up to the hilly, woodland area and breaking through the forestry was the wonderful looking Smolenice Castle; a castle that was a lot bigger than I expected or realised from the photos I’d seen of it. The castle would also act as a useful football ground-finding device too, as from the photos I’d seen of OŠK Smolenice it seemed the ground sat somewhere down below the castle. Being one of those sad groundhopper folk, I was already excited about getting a photo of the ground backdropped by the castle.

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The road to the village.

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There were a lot of fields around us.

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The castle loomed above us on a nearby hill.

When we arrived into the village we were greeted by the sight of Včelcovina – a producer of ‘honey wine’. This local wine maker is well-known for its excellence and Mark once informed me that it had won awards for producing the best mead in Slovakia. Sadly, the bar was closed on Sundays and instead we had to settle for taking photos of the honeycomb-shaped architecture and the mascot-like bee outside.

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The famous wine makers of Smolenice.

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A friendly bee. Think he’d had too much of the honey wine.

No wine today, but we were sure we’d find a bar down the road, as we’d seen several signs for a place called Pub Havran. We believed we were en route, but we found a bar/pizzeria called Pizza Halenar first, so we opted for that instead. The bar did the job and we got ourselves some Pilsner. The bar conveniently had a local map too, which helped map out a route to the football ground for us.

The time was heading past 4.30pm and so we memorised the simple route we had gathered from the map and began the short 5-10 minute walk up to the ground. The ground sits a short way up a  hill, just past the village’s main church. Atop the hill stood the majestic castle, but our ascent would not take us up that far – although it seemed something had been going up there as hordes of families headed down the hill. Fool them for not veering left into the small opening that would have taken them into OŠK Smolenice’s ground – a wonderful ground which was about to host a wonderful game.

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En route to the ground.

The ground is built into the hill-side and surrounded by forestry on 2 sides, with the church towering behind one goal and a beautiful view of the Slovak countryside stretching all the way to Trnava in the distance on the far side of the ground. The ground consisted of one stand on the side of the pitch with a walkway going around 2 sides of the ground, which was raised above the grass banking circling those 2 sides of the ground. The other two sides were inaccessible, aside from a park and a basketball court behind the goal and a few back gardens down the far  side of the pitch, which I’m sure had become the reluctant home of a few stray footballs.

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The bar by the entrance.

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The stand.

As per usual, our first port of call was the ground’s bar, conveniently placed right next to the entrance. No indoors here though, this was just a few picnic benches overlooking the ground, providing a joyous beer garden/football spectating combo. Sadly, just like last week at 6th tier Leopoldov, the only alcoholic beverages on offer were pints of Staropramen. For just €1, I decided to endure it – although, to be fair, it didn’t taste too bad which meant either a) it was the more bearable premium incarnation of the stuff b) more worryingly, my taste buds had just begun to accept the taste. I decided it must be the latter – my taste buds wouldn’t dare conform to the usual shitty Staropramen taste.

We took our seat in the stand as the teams came out onto the pitch: Smolenice in red and today’s opponents AŠK Slávia Trnava in a Swansea-esque white and black; a very basic white and black actually, as their shirts and shorts were plain white like the sort I had to wear for PE lessons back in high school (black numbers were printed on the back). I was very keen to see Slávia Trnava play having only become aware of their existence very recently on an evening run through Trnava. The club play at an athletics stadium a 5-10 minute walk from my flat and I’ll definitely try pay the place a proper visit before the season is done with – or maybe early next season. Although Slávia Trnava had already slightly put me off with their bizarre choice of shirt numbers: 37, 77, 88 and 99 were all on display for the away team on this sunny Sunday afternoon.

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The church behind the goal. The no.7 for Smolenice shot from there with the freekick too and hit the post.

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Match action.

In lowly games like this, in a desperate attempt to bolster my own entertainment, I try to create characters of the cast of unknowns in front of me. For example, Slávia’s bald no.32 did look worryingly like Bob Bradley, thus he was referred to as ‘Bob’ all game; whereas Smolenice’s no.10 looked a lot like a more rotund Mark Bright (so more of a pundit Bright than playing days Bright); also part of the cast was the monster at no.9 for Smolenice, who simply became known to us as “Slovak Jon Parkin”. However, silly names were not really needed for entertainment today, as the game was quite simply fantastic.

The Smolenice no.7 playing at centre back and captaining (‘The Smolenice Beckenbauer’) set the tone by firstly smashing a beautifully curling freekick into the post with both the defence and goalie expecting a cross. This was then followed by a more ambitious 45 yard free kick he smashed goalwards. The free kick soared viciously towards goal, but a poor defender happened to get in the way – he took a painful looking hit.

The game’s initial entertainment came from the whole plethora of shapes, sizes and ages of the players – with Slávia looking like a particularly young team – before the game turned into a relentless parade of attacking football and just sheer football spectating fun. There were soon to be goals too – lots of goals.

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Walking around the ground.

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Match action.

Looking back now, it surprised me reading some of my notes that the first goal didn’t occur until the  26th minute. It was pure route one, as a long ball was launched over the top of the defence, before it was chested down by the Smolenice striker, who with his second touch rolled it past the onrushing goalie.

The only other goal of the half would come 6 minutes later and that would also go the way of the home team, as a pass across the 6 yard box was passed into an empty net.

By this time, we’d gotten our second beer (they even gave us glass this time) and begun a wander of the ground. Ju had ostensibly headed over to a lovable pug to give it some love, but really it was just a ploy to get chatting to the pretty Slovak woman holding the dog. I was quite content playing about with the pug though whilst Ju, once again, began chatting up another Slovak lady (apparently she was a friend of the ref).

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Me and my new pug friend. He was very friendly indeed.

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Match action.

Half-time: OŠK Smolenice 2 – 0 AŚK Slávia Trnava.

It’d been an awesome first half with it being 45 minutes of attacking football from a colourful cast of players. Speaking of on the pitch action, during the break we got ourselves on the pitch too. From the stand, I had been frustrated at not being able to get a photo of the castle backdropping the ground, but from the pitch I could seize such a photo opportunity. It wasn’t long though until the teams were running back out and me and Ju had to exit the field.

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Me and Ju having a half-time kickabout…

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…and I got my photo of the castle backdropping the ground.

The half started with a bang as Slávia’s right-winger broke into the box and smashed in a powerful shot from a tight angle. There was a cheer around the ground revealing that there were quite a few in attendance supporting the away team. This opening goal of the half was a cue for silliness.

10 minutes later it was 3-1 to Smolenice with a close range header – I think anyway, as I sort of missed it when I looked down to check the day’s Premier League scores. I definitely caught the next goal straight after though, as Smolenice went 4-1 up. It was probably the best of this goalfest as a ball was played into the box, the striker took a beautiful touch to take it away from the defence, before firing low into the net.

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Match action.

Again, Slávia replied to make it 4-2 with a bundled in goal from a corner, but again Smolenice scored in response. A delightful, cheeky backheel at the near post crept in after an incisive cross from the right. This seemed the catalyst for the Trnava implosion.

This was a game that was more even than the ridiculous score line may imply, although once Smolenice hit 5, the away defence seemed to crumble. Plus, to Slávia’s credit, they carried on attacking and gave little care to defending. A counter attack from the home team put them 6-2 up and then a 20 yard shot, which seemed to glide into the net leaving the goalie wrong-footed,  made it 7-2.

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Match action.

Smolenice made it 8-2, as their striker took the ball around the goalie to score into an empty net, but Slávia grabbed another consolation to make it 8-3. To prove how silly the scoring got, my notes actually say there was another goal to make it 9-3, but the usually reliable Futbalnet.sk states the match finished 8-3. I can only guess that one of the goals I noted was disallowed without me realising. Even some of Slovakia’s most tinpot grounds have electronic scoreboards, but there was not one here to confirm the extent of the goalfest. So I’ll take Futbalnet.sk’s word for it and say the final score was…

Full-time: OŠK Smolenice 8 – 3 AŚK Slávia Trnava.

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Full-time…

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…and so me and Ju heading back down to the pitch for another kickabout.

We had over an hour until the train back to Trnava, so instead of heading to the bar we decided to take a ball and take to the pitch for a kickabout. I was hoping that there’d be scouts up in the stand watching our footballing masterclass, but I’m still yet to have a phone call from any representatives of any Slovak basement league clubs. Their loss.

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In case I didn’t impress as a player, I also displayed my best ‘manager in the dugout deep in tactical thought’ pose.

Our kickabout underneath the Slovak sun had worked up a thirst and so we decided to fit in one last drink before catching the last train to Trnava out of Smolenice at 8.30pm. We pondered heading to the Havran pub we had not made it to earlier, but instead we opted to head to the wooden chalet-like building next door to the football ground. A good move. We had seen people heading there at half-time, so we assumed it to be a bar – an assumption that proved correct. The bar was great and certainly characterful, even though there was little exciting on offer on the beer taps. However, much to my liking, the fridge was packed with bottles of craft beer. Stupavar IPA was the chosen beer and it was a belter; I’ve also since found out that the Bratislava-brewed ale has its own bar in the centre of Bratislava, so that will definitely get a visit when I’m next in the capital.

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Cool bar next door to the ground.

Another bottle of Stupavar was purchased and with me holding a bottle of the brewery’s IPA, we left and began the walk back down the road connecting the village to the streets surrounding the train station. Although it was well past 8 now and the sun was setting, the air was still full of warmth as we walked past the fields back to the station. It wasn’t long though until we were back at the station and back aboard another graffiti-doused train that rattled its way back to Trnava.

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Sunsetting on Smolenice.

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Back to the station. Don’t worry, everybody walks down the tracks in Slovakia in rural areas.

I opened my previous blog with the statement ‘Slovak football is shit’ – well maybe I jumped the gun. The week before I’d been at Leopoldov watching 6th tier football and it was brilliant; then 7 days later I’d headed to Smolenice in the 8th tier and it was even better. The lesson seems to be that if I want footballing entertainment here in Slovakia, I need to keep away from the glitz and glamour of the top leagues (not that there’s anything close to glitz or glamour there) and watch more of this village football stuff. Luckily for me, as the top league closes up for the summer, the lower leagues in Slovakia and the Czech Republic will carry on into the first couple of weeks of June. Hopefully, these final few weeks of my 2016/2017 travels will provide me with more games like this one and more brilliant little grounds like Smolenice’s home.

Highlights: nice village, great little ground, brilliant game, castle backdrop, bar next door to the ground.

Low Points: more Staropramen…

See all my photos from Smolenice here.

2 thoughts on “Lost in…Smolenice

  1. Pingback: Lost in…Ružomberok | Lost Boyos

  2. Pingback:  Lost in…Trnava (FK AŚK Slávia Trnava) | Lost Boyos

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