SK Sigma Olomouc v FC Slovácko
Andrův stadion / Czech Liga / 3rd March 2018
Thanks to a combination of an early love for Championship Manager and a mid-90s UEFA Cup run, I had heard of Sigma Olomouc and thus as a result the city of Olomouc. However, my knowledge of Olomouc stretched as far as 1) it is in the Czech Republic 2) the local football club is called Sigma Olomouc. That was it. You never really hear anyone talking about Olomouc – but I really think they should, as it is awesome.
Some time last year I looked into going to Olomouc and on googling the place, I found a stream of photos of a truly beautiful city. Why hadn’t someone told me of this charming city before?! It was placed on my ‘to do’ list immediately, although it remained unticked for far too long. In fact, I hadn’t even planned to go to Olomouc this weekend. The original plan was to head to Ostrava for Banik Ostrava vs Viktoria Plzen and have a night in Ostrava. That plan was quashed on Friday afternoon, as I received the message from Ralph that the Banik game had already been postponed 24 hours before kick-off due to the cold weather. Olomouc seemed like a more than acceptable alternative.
Getting to Olomouc proved easy enough, as I hopped from Trnava to Bratislava, Bratislava to Břeclav and then Břeclav to Přerov, where I made the final 15 minute journey up the train line to Olomouc. It may have involved a lot of train changing, but Olomouc was certainly worth it.
What an awesome city Olomouc is. It really is. A quick Google image search and you will get the idea. Olomouc, which sits in the middle of Moravia and is the 6th largest city in the Czech Republic, is full on beautiful. The train station is a brilliant, yet imperious, brutal looking building, but walk 5 minutes away from this towards the centre and you realise that the station is defiant against the rest of the city’s more classical rather Germanic architecture. Olomouc is a city full of monolithic churches, glorious architecture and historic monuments, all preserved beautifully. Tram-hopping towards the centre seemed easy enough, but I chose to make the 20 minute stroll towards the main hub of the city to take the place all in by foot. However, I shunned joining the locals, who were happily ice skating down the frozen river Morava.
I made it to the very pleasant main square, where the main landmark is the UNESCO listed world heritage monument of the Holy Trinity Column. It was here I realised that my last-minute decision to visit Olomouc meant I had no idea where I was going today and with my usual Czech guide, Ralph, not arriving for a few hours, I took sanctuary in a pub to steal some wi-fi and work out a plan.
Anywhere dubbing itself a ‘Pivo Pit’ is going to appeal to me and so that’s how I ended up in Šnyt Mikulda. This bar proved far from a ‘pit’ and was all gleaming inside; the ’pivo’ claim was not falsified though and there were three readied waitresses eagerly waiting to serve me. Beer choice was limited, as it seemed Šnyt was very much a Lobkowicz beer pub and thus I had little option but to go for a Lobkowicz Premium Ale; premium by name, but pretty bang average in taste to be honest. More importantly, I now had myself a plan.
The patron saint of the Czech Republic is Saint Wenceslas and so my theory was that a brewery named after such a divine figure would maybe produce some divine beer. So back past all the shiny, big churches I headed and down the main tram line, backdropped by the Saint Wenceslas Cathedral. A few streets before reaching the cathedral, I veered right down a street where I found Svatováclavský pivovar – Saint Wenceslas Brewery.
The bar is large with a rather ordinary setup, but maybe all the better for it. There was a nice atmosphere in there with many already enjoying the brewery’s beers and the usual Czech dishes on offer. The standard beer was excellent too, although when I ordered a second, I asked the barmaid for something different “as long as it isn’t dark” – she clearly only half-understood. What sat on my table moments later was a beer that was half-light beer, half-dark beer. The mix was not for me and with me not being a lover of dark beer, the final half of my glass was a struggle to finish.
From Saint Wenceslas, I headed over to Steakhouse and Brewery Riegrovka. Apparently the beer was good here too and it was also located about 5 minutes down the road from the football stadium. On walking down the long entrance corridor into Riegrovka, it felt a bit like one of those dingy bars you find within nightclubs, before you get to the actual night club part. The music sort of reflected this with the Vengaboys banging out by the time I made it to my table. Slightly odd appearance aside, the beer was fine and the title of the Backstreet Boys’ song playing in the background, I Want It That Way, felt appropriate for my thoughts on the beer.
Not long after my arrival at Riegrovka, I was joined by Ralph, who came dancing into Ricky Martin, and with him was his mate Glen – a current Twitter celebrity. Glen is a Doncaster fan and writes the popular Donny Rovers fanzine The Popular Stand. Having taking to exception to the what seems weekly Arsenal fan Twitter meltdowns and the roars and whines of Arsenal Fan TV and the like, Glen decided to create a Twitter thread about Donny’s infamous and disastrous 97/98 to show them modern football lot what a real ‘banter era’. The thread went viral quickly and was shared by the likes of Kelly Cates. Even the week after this trip my pal Gibbo was talking about the thread in the pub and excitedly declared “I went to Olomouc with that guy!” But for this blog he is just simply Glen.
Having enjoyed our mix of 90s pop and good beer, it was now time to head a few minutes down the road to the Andrův stadion. It turns out the Andrův stadion is brilliant too.
Again, just like the city itself, the last-minute change of plan had led to me doing minimal research on the ground, but on being greeted by some beautiful, traditional floodlights, I know we were onto the winner. Undoubtedly, my favourite thing about the Andrův stadion is the unorthodox nature of its setup. All 4 stands stand alone with the floodlights filling in the intervals in between each stand.
The ground was opened in 1940 and originally the main stand was a large concrete terrace, but the stadium got badly damaged at the end of World War II when the Germans blew up an ammo depot on the site. Since then, the ground has undergone many renovations to get to what it looks like today. The main stand now is your typical stand as is the one opposite, where the more hardcore fans were housed. Behind one goal is a fairly tall open terrace, although this is largely because the stand backs onto a modern complex of flats. The top penthouse suites are clearly the things of Olomouc fans’ dreams. However, it is the stand behind the other goal which is the true show stopper.
Just wow. Look at that sexy, curving structure. It’s a shame that the stand was closed today, but apparently it does open for when the bigger travelling fanbases are in town. I couldn’t think of much better than watching a game with a beer in the sun atop that wonderful stand.
The ground, named after Josef Ander, a local pre-war businessman who sponsored the club and helped fund the stadium , has hosted football in Olomouc since the 40s, but the club have existed since 1919. The club only reached the top league for the first itme in the 80s and their most esuccessful spells came under Olomouc local, Karel Brückner (who went on to manage the national team). Their 90s crusades into European competition have seemed a long way away in recent seasons. The club won the Czech Cup in 2011, but also received a 9 point deduction for financial reasons that same season, before Sigma were relegated to the second tier in 2014. But, the club won the second tier last season and that’s how we found ourselves in the stand preparing to watch them play in the top league once again (of course, after perusing overpriced merchandise in their club shop).
Having watched what was certainly one of the best games I’ve seen live in my past 18 months in central Europe, when I visited Ferencváros the weekend before, I had no doubt that today’s game would be back to the usual dross I’m used to watching live. It lived up to my prediction.
We took our position at the back of the main stand next to what appeared to be an unused press gantry. It didn’t take long to figure out that this was going to be a dull game, even though Olomouc were battling in the upper echelons of the league and Slovácko in the relegation battle. So we began to play a new game me and Ralph invented. Ralph had noted how I have a thing of calling players “They’re the (insert nationality) Joe Allen” and so recent games have consisted of finding ‘European Joe Allens’. We scoured pitch for a diminutive midfield maestro (or even anyone with long hair and a beard) but no Joey Allen revealed itself.
The game ebbed back and forth, but with neither team really dominating or creating anything more than half chances. We did finally decided that the Olomouc no.8 was the Joe Allen of the day, but my beer was empty, so I went back for another beer from the bar at the back of the stand. This game had shown little sign of threatening a goal, so i thought it was safe to go, even though every time I’ve made a bar/toilet visit anywhere this season, it usually brings a goal. Of course, it did again.
Just as I had a beer in my hand and was heading back for the stand, a loud cheer went up to signal an Olomouc goal. Glen informed me that I hadn’t missed much, only for me to watch a replay of the goal on Ralph’s phone minutes later. It was wonderfully calamitous. The away goalie received a simple backpass and casually went to pass it out wide to his right back; he failed to spot the attacker in the way and passed straight to him to give him an easy tap in.
Half-time: SK Sigma Olomouc 1 – 0 FC Slovácko.
There was some sort of half-time entertainment going on on the pitch, although we found the Jive Bunny mix banging out over the PA to be our favourite form of entertainment. This was mainly because the temperature had taken a sudden drop and our bopping around to Jive Bunny was our easiest source of warmth.
The second half didn’t have the necessary excitement to warm us either. More half chances and dull football and instead we resorted to another game: hat or hair? Basically, I was certain that the Slovácko manager had the most glossy, silver hair ever, whilst the other two were sure it was a silvery, tight hat. I wasn’t convinced and this argument kept us entertained for the whole second half.
There was some action in the second half, but sadly it was in the form of an injury. The home goalie threw himself to the ground in a 6 yard scramble, but stayed down holding his head. Eventually, the goalie had to be stretchered off in a neck brace to generous applause.
The most exciting and slightly alarming thing that happened in the second half was my beer freezing over and creating ice cubes; it had really got that cold. As the clock ticked towards 90, we walked along the stand ready to exit at the final whistle and it was also now that we finally got an answer to ‘hat or hair?’ – it seemed it was a hat (actually looked like a swim cap).
Full-time: SK Sigma Olomouc 1- 0 FC Slovácko.
A dull game, but a great ground. But I’d seen enough of it for one visit and just really, really wanted to get back in the warmth of a pub. I had one in mind.
We headed back to the main square and down one of the narrow streets leading off. It was here earlier in the day that I had spotted a bar called ‘The Good Beer Club’. It had been closed earlier in the day, but was now very much opened. And since all of us were fans of ‘good beer’ and clubs that promote such a thing, it seemed rude not to indulge in the Good Beer Club. The beer was good too, so much so that we stayed for two, whilst we sat around a table with a low hanging light, as if we were in some sort of mafia film.
We left leaving the pub until the last minute, leaving just enough for Ralph and Glen to make their train back to Ostrava. A short tram journey later and we were back in Olomouc train station (which despite its sheer brutal look, is s still a thing of beauty). I still had enough time to fit in a beer in the train station bar, before it was time to head south back to Slovakia.
Olomouc: you may have been a last-minute, back-up choice, but what a last minute, back-up choice. I’m already looking forward to returning sometime to watch HFK Olomouc.
Highlights: Olomouc is beautiful, two good brewery bars, awesome stadium, cheap tickets, that stand, Good Beer Club.
Low Points: crap game.
See all my photos from Olomouc here.