Lost in…Blansko

FK Blansko v Ždírec nad Doubravou

Stadion na Údolní /  4. Liga – Division D / 28th October 2017

Before I moved to Central Europe, it would have probably been fair to say that my Czech geography knowledge was average at the very best. If you had asked me to point out the Czech Republic on a map I could probably do that easily enough, but asking me anything about the location of famous towns, cities, landmarks etc.? No chance. Maybe at a push I could have pointed to Prague on a map. Even just listing towns and cities would have largely been football-influenced too – like the majority of my geography to be fair. ‘Can you name some Czech places Matt?’ Would have led to me racking my brain and probably saying football towns such as, ‘Prague, Ostrava, Brno, Plzen, Blansko…’ ‘Blansko?! Where the hell is Blansko?!’ I hear you ask.  Despite it’s obscurity, the small town of Blansko has very much been part of the Czech football map for me for a while now. Why? Well, it’s all down to a few expats and their wonderful blog about lower league Czech football, beer and Moravia’s finest sausages.

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Finally off to FK Blansko.

For regular readers, the name The Blansko Klobása should be familiar by now, but I should probably explain again, since this was my first time on their home turf. Through fellow Swansea fan Ralph, who has lived in the Czech Republic for about 20 years now, I was introduced to Blansko and more specifically FK Blansko. Initially a big fan of his local top flight club, Zbrojovka Brno, Ralph became disenchanted with the club for a number of reasons. A spot of  groundhopping led him to the small town of Blansko, a 20 minute train journey outside of Brno. A love affair started.

Over time, along with Brummie expat, Craggy and Middlesbrough lad and now native of Blansko, Christopher ‘Wingy’ Wing, The Blansko Klobása were formed. The Blansko Klobása is a blog (here it is by the way) about the three expats’ travels and travails around the Czech Republic watching FK Blansko home and away, as well as other trips to other Central European footballing outposts. With Blansko being such a small place, it is fair to say that 4th tier FK Blansko (of the 3rd tier last season I should add) do not have an expansive fan base to say the least. However, with the Blansko Klobása, they have their own little mini band of ‘Ultras’ and one of the finest voices in the Czech basement leagues. The chants are of course mainly in English and the songbook they’ve created over the years to serenade the club and its players is vast and usually hilarious, as I’ve learned on previous trips traveling with TBK. Also, the lower leagues of Czech football are mainly attended by a few brave, elderly souls sipping at shots of slilovica, so it is funny to see how they react to a few lads chanting incessantly and largely in English in their half-empty, crappy grounds.

In a nutshell, watching FK Blansko with The Blansko Klobása is about as much fun as a Brit – or any nationality for that matter – is going to have watching lower league Czech football. Hopefully, I can detail why in this account.

I’ve lived in Slovakia for over a year now and spoke regularly to Ralph about going to Údolní to watch FK Blansko. ‘I’ll visit soon,’ I’d always say but something would always get in the way or every time I’d decide to finally visit, Ralph wouldn’t be going; and it just seemed to be rude to go without a full gang of TBK. But finally, a couple of weeks ago, it was decided that I’d finally step foot in Blansko. I told Ralph just to let me know the plan and I’d roll with it. He decided our day wouldn’t start in Blansko and instead our day would start almost 30km further north of Blansko.

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Well this is a nice welcome to a small ‘castle town’.

I was on the 8am train from Bratislava to Brno to make sure I got to Brno in time to be part of the gang’s late morning ventures. After an always excellent train journey on České dráhy’s finest, including a breakfast of bread, cheese, and ham, I arrived into Brno to meet Ralph, Craggy and Czech native Michal, who was also going to his first ever FK Blansko home game. I couldn’t remember the name of the town we were going to visit prematch, but I was soon reminded we were off to the small town of Letovice to see a castle apparently.

An hour after leaving Brno, and after chugging past Blansko en route, we arrived into Letovice. It had been portrayed to me as some sort of pleasant castle town, but instead it became clear very quickly that there was little in terms of grandiose here. Aside from the admittedly lovely castle that sat atop the hill, Letovice looked bleak. What greeted us was the sights and smells of a line of warehouses and industry leading towards the town’s main hub below the castle.

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The main street.

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This was a bit too nice for us – the hotel bar.

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The beer was ace though.

Thoughts of castle-exploring were put on hold, as we discovered a hotel on the main road inviting us in for beer through the medium of ‘board on the street.’ There was no sign of the word ‘Staropramen’ on the board, so we decided it was safe to go in the Hotel Dermot.

We were greeted into the fairly plush hotel bar area by a woman asking us if we were there “for the party” (in Czech of course). Ralph just said yes without thinking – clearly never one to say no to a party. We never got to be part of the party in the end, as that seemed to be going on in the larger room next door (what sort of mentalists have a party at 11am in a hotel bar anyway?) Regardless, we were happy with our pints of local Pacholek beer and amusing ourselves by giggling at the lights on the ceiling that resembled breasts.

It became clear as we left Hotel Dermot that we would only have time for one more activity before the train to Blansko: visit the castle or go to another pub? It became clear very quickly which option we were going to choose…We headed towards the castle, took photos from way below and then went to the a tucked away pub positioned alongside the river running through the town. Beer had won over culture and history.

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Well at least we got to see Letovice castle…

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…but the pub beckoned instead.

The bar was an interesting little place with its wooden interior making it feel like a large, well-ordered wooden shack by the the river. The beer was frothy and good too and we got to enjoy them as VH1 Classic’s ‘The Noughties’ played on the TV overhead. A shocking revelation was revealed as Craggy stated he had never ever heard Shakira’s 2010 World Cup slammer, Waka Waka. Craggy, being a musician, I’m sure appreciated the musical dexterity of lyrics such as ‘Waka Waka, ay ay!’ on his first listen.

Despite the barman trying to convince us to prolong our stay in Letovice, and more specifically his establishment, it was time to head to the main event and the town of Blansko.

Wingy had not joined us yet, but most of the train journey to Blansko involved Ralph questioning how  Wingy had ‘got down with the kids’ and suddenly learned how to use ‘emoticons’. I had to tell Ralph that he himself sounded more out of touch with youth culture by calling them ‘emoticons’ and not ‘emojis’. Speculation was also rife about Charlie the dog, Wingy’s new dog who he had got that week. There was still some uproar that Wingy had committed an act of heresy but failing to name the dog after a Blansko player. It was me and Michal’s debut appearance at Údolní, but would Charlie the dog be joining us for a debut too? Time would soon tell. I was already planning the photos I was going to take to send to the iconic Non-League Dogs website. I was thinking of one of Charlie looking all adorable in a Blansko scarf.

So we arrived into Blansko. I had been through Blansko on the train a few times, so I knew what to expect really. Put rather frankly Blansko is a bit of a…well…eh…I’ll just let this travel guide for the area sum it up:

‘One step further down the line will take you to Blansko, a post-industrial town made up of a combination of flats, pre-war and modern buildings, which truly gives you an unsettling appreciation of what communist urbanism was capable of. In Blansko you can really get a taste of nothingness, emptiness and depression. Nevertheless, if it’s a sweltering hot day you can head over to the quarry on the edge of the town for a swim and a cool down. The trains on the mainline from Brno to Prague carve their sweet way around the sunbathers on their way to the capital city.’

That middle section was basically a more elaborate way of saying what I was going to say: Blansko is a bit of a shithole. Not that that has ever put me off a town before – I am a Merthyr Tydfil boy after all.

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Beer and Blansko.

There was less than an hour until the 14:30 kick-off at Údolní, so any ideas of a pub crawl through Blansko were cut short. Instead, we stuck to staying in the train station bar. Apparently this bar used to be a proper dive, but now it was all glammed up and attempting to be a gastrobar apparently (the lads cynically claimed that going gastro meant opening a hatch looking into the kitchen, complete with a few lamps on said hatch). This bar was probably the most gleaming thing I saw in Blansko all day.

Not for the first time that day, we were treated to Černá Hora, one of the better mainstream Czech beers in my eyes (and taste buds). Also we had the privilege of sitting on the stools at the bar – Ralph and Craggy’s regular spots on a trip to this Blansko drinking hole. The barmaid seemed to know them well enough anyway.

There was then worrying talk of going ‘for one up the Probe’ but the Probe turned out to be the name of a bar (and hotel) rather than anything more…probing. Up the hill of Blansko we headed, passed the grim buildings mentioned in that scathing review earlier; although there was one rather incongruous, rather gothic-looking building that looked interesting en route and had been earmarked as a potential TBK HQ if they stumbled upon a trove of cash to buy it.

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The slightly old, interesting and out of place building in the middle of the town.

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Some of that ‘nothingness, emptiness and depression’ mentioned earlier.

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No time for one up the Probe

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More sights…

The Probe was closed so it was onwards up the hill to Stadion na Údolní – the home of FK Blansko. The ground is found at the bottom of a sloping alleyway, so on turning onto the pathway you get a good view of the ground down in the basin of land below. Instantly I was a fan of Údolní, thanks largely to its unorthodox setup. On one side of the ground is a large building, housing the usual football ground necessities with the lengthy club bar running alongside it. It was the other side of the ground that provided the real moneyshot though.

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The home of FK Blansko on the other side of the fence.

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In as an ‘International Fan of Blansko’.

The old stand at Údolní is a thing of beauty – untidy, uncared for, but ultimately, unusual. Unusual is always good. The stand sits atop a banking with the bottom terracing consumed by the unkempt grass at the bottom of the banking. The stand consists of aging wooden benches and some painted pictures of footballs on the walls just in case you needed reminding of what sport Údolní hosts. This is further hit home by the large football that is the centrepiece of the stand’s roof. Hopefully my photos present this wonderful, ramshackle stand better than my mere words possibly could. Apparently, there is talk of the stand being renovated, which, although clearly necessary, is saddening to hear.

We headed for the gate and on seeing The Blansko Klobása boys approaching, the gate was opened and we were let in for free – the true VIP treatment. “International Blansko fans do not pay,” stated one of the stewards ganged at the entrance.

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That stand – a beaut.

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Thumbs up for Blansko.

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At the bottom of the banking/stand.

The first duty was to retrieve the Blansko drum. The iconic Blansko drummer, Pavel the drummer, is sadly not in good health at the moment and in recent times Craggy has taken on the sacred duty of drumming and firing up the support. Apparently the support was fairly low today for some reason – maybe they heard I was coming. Or it may have been down to the fact that Blansko are slightly struggling this season.

In the 2015/16 season Blansko won their league and thus found themselves playing in the heady heights of the Czech 3rd tier last season. Sadly the glamour trips of last season to places such as Kunovice (to play Slovácko II) and Vyškov are now a thing of the past, with the club getting relegated straight back to 4.Liga for this season. Blansko are toiling too at this lower level with them sitting towards the bottom of the league.

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Prematch warm-up.

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The drummer is ready…

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…and the teams are ready. Let’s get going!

Me and Craggy headed up to upper echelons of the Údolní’s decrepit stand and we were soon rejoined by Ralph and Michal, who had gone on a beer run to the bar. This being a day out with The Blansko Klobása,I knew it was now time to warm-up my vocal cords.

The Blansko songbook is a thick one and an ever-growing one, so it’d probably be impossible to list every chant in one blog here. Blansko right-back Petr Gromský alone must have about 30 sings to himself. Even though the right back Gromský is out injured for a while, the fact his name seems to fit seamlessly into any song gives him a plethora of chants. As the Gromský-less Blansko came out, the singing began and rarely stopped. ‘Everywhere we go, we always take the Blansko with us!’ resonated from the stand in a way Crowded House would undoubtedly be proud about. I guess the Blansko locals are now used to a few expats making a racket in their rickety ground, but it still tickled me when I looked around to see the elderly gentlemen who probably just want a quiet afternoon drinking and watching local football and instead have to endure chants in a language foreign to them to the tune of random songs from the 80s/90s. Not many of them looked like Human League fans anyway (“Don’t you want me Gromský! Don’t you want me, ooooooohhhh!”)

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Match action.

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Big fan of the house adopting Blansko colours above the ground. I really hope this was intentional.

Undoubtedly, the star of the show for Blansko was their clever little winger Dominik Šmerda – or Dommy Šmerda to his supporters (us). Fair to say, it was Dommy Šmerda who dominated the terrace choruses, even more so than the absent Gromsky. So join in everyone to Earth, Wind and Fire’s September adaptation:

“Oh ee oh, we’ve got Dommy Šmerda! Oh ee oh, he gets away with murder! Oh ee oh, he never gives the ball away!…1,2,3,4!”

A terrace classic, no doubt.

Less of a favourite for the gang was the new goalkeeper between the sticks at Blansko; a goalie who had replaced their beloved cult hero David Juran as no.1. However, the new lad was playing well and we decided that was down to him wearing the shirt of local big boys Zbrojovka Brno. I suggested that switching from a usual Blansko goalie shirt to a Zbrojovka Brno one, may be an inspiring attire change akin to that time when junior hockey team Team USA changed into their Mighty Ducks jerseys in the final third of their Junior Goodwill Games final against the nasty Icelandic in The Mighty Ducks 2.

The majestic Dommy Šmerda was proving to be the most lethal outlet for Blansko, but the game was balanced and could have gone either way. Dare I say, it was actually entertaining to watch too. Of course, the most exciting thing to happen on the pitch for us in the first half though was the sight of a Blansko player going down hurt; it’s not that we’re sinister bastards, it just meant that the brilliant ‘Bad Medicine/Sasa the physio’ song got an airing – the winner of last season’s prestigious ‘Chant of the Season’ award in my Lost Boyos’ award I’ll have you know,

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Match action.

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It really is ramshackle beauty.

As half-time loomed and it looked almost certain that the first 45 minutes would finish 0-0, talk turned to more pressing matters: where was Wingy? We even created a ‘Where is Wingy’ chant, which then morphed into an ode to local Boro delicacy parmos to hopefully allure him to the ground (“I’d rather eat a parmo than kebab!”) Wingy is from Middlesbrough, so by default must like parmos (and if you don’t know what a parmo is, give it a google. Wonderful stuff).

Half-time: FK Blansko 0-0 Ždírec nad Doubravou.

Our love song to parmos clearly worked, as at half-time we found Wingy queuing for beer in the bar.  I went to greet him with a handshake only for a random Czech guy to decide that he liked the look of my hand and blocked my attempted handshake with Wingy by shaking it himself. I can’t critcise such a friendly act of politeness  even though it was odd. Sadly, no Charlie the dog with Wingy, which left me gutted, as my cute ‘dog wearing football scarf’ photos were denied me.

The club bar was impressive by lower league Czech standards – it felt really busy too compared to the pitchside presence. The room was a long one with trophies and all the usual home team memorabilia, as well as rather oddly having a 2003-2005 Norwich home shirt framed on the wall. Answers on a postcard to how that ended up there.

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The Blansko club bar.

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Pivo please.

At the start of the second half, we now had a full Blansko Klobása ensemble, plus me and Michal, the two honorary members. Initially, we put everything into cheering on the team, before the songs turned weird again. Chants of Czech/Slovak soft drink favourite ‘Kofola! Kofola! Kofola!’ somehow began, before we attacked it’s more commercial older brother: “You can shove your Coca-Cola up your arse! Kofolaaaa!“ Me and my TBK pals are champions of communism’s finest cola, Kofola, and you should be too.

The game was playing out similar to the first half, but maybe distracted by our declarations of love for a communist cola meant that we perhaps didn’t see the opening goal coming. It was a beauty too, although sadly it was for the away team. Personally, I felt a Blansko player was dragged off the ball unfairly in the build-up, but Ždírec broke forward from halfway, until from 30 yards out midfielder Pavel Klimeš unleashed a powerful drive that flew into the back of the net. I’ve not seen many better hits this season.

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Michal, Craggy, me and Wingy.

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Match action.

Blansko pushed onwards and left themselves open on the counter, but had little choice when they were still 1-0 down with 10 minutes left. As I began the walk around the ground back to the bar, I looked up to see the ball strike a Ždrívec player’s arm in the box. Penalty to Blansko! I abandoned my trip to the bar and instead ran back up to the top of the stand to rejoin the gang to hopefully celebrate a Blansko goal. However, as soon as I thought that, I realised they’d probably miss. In fairness to penalty-taker and all round Blansko cult hero Honza, the ref took an age to let him take the pen and the goalie then predictably made a good save to deny Blansko an equaliser.

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Match action.

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TBK crew wait tensely for the penalty to be taken.

Back to the bar I began to go, but before I’d even got to the bottom of the stand, Blansko had score from the resulting corner from the keeper’s penalty save. A clever near post flick had made its way past the keeper, much to the joy of the locals and international Blansko fans. There was extra joy at the fact that the goal was scored by one of Blansko’s newer players, defender Tomáš Feik. With a name like Feik, he is also gaining a hefty amount of chant time – essentially just placing the word ‘Feik’ in any song featuring the word ‘fight’. We had ‘Saturday night is alright for Feiking’, ‘Feik for your right to party and I’m sure there were more, but the undoubted king of the Feik chants was the peerless ‘Everybody was Tom Feiking’ featuring kung-fu noises and lyrics such as ‘Motorbiking…but he doesn’t like hiking…’ Again, randomness was running amok. Tomáš Feik’s actual views on motorbiking and hiking have yet to be verified.

The closing minutes proved exiting as both teams had half chances and Blansko even gained a numerical advantage, as Ždírec’s ginger-haired no.13 got himself a 2nd yellow for a needless push on an opponent. But, soon enough, the ref’s whistle was sounding and we had our 1-1 draw confirmed.

Full-time: FK Blansko 1 – 1 Ždírec nad Doubravou.

An entertaining game, but as always on a Blansko day, the fun was in the stand. The last player to leave the pitch was Dommy Šmerda and so one final outing of ‘Weve got Dommy Šmerda’ was chorused before it was time to leave the haggard, but beautiful environs of Údolní.

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Me and Ralph with one of the footballs painted on the stand wall.

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Bye to Blansko.

For the second time that afternoon, we were denied one in the Probe (it was still closed…) so with me needing to get back to Brno within in the hour, we headed back to the train bar. We had one more beer and a few sticks of onion rings (I’m not a big fan of onion rings usually, but these were awesome!) and once me and Ralph’s Swansea City had announced another defeat this season, it was time to roll out of Blansko.

Past the quarry our train headed and away from bleak Blansko…or is it really that bleak?  I do know that who ever wrote that earlier quoted spiel about Blansko saying that it gives you ‘a taste of nothingness, emptiness and depression’ definitely didn’t get to go to FK Blansko with Czech Republic’s finest international fan trio, The Blansko Klobasa. My days with Blansko’s usual suspects prove to be some of my highlights of the season. If you ever find yourself in the area and just want to dick around at some football, then I know the lads will be more than accommodating – as long as you are prepared to sing silly songs about lower league Czech players, Kofola and occasionally the theme song to Only Fools and Horses.

FK Blansko do toho!

Highlights: another day with The Blansko Klobasa, Letovice pubs were fun, lot of love for Údolní, the stand, all the random songs, the performance of Dommy Šmerda, Ždírec’s goal was good.

Low Points: Letovice was a bit shit, Blansko was a bit shit – but who cares. 

See all my photos from Blansko (and Letovice) here.

 

3 thoughts on “Lost in…Blansko

  1. Pingback: Lost in…Prague (Meteor Prague VIII) | Lost Boyos

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