Inter Bratislava v ŠTK Fluminense Šamorín
Štadión FK Stupava / II. Liga / 4th November 2017
For some reason, the first Slovak team I can ever remember being aware of was Inter Bratislava. I’m assuming it probably had something to do with games of Championship Manager and maybe the grandiose connotations associated with the prefix ‘Inter’ in European football. So, in my eyes at least, fooled by a manager simulation, Inter were one of the big boys of Slovak football, alongside teams I’d seen in the Champions League such as Košice and Žilina, as well as the more historically famous Spartak Trnava and Slovan Bratislava. So, I was very surprised indeed to learn, on moving to Slovakia, what level Inter were actually playing at last year.
Third division. What? The Inter Bratislava? Clearly Championship Manager had jazzed them up too much, or maybe they had a bit of a fall. Knowing what I do about Slovak football now, it is unsurprisingly the latter.
Inter were formed in 1940 by the Apollo refinery, a company that would later become Slovnaft – incidentally the current sponsors of the Slovak Cup. The club played as TJ Červená Hviezda Bratislava (Red Star Bratislava) throughout the 50s, although some believe that this club may have been the origins of Dúbravka Bratislava and not Inter. There is no doubt though that the merger of two clubs in 1965 to become TJ Internacionál Slovnaft Bratislava is the Inter we know today. That club would go on to play in the top Czechoslovak league for most of the next 30 years with general success, finishing runners-up in the league a couple of times and winning the Slovak Cup on 3 occasions at the end of the 80s. Also, the club produced several players who would go on to play for the Czechoslovakia team who would famously ‘Panenka’ their way to victory in the 1976 European Championships.
The dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 led to the newly formed Slovak league, where Inter won the double twice in 1999/2000 and 2000/2001. That’s as good as it ever got for them, as soon they would plummet. Having dropped to the second tier, they won the 2.Liga in 2008/2009 and were to go back up to the top league. However, finances meant they couldn’t fulfil their place in the top flight and they sold their league license to FK Senica, a team many of Inter’s players would jump ship to.
Part of the reason why many Slovan Bratislava folk hate their current stadium, Štadión Pasiensky, is due to it being the ground synonymous with their crosstown rivals, Inter Bratislava. Inter played there from 1967, until they moved to the much, much smaller Štadión Drieňová ulica in 2009, as their downward spiral on and off the pitch began. Seasons in the 5th and 4th tier followed for Inter and then another ground move to the slightly bigger Štadión ŠKP Inter Dúbravka. Playing in the third division last season, Inter entered into an exciting race to win the league and eventually triumphed, meaning that they were now back in the second tier and continuing their rapid recover back towards the top. However, during last season there were two more ground moves for Inter: firstly they started at the spic and span home of FC Petržalka Akadémia (a ground and club I’m yet to visit, but will be an interesting blog when I do); then, midseason, they moved again to just outside of Bratislava. And that’s how I found myself in the town of Stupava at 11.30am on a Saturday morning.
Stupava is not Bratislava, but is probably the closest town north of the capital. Stupava is the current home of Inter Bratislava – at least for now. Head north of Bratislava and the first town you will reach is Stupava, roughly 15km away from capital. Getting across that short distance proved difficult at first, as me and Ju struggled to find the Račianske mýto bus stop in Bratislava, where we’d find a bus to take us to Stupava. With about a minute to spare, we found the stop and were aboard the bus with many other passengers. They didn’t look like Inter Bratislava football fans, so we guessed they were getting out of the city and heading to enjoy the more natural side of north-west Slovakia on this pleasant and sunny Saturday afternoon in early November.
As our bus carried on through Stupava, it became clear that Stupava was a bigger town than I had first guessed – or at least a longer one, as the bus went for quite a bit up the main road through the middle of Stupava. One gent advised us to stay on until we got to the top of the town, so we’d be near the park that housed the football ground. We alighted opposite a second-hand clothes shop with a large poster of Tom Daley on the side; it was not just the blurriness of the image that made me guess that Tom Daley was not officially endorsing this second hand clothes shop in a small Slovak town.
We both looked up and down the high street to try spy something of interest, before we decided that we’d head down the road. It quickly became clear that there wasn’t much to see, but we did like the look of the slightly out-of-place Chateau – a little bar/restaurant/cafe which seemed to specialise in crepes (hence the French name of the place I guessed). Chateau has a lovely little wooden veranda and barbecue area on the side, but it certainly wasn’t time for any of that in early November. Inside was a very nice wooden-themed bar, where we were greeted by a very happy barman. He seemed very jolly as he declared to his assistant crepe maker that he had Brits in the bar. My friends at south Manchester hipster, non-League darlings West Didsbury & Chorlton would appreciate that the beer on tap was Krombacher (their loyal fan base have dubbed themselves the ‘Krombacher Ultras’). With beer in hand, I went to check out some of seashell-based artwork on show on the wall. The barman told us they were his works and shells he had collected on holiday in Croatia; it was all great until I noticed the crab that made up some of the artwork in the corner (I’m a bit scared of crabs in case you don’t know).
On polishing off our Krombacher, we continued up the road and back towards the ground. We were hoping to fit in one more pub visit before the ground and with little in sight before the park, we headed into D’Artagnan – a cool bar name in my opinion. And the bar was a bit unique too. In Slovakia this place was perhaps the closest thing I’ve seen to that Great British scene of groups of hi-vis-wearing, sweaty builders eating a late morning breakfast in a ‘greasy spoon’. Cooked breakfast is not a thing here in Slovakia, but most of their plates were still filled with greasy meat, whilst others opted for the goulash soup. We stuck with the Krušovice.
With the early afternoon kick-off, we only had time for one beer, before we thought we’d head to the ground. It was a peculiar route to a football ground, although of course it began with a nice looking church. However, we found the Kaplnka Krista Trpiteľa (Chapel of Christ the sufferer), located directly behind the Catholic Church, a more interesting and unique building.
The streets alongside the chapel led us past some rather grand looking houses, with one having elaborate and perfectly crafted tree trunk sculptures in the garden. We soon arrived into the town’s main park. A map had already told us that the football ground sat on the other side of the park and now we just needed to find it. We asked two gentleman to point us the right way and they obliged; we weren’t sure if they had the right way though as they pointed us off the main footpath and towards a small woodland area with a small stream running through it. This indeed however prove to be the way to the ground.
On crossing a small path over the stream, we found ourselves outside the dilapidated gate of what I assumed was an old sports complex. Graffiti-covered and with trees growing all around it, it looked almost slightly post-apocalypse. Through the gates we headed and on the other side were more trees, although through these ones we could easily spot the yellow and black colours synonymous with Inter. A cabin with the club logo announced that we had truly arrived at Inter’s adopted home. The walk along the leafy, autumnal country path and then through the old decimated entrance gate was one of the stranger routes I had taken to a football ground.
The cabin we had spotted in front of the ground was in fact the food and drink cabin. Already, there was a small crowd queueing and it was good to even see quite a few in the scarves of the away team, Šamorín. Away fans are never a giver in the Slovak leagues, so it’s always nice to see some.
The beer stall wasn’t setup within the ground yet, so we opted for cans of Kožel (the only option sadly) from the cabin, whilst stray footballs flew our way from the adjacent football court. That was when I noticed the small desk next to the gate being used as ‘part ticket stall, part mini-merchandise stall’ selling scarves, key rings and silly hats. Once we’d been given the thumbs up from the stewards that we could take our half-drunken cans of Kožel in with us, we paid our €3 and headed into the latest stop on Inter’s recent nomadic existence.
Štadión FK Stupava is fairly plain as football grounds go, although the ground has been tidied up a lot since it has been ‘Inter Bratislava-ed’. As the stadium name obviously suggests, this was once the home of FK Stupava, who no longer exist after merging with 1922 Bratislava in the city. Inter have taken to sprucing up Stupava’s old home by giving the main club building a lick of yellow paint and modernising the two, small old stands down the one side. Throw in the 4G pitch and the ground slightly resembles a training ground…well, that is probably because that’s what Inter want it to be eventually. Inter are hoping to have their own home back in Bratislava in the near future and then want to keep Stupava as their training base and general off pitch HQ. There was still construction going on around the ground too – whether that was the work of the football club too, I’m not sure. ‘Functional’ would be the best way to describe the setup, although the rainbow created by the sprinkler certainly made the setting a little prettier.
We took our seats in the front row of one of the stands moments before the teams walked out. There was joy and disappointment as they walked out. First the disappointment: last season, Inter had the most beautiful, sponsor-free, yellow and black striped Hummel shirt; this season they had stuck with football hipster favourites Hummel, but abandoned the stripes for a completely yellow shirt – it was nice, but nowhere near as beautiful as last season’s. The joy: well I love a good, cheesy club song and Inter came walking out to a cheesy rock song shouting ‘INTER!’ And I’m all for that.
Both teams were lingering towards the bottom of the 2.Liga, but Inter certainly made the better of the opening battles. As for individual players, me and Ju had our favourite in minutes..
I’ve seen Leon Britton play many, many times and I once saw Ludovic Giuly play in a friendly for Barca v Parma in the Millennium Studium (I know, random); however Inter’s Croatian no.31, Osmani, has to be the shortest player I’ve ever seen play live. Me and Ju instantly fell in love with his style of play, as he sprayed around some beautiful passes from centre midfield and he just always seemed to find space. It seemed we were the only fans though, as every time he gave the ball away or made a mistake, the Inter fans seemed to more scornful of him than anyone and even booed him a few times. We didn’t get it. There was one other reason to love this little genius too, as we discovered his first name at half-time: Elvis – Elvis bloody Osmani. What a name and what a guy.
Sometimes to get through a whole 90 minutes of Slovak football, you rely on finding one or two on-field characters to keep you going. Well what made this game so fun was that field was scattered with characters, including our micro mancrush Elvis Osmani. The game was entertaining and probably what helped this was the players Šamorín had.
Brazilian footballers can be found plying their trade in all four corners of the world, so it is not exactly uncommon to find 1 or 2 playing for teams in the Slovak leagues either. It was not too surprising to find out that Šamorín’s marauding right back, Breno Santos, was a Brazilian. Me and Ju’s attention was truly caught though when the Šamorín player taking a free kick in front of us had the name ‘Nasciemento’ on his shirt. If you don’t know, Nasciemento is kind of an iconic name in football and a big deal to have on the back of your shirt. Decades ago, Edson Arantes do Nascimento was the true great Nasciemento and most would say simply the greatest player of any name ever. Usually we ignore that name though and simply call Edson Arantes do Nascimento by his shortened name: Pele.
When I noticed that the no.9 and 10 were called Neto and Julião, I took to the internet to find out why there we so many Brazilian playing for Šamorín. According to Wikipedia, Šamorín have ten Brazilians in their squad, although the club website shows six. The directors at the club and some of the coaching staff are Brazilian. From what I can tell this Brazilian-isation of Šamorín comes from a recent link-up with Brazilian giants Fluminense. I was even more staggered to learn that the club are now actually called STK Fluminense Šamorín. Weird, but fun.
After a good start from Inter, Šamorín came back into it a bit and pushed on. We found ourselves supporting Inter because of the people sitting next to us. Ju got chatting to the girl sitting next to him and she informed us that her and her brother, who was sat alongside her, were Dutch and were there to cheer on their other brother – Inter winger Milton Klooster. Milton Klooster is on loan from Trenčín, but the lad sitting next to us, his twin brother, is currently at Trenčín – Rodney Klooster. I congratulated him on Trenčín’s 8-1 win away at Podbrezová the night before, but he sheepishly declared he hadn’t played as he is out injured. Cool guy and he had a nice coat.
It was truly an international affair at Stupava today, although it would be a Slovak name that would be ringing in our ears after the game: “PONČAAAAAAAAAKKKK!” This was the repeated cry of the young woman sitting next to me. I thought it may be a rude word in Slovak, but I then noticed the man captaining the Šamorín band of Brazilians had “PONČAK” on the back of his shirt. Judging by the way her and her friend entered fits of giggles at every “PONCAAAAKKKKK!” shout, I guessed they knew him. So I asked why they were shouting a man’s surname at him repeatedly: they told me they were colleagues of Pončak and had come along to support their work mate. It turns out Pončak sells LED lights in Šamorín – so you now know who to call for if you are in the Šamorín area and in desperate need of lighting.
Whilst researching Šamorin’s Brazilian links, finding out about the Klooster brothers and covering my ears as a girl cheered on a work colleague, the game on the pitch was entertaining too; even though we went in at the break goalless.
Half-time: Inter Bratislava 0 – 0 Šamorín.
A man had now setup a small food/drink stall behind the stand and the smell of the chicken grilling allured me to his table for some cigánska pečienka. And mighty fine cigánska pečienka it was too – nice and crispy and washed down with a pint of Topvar. Ju had gone for klobása and once he was back, it was time to head back to our new friends, the “PONČAK!” woman and the Klooster family.
Again, the football was fun to watch, but goals just didn’t seem to be coming. There was a giant of a man warming up in front of us and with a darkened stare which looked alone like it could break you Ivan Drago-style. A quick peruse of the Inter squad in our free match programme revealed this man to be the fairly menacing sounding Croat, Armando Mance. He really did look terrifying, so I was quite excited to see what he could do once he came on.
As Mance came on, I noticed that Ju had disappeared for about 15 minutes and his beer sat on his seat untouched and unloved. I went to investigate and found him playing football with a few kids on the football court. I derided him for leaving his beer without touching it, but he was happy playing football now. The guy who had come along with “PONČAK!” woman was the happy benefactor of a free pint of Topvar.
Mance was the scary bruiser of a striker that I expected, but there was still no goals coming. Now a signed on member of the Klooster fan club, maybe I was being biased, but I felt the Inter attack had blunted slightly following Milton Klooster’s substitution; especially as just before going off, he had gone on a mazy run and almost scored.
Full-time: Inter Bratislava 0 – 0 Šamorín.
I’ve seen far worse 0-0s. Generally an entertaining game.
As the crowd, filtered out, we hung back to see if we could get on the pitch for some photos. Pončak was over talking to his colleagues now, so Ju thought now was the time to ask him for a deal on LED lights. Pončak gave a thumbs up, but I thought it was more out of politeness and not understanding Ju rather than an obligation to sell him discounted LED lights. Anyway, a friendly steward let us pitchside and having had photos in front of the stand and performed our managerial poses in the dugout, we left.
On our way back, we found a beautiful pub in the middle of the park – more of a rural chalet than a Slovak bar. Sadly, it was closed until later, so we plodded on disappointed and just decided to head where our feet took us. They certainly did not take us to a lovely, chalet-style pub in a leafy park…
I do love a shit, ‘proper Slovak’ bar and it was such a place we finished our day in Stupava. We walked towards the bottom of the town until we found a bus stop with a bar right next to it. I knew what to expect inside really, but it was still wonderful – if you like crappy, cheap, local bars that is. A smoky, hall-like room greeted us with a fire burning and old men and women sipping on borovička, whilst a disinterested barman looked on. Aston Villa v Sheffield Wednesday played on the TV above and all eyes seemed to be drawn to it, although I can’t imagine any in the bar were ardent Villains or Owls. I imagine many would find the bar a depressing sight, but I love these sort of ‘real’ Slovak bars. With the bus stop being outside the door and beer costing a measly €0,90, we thought it rude not to stay for another beer.
The bus back to Bratislava was very much a ‘packed like sardines’ sort of situation, as the bus was rammed. The driver seemed to be ignoring designated safety numbers of how many he should have on board, so much so we were almost sitting on his lap. And, who should end up piled on with us: “PONČAK!” woman. By the time we had tipsily shouted “PONČAK!” a few times down the bus and her and Ju had shared some sort of joke about swinger parties, we were back in Bratislava.
There was only one place to finish off our day: the Stupavar Beer Pub in Bratislava’s Old Town. I discovered the bar online when I was googling the actual town of Stupava and on seeing the location of the Stupavar Beer Pub I couldn’t believe I’d missed a place that sounded exactly like my sort of place. Located in the heart of the Old Town, Stupavar Beer Pub is a craft ale bar founded by some punk rockers who apparently got bored with Slovak beer and decided to make their own. I must say that it is excellent too and a great way to finish the day as the likes of the Sex Pistols and The Ramones played in the background.
Highlights: Stupava a pleasant town, nice park setting, good food, the Kloosters, “PONČAK!”, Brazilians on show, Elvis Osmani, Stupavar Beer Pub back in Bratislava.
Low Points: shame not to see any goals, gutted that park pub was closed.
See all my photos from Stupava and Inter Bratislava here.