ŠK Šenkvice v ŠK Báhoň
Športový klub Šenkvice / Slovak Cup / 29th July 2017
I’d been to my parents’ new home in Brittany, I’d been to my actual hometown in South Wales Valleys, but now I was back in the place where I actually currently live: Slovakia. I’d only been away just under 3 weeks, but I’d definitely missed the place. However, one thing I hadn’t anticipated missing was the football. Yet, after landing back on Slovak soil early Wednesday afternoon, I found myself already counting down to Saturday and my first Slovak football fix of the season.
My destination for my Saturday football would be the humble village of Šenkvice, located almost equidistant from Trnava and Bratislava (like a Linton Travel Tavern, that’s the beauty of its location). More conveniently for me, the village also sits on the main train route between my adopted home and the Slovak capital. Beforehand, it didn’t feel like the most inspired place to begin my 2017/18 Slovak groundhopping, but there weren’t exactly many other options aside from revisits to a couple of Fortuna Liga grounds I’d already been to. Plus, I was off on a week-long adventure to Budapest and Belgrade after the weekend, so I figured staying local would be a good option.
There was another attraction to going to Šenkvice: cup football. Amazingly, after a whole season of traveling around Slovakia watching football, I’ve never been to a Slovak Cup game here (or Slovnaft Cup if you really feel inclined to use its sponsor name). Well, I say ‘amazingly’, but I suppose it isn’t really since the FA here insist on usually having cup games on Wednesday afternoons when most are still at work. The FA really are atrocious with things like that here and I could write a whole blog on their ineptness, but I’ll restrain myself for now. Anyway, I was excited to see a cup game, especially since it was 5th tier Šenkvice against 3rd tier Báhoň (who you may remember won my prestigious ‘ground of the season’ in my awards blog for last season). Who knows, I could well even see a cup upset and the ‘Magic of the Slovak Cup’.
I’ve been through Šenkvice many, many times on the train and knew that I probably wouldn’t find much there (a bit of googling confirmed this). So with that in mind I opted to save my departure down the train line until 3pm – 2 hours before the 5pm kick-off and leaving me enough time to have a quick lap of the village and maybe visit a local bar; I do love the dingy bars you can find in small Slovak villages.
After a morning of watching lots of Rick and Morty on Netflix (only recently discovered this and bloody love it) and then beers in Bokovka (discovered this a while ago and still bloody love it), I arrived at Trnava train station and for a measly €1,08, I had myself a train ticket to head 15 minutes down the track to Šenkvice.
It was a scorcher in Slovakia on this summer afternoon and there seemed to be no place to hide from the blazing sun. I had a rough idea of where the ground was as I was sure I’d seen it from the train before, but I opted to stick to my Central European ‘when exploring a new village/town/city strategy’ starting point: head towards the highest church tower you can see. As always, this worked, as I headed around the tower block estate and towards the very white church. This led me to what appeared to be the main road through the village. The church itself did look like a beauty, but it was sadly all fenced and locked up on this Saturday afternoon. What was next to the church was of more interest to me: a bar.
The bar itself was a peculiar one as it also housed two bowling lanes, although everyone was sitting outside on this hot afternoon and not frequenting the bowling alley located in the dark innards of the bar. Beer cost a mere Euro and the soundsystem was banging out a real mix of 80s classic, so I was content. Ironically, I found myself sipping my cheap beer as ABBA’s Money, Money, Money banged out into the beer garden.
With just under an hour to kick-off, I made the walk back down the hill and down the residential streets which quickly led to the small lane that headed around to the village’s hub of football. It was very cute affair and slightly more interesting than when I’ve quickly glimpsed the place from the train (the main track to Bratislava sits just behind the houses on one side of the ground). There was no-one manning the entrance and so I sauntered towards the bar without paying entry fee.
“Scout? Manchester United?” came a sudden question as I walked around to the bar. I’m not even sure what gave away the fact that I hailed from British shores, but I made sure I made it clear I had nothing to do with Manchester United and in fact I was a Swansea City fan. He rambled on at in Slovak at me for a bit, before saying something about Gareth Bale and abruptly heading off on his bike. Maybe he’d just told me that Šenkvice have the next ‘Slovak Gareth Bale’ – who knows.
There are two buildings on one side of the pitch with one housing the changing rooms, ref rooms etc. and the other being the bar. Like most in Slovak football, there seemed to be little love given to these buildings, but they did their jobs. On the other side of the pitch was another structure and a far more unorthodox structure at there: I’ve not seen a better press box in football than the DIY one pictured below.
With beer in hand, I sat out in the sun and it was quite nice to see a decent crowd begin to gather to watch the local club. One such local, who was rather marvelously wearing a cowboy hat, was not happy to see me sitting at a particular bench, so I got the hint and shuffled elsewhere; he took my place and I don’t think he moved from there for the entirety of the 90. I assumed that HIS spot.
The teams were soon out on the pitch with Báhoň in their usual red and black colours and Šenkvice in plain blue. Šenkvice’s club badge is a weird pinky red and black, so I wasn’t sure if this was an away kit or just that the club had shifted away from the colours of their badge. I knew I was truly back at Slovak football, when the teams performed the prematch waves to the spectators on either side of the pitch. and then we were underway.
Báhoň completely dominated the opening periods and, with them playing 2 tiers higher than their hosts, I expected this to continue for the whole game. However, from nowhere, Šenkvice’s attacker went through 1-v-1 with the keeper, but sadly fluffed his lines. It looked like the lower league team had blown an early chance to grab an advantage after being under pressure from the first whistle, but it’d not be long for them to get a more unexpected breakthrough.
2 minutes later, Šenkvice attacked again and earned themselves a freekick from out on the right-wing. The ball was whipped in powerfully, so much so that the keeper made a hash of his positioning and the cross soared over him and into the far top corner to give the home team a lead.
Despite unexpectedly falling behind, Báhoň continued dominate and it was proving to be an entertaining game all round. After consistently bemoaning the quality of Slovak football last season, maybe it has magically improved over the summer months. Maybe this was the turning point I was hoping for all of last season.
I completed my lap of the ground (I really wanted a closer look at that little press box) and then headed back to the bar to continue to watch the Báhoň onslaught with another beer. Their onslaught was to be disrupted though as one of those simple things which can make football even more fun occurred: dog on the pitch! Play was halted as one of the Báhoň players marshalled the canine away from the pitch, but he was an obliging dog. I personally think he just wanted to be noticed and probably just wanted to feature on Non-League Dogs.
Half-time: Šenkvice 1 – 0 Báhoň.
Having been away from the delights of Slovak football cuisine for over a month, I figured I should enjoy such delights again. Of course, when I say ‘Slovak football cuisine’ I solely mean cigánska pečienka – usually the sole food on sale. That was no different on this afternoon in Šenkvice, but fortunately for me I love the stuff, so I was more than happy. Just as a recap for the new season, Cigánska pečienka is basically a sort of chicken steak in a huge bun with the chicken cooked in a sort of mustardy sauce. It’s good stuff.
As I stood at the side of the pitch waiting for the commencement of the second half, a gentleman came up to me seemingly trying to sell me something for a Euro. I declined much to his bemusement and seeming anger at first. It only then occurred to me that he was going around collecting money for an entrance fee. Fortunately he saw the funny side of things and began to laugh hysterically with his mates, pointing at me and telling his mates near me about how the ‘English’ wouldn’t pay. Of course, I did actually pay once I understood – money was needed to keep that press box preserved after all/
Minutes into the half, Šenkvice broke forward in a 3-on-1 against the away defence, but a fluffed pass broke down their attack and we returned to the Báhoň dominance of the first half. It now felt like only a matter of time until the away team grabbed their equaliser and it soon came.
A lovely passing move took the ball down the left wing and then a pass cut back across the back was smashed in sidefooted to make it 1-1. There was a loud cheer as it seemed a chunk of the crowd had made the 10km journey down the road from Báhoň to Šenkvice.
Purely because I love their ground (marvel at its rustic beauty here), I found myself siding with Báhoň at the start of the match, but by now I was on the side of the Šenkvice underdogs. They had defended heroically and were giving it everything, even though the ref was given them nothing. Despite the away team domination, Šenkvice slowly started to fight back and the final half hour turned into a great game of football to watch.
Atop the banking by the pressbox, I had got chatting to two lads who could speak English, after I’d asked could they take a photo of me and they continued chatting to me in English. It then occurred to me that this was a cup game and I had no idea what a draw meant, before I was quickly informed by one of the lads that this game had to be settled today. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but I wouldn’t have to think about it long either.
The minute after finding out that this game could go to extra-time and penalties, we had a moment of magic. The Šenkvice attacker received the ball on the edge of the box, surrounded by opposition defenders, before a bit of awesome close control saw him break through to toe poke into the far corner. A brilliant goal!
When you are losing 2-1 to lower league opposition there is only one thing to do: bring on your Joe Allen lookalike from the bench. That is exactly what Báhoň did as they called upon their no.14. The real Joe Allen and his Slovak lookalike look like Jesus, so maybe Bahon were hoping for their no.14 to resurrect their cup hopes. To be fair to him, he looked quite a player once he came on and I wondered why he hadn’t started. But, the ‘Slovak Joe Allen’ rescue mission was too little too late.
Full-time: Šenkvice 2 – 1 Bahon.
They had done it. The minnows of V. Liga had beaten the giants of III. Liga…if any club in the Slovak third tier has ever been called a ‘giant’. It was deserved too, as despite being under the cosh for a lot of it, they defended superbly and really went for the jugular in the closing stages. There wasn’t exactly much cup hysteria around the ground though, a big cheer at the whistle and then everyone just sort of went away. I imagined the difference in scenes if a Conference team beat a League One team back in the UK. Nevermind though. It seems I need to watch more cup football anyway, as this was one of the better games I’ve seen in Slovakia. A great way to restart my Slovak travels for the new season.
I was quickly back at the station, where there was another dark, dingy bar selling the rather crappy Corgoň beer (once sponsors of the top flight), but I was soon back on the train back to Trnava. It was good to be back amongst the Slovak football scene. Here’s to another good season of travelling around my adopted nation and, who knows, maybe seeing more entertaining games like this one.
Highlights: easy to get to, pleasant little ground, cheap beer and food, brilliant game, underdogs win, ‘Slovak Joe Allen’.
Low Points: not much in the village, not enough of ‘Slovak Joe Allen’.
See all my photos from Šenkvice here.