Lost in…Trnava (FK AŚK Slávia Trnava)

FK AŚK Slávia Trnava v TJ Družstevnik Dhla

Športový areál Slávia / VIII. Liga – Trnava / 5th June

I’m ridiculously defensive of Trnava. Anyone that starts approaching anything resembling criticism of my adopted hometown, I go straight onto the defensive and start listing its many virtues. There is a part of me that sort of recognises that the town could initially be a bit underwhelming to first time visitors, as I suppose there’s not that much obvious on display on first glance. There’s obviously standout landmarks like Trnava Tower and the various cathedrals – the town is named ‘Little Rome’ after all – but I suppose there’s not much else on show really. No doubt, to ‘get’ Trnava you have to try a bit harder. Anyway, I’m head over heels in love with the place and I suppose that’s all that should really matter to me. So here’s some more stuff about Trnava and why I went to watch some football at the most basic of footballing setups there.

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Trnava Tower from near my flat.

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Trnava Tower from the other side.

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Cute residential streets in the centre.

Another prominent landmark in modern Trnava is the City Arena. The City Arena, which opened in 2015, is a large, modern and sparkling complex hosting everything you could want under one roof: shops, restaurants, a cinema, a gym etc. can all be found there, although there is one part of the complex that doesn’t fit under the roof. Attached to the City Arena is the redeveloped home of Spartak Trnava, Štadión Anton Malatinského. The stadium, which had its huge facelift completed in August 2015, is now even the current home of the Slovak national team and probably will be until a much-promised and much-delayed new stadium is built in Bratislava. I’m happy for the national team to stay in Trnava though with the stadium just 5 minutes from my doorstep. It should be noted that Spartak and Slovakia are not the only footballing entities in town. Trnava likes to hide things away and this includes several football clubs…

Go down below the 3rd tier of the football pyramid here and you’ll find yourself in truly regional football territory. From the 6th tier downwards the Trnava region has its own leagues and I’d been to two games in such environs in previous weeks, as I headed to Leopoldov and a week later to Smolenice. At Smolenice, the home team took on Slávia Trnava in one of the best games I’ve seen on my travels all season – an 8-3 thriller. Slávia Trnava was to be my port of call this Sunday morning and I hoped for similar entertainment from them.

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Mt favourite Zmrzlina (ice cream) in Trnava.

I had only discovered AŚK Slávia Trnava only months before on a run. When I go for a run, I try to vary my route to explore different parts of Trnava I’d never normally go to (there are some parts that certainly make you run faster to get away). Somehow, for months I had been running around and missing a huge sports complex just minutes from my flat. AŚK Slávia Trnava is a sports club and athletics club. The rather aged complex consists of an athletics stadium, an adventure park, outdoor football courts, basketball courts, tennis courts, football pitches and a sports hall. The communists were big fans of promoting sporty pursuits and so I guessed, judging from the dated, graffiti-covered look, that this area was probably built to promote fitness in the area under the communist regime. The AŚK Slávia setup is also located behind the Relax Spa – a popular destination for locals looking to…well, relax. With it so close to my flat, I had planned to head there for months and when I noticed that the football team kicked off at 10.30am on a Sunday morning, that seemed as good a time as any to go.

I’d not headed anywhere on the Saturday, as I decided to stay in Trnava to watch the Champions League final in one of my favourite Trnava boozers, Bokovka. Plus, it turned out Trnava was hosting a music festival in the main square (which I watched 2 hours of from a bar) and a big gig in the stadium by some band called Lucie (no idea). Trnava was abuzz which was great to see. So I woke up Sunday ready for some live football; in fact, I had plans to watch two local games in one day, but more on why that plan fell apart later.

The walk towards AŚK Slávia took me past Trnava Tower, but more importantly down the street housing my favourite ice cream shop in Trnava (there’s a hell of a lot of them), ‘I love Zmrzlina. ‘Zmrzlina’ is the Slovak word for ‘ice cream’ and probably still remains my favourite word in Slovak so far. By 10am it was already 24 degrees so a mango ice cream to accompany me to the ground was welcome.

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Arriving at the Slávia complex/

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Entrance.

After discovering  the AŚK Slávia setup, I’ve since run past and through it many times and had occasionally seen football games being played in the athletics stadium. So it was with sadness that I arrived and discovered that there were people having the audacity to practice athletics in the athletics stadium and force the football team onto a football pitch on this Sunday morning. I began circling the grass banking enclosing the athletics stadium until I arrived at the opening which led onto 3 football pitches. On the pitch in the middle of the three, the one caged and fenced in, I spotted the plain white t-shirts that I had seen Slávia play in at Smolenice two weeks before.

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Athletics stadium.

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No football at the athletics stadium today…

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..it’d be played here instead.

Not that I took umbrage with it, but I was very surprised to find that I had to pay €1 to enter such a basic ground. The guy on the gate questioned me on something, but it soon became clear to him that I was no Slovak. Him and his mate, who like him was wearing a Slávia Trnava t-shirt, began pissing themselves, I’m guessing at the idea that a foreigner wanted to watch their humble club. “English?” one asked. My answer was easier today as I just pointed to the badge on my shirt: I’d put on my “BALE 11” Wales shirt in honour of our footballing superhero winning his 3rd Champions League trophy in 4 years the night before – in Cardiff of all places.

This was certainly the most basic setting I’d watched football in Slovakia so far and probably one of the most basic to feature on the whole blog. Behind each goal there were two high fences preventing stray footballs clearing the smaller fencing that surrounded half of the ground. Behind the goal nearest the entrance, there were four two-rowed wood benches, which were the closest thing the place had to stands. Down one side of the ground was a row of trees acting as a barrier between the pitch next door, which was in the shadow of the huge chimney of Trnava’s old sugar refinery – once a fulcrum of the local economy.

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Slávia prematch warm-up in those now iconic white PE kits.

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‘The Tree End’

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These were the closest things they had to stands..

It was a beautiful morning in Trnava and so I positioned myself on the sunnier side of the ground away from the trees as the teams’ prematch warm-up concluded with the refs jogging out in their luminous yellow shirts. Once again, I noticed a recurrence of a strange quirk of these nether regions of the Slovak football pyramid, as there was only linesman, who occupied just one half of the pitch, leaving the ref to judge offsides in the other half. Of course, even at low levels back home in the UK, I’d seen games with no assistant referees at all and use volunteers from the clubs instead, but I quite liked the Slovaks persisting with just one official assistant referee.

When I’d seen Slávia Trnava play at Smolenice two weeks previous, they had lost 8-3. However, I felt the score line was actually slightly harsh on them and a lot of the goals they had conceded had come from their welcoming gung-ho approach. Today was a different story though, as they took on bottom of the league TJ Družstevnik Dhla and the home team completely dominated.

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Match action.

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Match action.

It was good to see some of the ‘characters’ from the Smolenice game still in the team, including the no.32 we had christened ‘Bob Bradley’. Admittedly, now closer to the action than last time I’d seen him play, I noted how bald head aside he looked nothing like Bob Bradley. He was however probably the best player on the pitch for the whole game, as he linked up brilliantly with the young tricky winger ahead of him.

Some of the shooting on show was absolutely horrific – something I should have foreseen having witnessed some of the erratic shooting in the prematch warm-up. The home team were completely dominant and more clinical finishing could have seen them 3-4 goals up early on. The no.11 eventually did get the ball past the keeper from an acute angle, but his shot trickled across the line before being cleared off it.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Another stand out of the game was the away goalie’s shirt; it was like an ode to the goalie shirts of USA 94 – especially the Bulgarian goalie shirt worn by Boris Mikhailov. I’m sure it was the shirt he was wearing that inspired him to make an awesome double save near the half hour mark, as he somehow got his body in the way of two close range shots.

With temperatures high, a water break proved necessary during the half and then Slávia’s dominance continued. However, from nowhere, the away team took the lead. They missed a 1 v 1 in the 45th minute, before moments later scoring when presented with another such chance.

Half-time: FK AŚK Slávia Trnava 0 – 1 TJ Družstevnik Dhla.

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Who could have stuck that there?…

Th Slávia coach gave his team talk under the trees and it looked like an intense one at that. It worked though, as minutes into the second half, they got their equaliser. It was a satisfying equaliser to watch too, as it smashed in off the post from a shot from just inside the box. Always love that satisfying ‘PING’ sound when the ball goes in off any part of the woodwork.

And it wasn’t too long after that equaliser that Slávia made it 2-1 and again it was a lovely goal. As Slávia played he ball into the box, their striker received the ball and ran wide away from goal before backheeling it; the pass rolled perfectly to the no.10 to smash a shot from 10 yards past the helpless keeper.

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Match action,

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Match action.

By now, the home team were dominating again and I found myself behind the dugouts taking photos. The Slávia domination was getting too much for the Argentina shirt-wearing away team manager, who cracked open a beer on the sideline. He would have made El Diego proud. It clearly inspired me too…

As the clock ticked over 80 minutes and having stood out in the sun throughout it all with no refreshments all (definitely no bar to be found here), I decided I’d had enough and left early to go hydrate myself back at my flat. On arriving there and watering myself (with non-alcoholic beverages), I read on Futbalnet.sk that Slávia had scored a 3rd goal in the dying minutes to make it a deserved 3-1 score line.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Full-time: FK AŚK Slávia Trnava 3 – 1 TJ Družstevnik Dhla.

So that was game 1 one of my double-header finished. Next up on my schedule was the wonderfully named ŠK RAPID Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou – that was the original plan at least. Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou is a small village located just west of the main hub of Trnava and I’d been past the local football club a few times. It looked cool. So with the weather so nice, I figured the 40-50 minute walk to Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou would be a pleasant and worthwhile one.

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Back past the athletics stadium and towards town.

With 3 hours to go until kick-off, I setup camp in Bokovka for a few afternoon Budvars before undertaking the 45 minute walk up to Hrnčiarovce. I was actually looking forward to the pleasant walk down the sun-clad road. However, in the space of a few minutes, the sky greyed, outdoor drinkers sprinted for indoors, bar staff sprinted to take down umbrellas shielding punters from the sun and soon a full-blown thunderstorm was hitting. This begun about 30 minutes before I was going to leave for the football. There was now no bus that would get me to Hrnčiarovce for kick-off and with just shorts and t-shirt on and the smallest hoody in my bag, no way was I walking. The dismal weather never let up and I wrote off heading to the second game of the day and opted to stay in the pub instead. Yes, I thought I was pathetic too. Slovakia has clearly softened me – the Matt Harrison forged in the north-west of England over recent years would have gone to any anonymous backwater town to watch football, come rain or shine. The new continental version of me is clearly too comfortable in my new life.

Nevermind, I got my one game in and I’ve never been a big fan of a double-header in one day. Plus, I got to spend a couple of hours extra in my beloved Trnava. As the photos probably show, there really is not a lot to the ground (well, fenced off pitch) at Slávia, but, like my previous time watching Slávia, the game was entertaining. If they were playing on a Sunday morning again and I had enough energy in me after a Saturday night, I’d go again – especially if they decide to play in the actual athletics stadium.

Highlights: good game, day in Trnava.

Low Points: very, very basic ground, didn’t play in athletics stadium, raining off game no.2.

See all my photos Slávia Trnava here.

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