Lost in…Modranka

FO ŠK Modranka v OFK Malženice B

FO ŠK Modranka / VIII. Liga – Trnava / 10th June 2017

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Trnava and the town had been awash with red-shirted revellers since late morning. It seemed that Trnava was hosting some sort of annual pub crawl, which I’d only found out about the night before. On hearing of such an event, I decided to ignore it and opted to have a pub crawl-less and gentler Saturday (sort of). As I sat in Bokovka enjoying a Budvar on the Saturday afternoon and, as the ‘crawlers’ descended upon the bar, I did get to look at one of the pub crawl checklists. Overall, the pub crawlers had to get around to 13 pubs to complete their card, a fairly arduous task thanks to some of the distances between so many of the bars. They’d be walking off some beer-gained calories between bars that day at least – especially in the searing hot weather. Instead of pub crawling, I was off to watch more 8th tier football and, more specifically, the new 8th division champions of the Trnava region: FO ŠK Modranka.

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My Saturday began at Bokovka – attached to City Arena and probably my second favourite bar in town.

Modranka is a village located just short of 4 kilometres to the south-east of Trnava. Just like last weekend, the plan was to walk to Modranka from Trnava; although unlike last weekend, when I had planned to go to the other nearby village of Hrnčiarovce nad Parnou for some football, there wasn’t any rain or thunderstorms to perturb me from making the walk and I finished my Budvar in Bokovka and began the walk.

The first part of the walk I was more than familiar with, as it was the same walk I make at 7am every morning to get to my school in the Limbová area of Trnava. The area is a residential area, although where I would usually turn right towards the tower block estate that encircles one side of my school, I made a left turn onto streets I’d never walked before. I found myself on a street with some of the nicest and most affluent looking houses I’ve seen in Trnava. However, like a lot of towns in Slovakia, the richest and the poorest parts seem to entwine with each other and on the other side of a large, communist-looking department store, I found one of the most battered and ugly apartment blocks I’ve seen in the town. The rundown vibe was enhanced by the overgrown football pitch nearby and a ridiculously drunk man passed out on a large rock (a fairly common sight in Slovakia to be honest).

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Standard Slovak.

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The arse end of Trnava.

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There is a football pitch in there if you can spot the goals.

From here, there was a footpath/cycle path that led away from Trnava and followed the small river flowing out of the town. There is a short amount of fields and farmland separating Trnava from Modranka, but it was a far from exhaustive walk and 45 minutes after leaving Bokovka in Trnava, I was arriving into Modranka.

Modranka is very much a small, residential suburb of Trnava with a population of just over 2500. Those people seem to inhabit a very pleasant village and once again I got to see a lot of nice houses. As I veered away from the river, escaping from the hordes of cyclists that had shot past me on the pathway, I discovered the Cafe Lux and figured this was as good a place as any to stop with over an hour to go until kick-off.

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The pathway to Modranka.

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A ten minute expanse between Trnava to Modranka.

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But I found some beer at the end.

Lux was a cool cafe/bar/restaurant/pizzeria (it did a lot) with possibly the smiliest waitress ever. She seemed even more smiley once she had deduced that I was a foreigner, as I can’t imagine they get too many outsiders in Modranka. Usually, one of the good things about bars in small villages like this is that the beer is usually much, much cheaper than in the towns – but not in Modranka.€1.90 for Pilsner! Now, I know UK folk can only dream of such prices,  but I’m used to Trnava prices and this was a good 50 cent more than average in Trnava – for something as regular as Pilsner. They live the high life in Modranka clearly.

I felt a bit odd in the bar for some reason and I couldn’t work out why, until I noticed that the few people enjoying the Lux’s bar and pizza offerings were all kids – I’d say 14-years-old at most. And they were eating in boy-girl couples too. Had I stumbled onto the set of Slovak’s youth answer to Channel 4 favourite First Dates? It was odd and more so when one couple skateboarded off together holding hands. Feeling a bit odd and really old now with this pre-teen environment, I left after my Pilsner and headed through the village.

Modranka was eerily quiet. That was until I turned a corner and there was a fun fair squeezed into the narrow streets. Nobody seemed interested in the one or two rides on offer or the lonely stalls; as I had just learned, all the kids were in the pub instead. The fun fair looked a bit of a rickety affair and instead of getting on the waltzer, I carried on waltzing along towards Modranka’s footballing home. It wouldn’t take me long to get there.

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The fair wasn’t very popular today.

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More unloved fair rides.

I could hear familiar sounds nearby. ‘Was that the sound of a ball being headed? Was that the sound of a referee’s whistle?’ I thought. I crossed a bridge over the river and the ground appeared through the trees. There was definitely a game going on and then I saw something to make my heart sink slightly: the electronic scoreboard declared that the game was 86 minutes old. Bugger. I headed under the monumental entrance to ŠK Modranka and I quickly noticed that the game on the pitch was featuring a lot of very young players – very, very young actually. And there were 22 of these very, very young players on the pitch. It soon became clear that this was a youth game acting as an appetiser to the 4pm kick-off between Modranka and Malženice B.

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Impressive entrance.

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Little pavilion in the corner of the ground.

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Arriving at Modranka’s ground.

I worked my away around to the bar area and it became clear that Modranka had a very good setup here. Also, considering the level, there was a very decent crowd present too; maybe the crowd had a boost as they were all here to see the home team lift the league trophy today. Speaking of which, I turned around as I walked to the bar to find a man swinging said trophy at his side like it was a bag of rubbish. Despite his callous approach to trophy carrying, I guessed he was some sort of league representative as he greeted the various official-looking people in Modranka tracksuits.

I had myself a beer for €1 and as I headed out of the bar, the final whistle in the youth game was being blown to finalise a 1-1 draw. As the whistle blew, the senior team quickly ran out onto the pitch and began the briefest and most unarsed of warm-ups with the away team arriving moments later and beginning an equally unarsed warm-up. I headed up into the stand to inspect the stadium some more.

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Kick-off looming.

Modranka had a great home ground, which I thought would be the case as soon as I entered through the impressive entrance. It follows the usual Slovak template of being a bowl-shape, although most of the bowl shape was made up of grass bankings rather than the usual stony terraces. The main stand stood impressively on one-side with the changing rooms housed below it. To the right of this structure was the fairly sizable club bar (where there didn’t seem to be any food on offer sadly) and even further on was a sort of sheltered beer pavilion, where many were congregated when I arrived.

The trophy presentation was a strange arrangement. As the teams came out to line up, as the intro of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck played, I noticed that the trophy was being setup on the pitch in front of the home team. On having completed the traditional prematch handshakes, it soon became clear that Modranka were going to lift their league trophy before the game had started – not something I had seen happen before. I was really hoping they’d start on the champagne prematch too and play the game half-cut, but Modranka, ever the pros, took the sensible option and completed the trophy lifting alcohol-less. The captain lifted the trophy triumphantly with this momentous moment being strangely soundtracked by the Fast Food Rockers children’s party favourite The Fast Food Song.

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Modranka collect their medals and begin their trophy presentation.

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The away team eventually lost interest and didn’t know what to do with themselves.

The team then organised themselves for a team photo with the glittering VIII. Liga (Trnava region) trophy. There was a certain awkwardness to the scene as the away team stood sheepishly to the side of them, having used up all of their courteous clapping during the trophy-lifting process of this prematch celebration. After 5 minutes of such celebrations, the teams did the usual wave to both sides of the ground and we finally had a game to watch.

ŠK Modranka, who were sponsored by Holiday Inn Trnava, steamrollered their opponents from the first minute. It seemed the coronation as champions had reminded them that they were the best. It took until the 10th minute for the opening goal – a tap-in into an empty net – but we’d be hearing the Seven Nation Army (dance remix of course) goal music many more times that afternoon.

Goal 2 occurred whilst I was having a piss and I also somehow missed a goal for the away team too, according to the scoreboard. The amount of goals I’ve missed this season has been ridiculous to be fair; probably because I’m usually trying to find any excuse to avoid the usually shambolic standard of Slovak football on show. Although, as I’ve chronicled in recent blog posts, football has been a lot of fun to watch in the very lower depths of the Slovak league system and today was no different.

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Match action.

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Match action (featuring Modranka’s church in the background).

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Who stuck that sticker on the scoreboard?…

It was soon 3-1 to Modranka and by the half-hour mark 4-1 with the 4th probably being the best goal of the game. A stunning curler from the edge of the box left the keeper with no chance.

I’d watched all this action (aside from the goals I’d missed) from the front row of the stand. It took me a while to notice them, but eventually I spotted what first appeared to be sunloungers atop the grass banking on the other side. With my beer drunk (I was allowed my glass in the stand by the way) I decided to go investigate. Along the way to the other side of the ground, I discovered another little quirk of the ground: it’s probably the only ground I’ve ever been to with a child’s go-kart track, as I found such a track tucked away behind the banking holding the scoreboard. Soon, I was at the sunloungers…well, actually, they didn’t turn out not to be sunloungers at all. Instead I found a series of curvy, stone seats. They were certainly something I’ve never seen at a football ground before and gave the place some welcome character.

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Match action.

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What are they sitting on?…

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…ah just some curvy, stone chairs obviously.

I took a seat on one of the very unorthodox stone chairs and witnessed Modranka’s 5th goal from here. A nice passing move into the box led to a rather feeble shot from 8 yards, which squeezed through the keeper’s fingers.

Half-time: FO ŠK Modranka 5-1 OFK Malženice B.

As half-time struck, I thought I’d ask a kind soul to take my usual double thumbs up photo. As I always seem to, I happened to pick a Slovak who spoke perfect English. He had even lived in the rather prosperous town Poole in Dorset for a couple of years. Also with him was his Kenyan wife, who also spoke perfect English. I chatted to them as the three of us headed around to the bar for a half-time drink and we learned that we were both planning on heading to Bokovka later that night to watch the Lithuania v Slovakia World Cup Qualifier. We agreed to see each other there later.

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Match action.

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Match action.

For the start of the second half I headed back up the steps into the stand again, just in time to see the away goalie make a phenomenal save from a close rather header. Soon enough though, the rampant scoring was back underway.

It wasn’t long into the second half until another simple passing move led to another simple tap-in into a virtually empty net to make it 6-1, which was then shortly followed by a 7th goal. The 7th strike was a far more thrilling goal, as the keeper, once again, had another beautiful curling shot arc over him.

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A fan watches on intensely.

Double figures was looking a genuine possibility as Modranka made it 8-1 in the 77th minute. The striker collided with the goalie in a one-v-one and the ball trickled over the line following the accidental clash.

By now, I was making my way back around to the ‘Stone Sunlounger End’ where a small party was starting. The majority of the group chanting and singing seemed to be teenagers, but in the middle of these stood a more weathered gentleman in a red jacket and a Modranka scarf draped over his shoulders. He looked genuinely emotional and tearful, as what I guessed was his local team entered the final minutes of their saunter to the league title.

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The pyro in unleashed…

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…and eventually lands in the hands of this football-hatted gentleman.

There was a good ovation for the Modranka skipper as he was subbed in the final minutes, although his replacement skipper would put the icing on the cake as he added the 9th and final goal of the game. Top marks for celebrating with a textbook Klinsmann dive too.

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A young fan watches on as Modranka are moments away from the end of their season.

The 9th goal was the cue for the red-jacketed lad to pull out a blue flare and start waving it frantically, much to the joy of the excitable youngsters surrounding him. I don’t know the Slovak for “Can I have a go?” but it became clear that that was what the youths were asking for, as they all took a hold of the flare before its joyous, smoky magic faded out.

Full-time: FO ŠK Modranka 9-1 OFK Malženice B.

As blue smoke still drifted across one side of the ground, the home team came running over to the small gang in the ‘Stone Sunlounger End’ and soon they were spraying champagne over each other. They then made a beeline for the red-jacketed man, who was now crying, and began hugging him and dousing him in champagne. It really did look like the happiest day of his life; another example of how non-League – no matter the country – means as much as any glitzy, money-fueled league.

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Out comes the champers (well, sparkling wine at least).

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Players celebrate with the locals…

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…a nice sight to see.

Eventually, one of the teenagers said something to me in Slovak and quickly realised I had no idea what was being said, so switched to fairly good English. I was met with the usual bemusement I am met with when locals realise I’ve come to watch their backwater Slovak town/village play football, but I received a lot of respectful handshakes too. It was soon insisted on I meet the red jacketed man and as I put my hand out to give him a congratulatory handshake, instead he gave me a hug as his euphoric emotions clearly still dominated him. Almost immediately he had his arm around me and began pointing to the clubhouse and saying “goulash” repeatedly. He really did want me to go join him – and the players I think – for post match grub, but, as much as I love goulash, I had other plans and had to leave my new friend. I imagine he ended up in quite the state by the evening.

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A post match double thumbs up selfie with the gang.

Having made the pleasant walk back down the footpath and back to Trnava, I found the town still swarming with red-shirted pub crawlers and in various states of inebriation. They were less welcome for me now, as I just wanted a nice craft ale in my beloved Lokal Pub, but found getting to the bar a nightmare with the bar crowded with revellers seeking a beer and for someone to stamp their pub crawl cards.

After a quick pit stop at my flat, it was back out to watch Lithuania v Slovakia in Bokovka, where I did meet up with the Slovak and Kenyan couple for a brief hello before the football kicked off. With England drawing with Scotland earlier in the evening, the game presented Slovakia, placed 2nd the group, to catch up with the group leaders England. I had been at the Slovakia v Lithuania home game in late 2016, which was one of my favourite games of the season as Slovakia romped to a 4-0 win in Trnava. The return away game was a bit tighter, but Slovakia got their 3 points with a comfortable 2-1 win, featuring a beaut of a free kick from Slovak Messiah, Marek Hamšík. Modranka had had their celebrations and now the national team had reason to celebrate, as they gained ground on England and now sat just 2 points behind England.

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All the best for next season Modranka!

I was glad I had not signed up for the pub crawl and headed off to Modranka instead. It’s a great, little ground and there does seem to a be little buzz around the place judging from the crowd there on my visit. I really hope they do well in the 7th tier next season and maybe I’ll even get along again next season. And I ‘ll make sure I stay for the goulash next time too.

Highlights: good ground, friendly locals, good game, good goals, the stone sun loungers, the one man pyro, Slovakia winning later on.

Low Points: not much in Modranka, seemed to no hot food on offer (during the match).

See all my photos from Modranka here.

 

 

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