Lost in…Skalica

MFK Skalica v MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš

Mestský futbalový štadión Skalica / 2. Liga / 14th April 2018

In my previous school in Irlam, Salford, many of my colleagues found it slightly bemusing that I’d chosen to make the drastic job switch from Salford to Slovakia; although they were all supportive and perhaps not too surprised that that odd lad in the English department, who would always travel to obscure UK towns to watch non-league football, had chosen to go and live and work in somewhere a bit weird like Slovakia. What perhaps surprised them even more though was the fact that another of their colleagues was leaving Irlam for Slovakia the same month as me.

As I relocated to the relatively well-known Trnava, Charlotte was leaving Irlam for a more backwater, small town in the north of Slovakia called Skalica, where she’d become a sort of mobile English teacher travelling around northern Slovakia and southern Czech Republic. We’d met up a few times over our 18 months living in Slovakia, but I was yet to visit her new abode in Skalica; it was something I’d been trying to remedy for months. But, finally, as the Slovak weather seemed to make a sudden jump over Spring and switch rapidly from Winter to Summer, I found myself with nothing planned for my mid-April Saturday. And with MFK Skalica of the Slovak 2nd tier having a 6pm kick-off on a Saturday evening, I thought it would be plain rude of me not to head to Skalica to see my Salfordian pal.

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Irlam reunited in Skalica.

Skalica really is located at the very peak of northwest Slovakia, so much so that if you head 2 minutes down the road from Skalica you will find yourself in the Czech Republic. Instead of going to Skalica via Bratislava, I opted to take the hour-long, far more scenic (and rickety) train route from Trnava to Kùty via Senica. Having previously gone through Kùty multiple times on the train, it was actually nice to get off the train there for once…well, I say it was nice…it turned out to be a bit of a shithole. Nevermind though, it had the sort of crappy train station bar I enjoy, complete with a crumbling, wooden veranda to sit and drink on whilst watch ZSSK’s ‘finest’ trains chug through.

It was then onto a local train that took me the final 30 minutes to Skalica, where I was greeted by a very excitable Charlotte waiting to pick me up. A short car journey back to her and her boyfriend’s (and her dog’s) flat on the edge of Skalica and it was then time to be given the tour of the town.

I have been to a lot of small Slovak towns and usually they are all rather uniform, but Skalica really isn’t. It certainly has its own distinct personality and is overall a beautiful little town, even more so with the sun beaming down on us, as the temperature pushed onwards over 30 degrees.

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The Rotunda.

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Beautiful view of Skalica near the Rotunda.

Our first port of call was the Rotunda. Having Charlotte on Facebook meant I’d seen photos of this tower on Facebook many times and so it felt silly not to visit one of the town’s most distinctive features. Apparently it is a remnant of the town’s old city walls, which appeared to have been almost completely eradicated. On arrival at the Rotunda, we had to wait around to take photos as the area was taken over by a newly wed couple posing for their wedding photos. This could have been me and Charlotte, as some colleagues back in Irlam speculated whether we were eloping to Slovakia together as part of some secret love affair. They were very wrong. It would seem to be a popular day for weddings in Skalica though.

It was then onto the town square, which Charlotte kept apologising for beforehand, as if living in Trnava would somehow make me aloof and snooty about other town squares. Skalica’s square fitted in with the pleasant town atmosphere with the scene unsurprisingly dominated by a very large church. We headed for a little coffee place in front of the church, where we were to meet Charlotte’s colleague (and another Salfordian) Hannah, along with her fiancée. As they had their baby girl with them, they were on the coffees, but me and Charlotte went for the beer. Much to my taste buds’ disgust, I soon realised it was Staropramen – the only pivo on sale there. I moaned about it, but still ended up buying a second, (wrongfully and hopefully) telling myself ‘you won’t notice the taste on the second one.’ Entertainment was provided by a wedding party walking through the square with their own band leading the way, much to the ire, I imagined, of the other, less garish wedding party looking on from outside the town hall.

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Skalica’s main square.

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Our view from the coffee shop.

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One wedding party upstages another wedding party.

Two shitty Staropramens is more than enough for me for one day, so me and Charlotte continued our wander through Skalica with our next port of call being a great pub called Hostinec u Čambalu. “Hiya!” shouted Charlotte loudly as she entered. It became clear that her exclamation was directed at the ultra-smiley barmaid, who Charlotte seemed to have regularly encountered on her boozy nights in Skalica. She was a very friendly and lovely barmaid and the IPA she sold was lovely too (although I’ve forgotten the name of it – d’oh!)

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What would become my favourite of the Skalica pubs.

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Excellent IPA too.

We were now joined by Maťo, Charlotte’s boyfriend, as we moved onto Svet (‘World’). Charlotte had said that Svet was one of her favourite drinking holes in town, but the large Penzion bar didn’t seem very popular on this Saturday afternoon. I guessed most were out in the sun.

Time had seemed to have flown by and we were all a bit surprised to realise that kick-off was not too far away, so we headed back towards Charlotte and Mato’s flat and from outside their apartment block you could see the floodlights of Skalica’s ground 5 minutes away. And the football club bloody love those floodlights.

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Floodlights spotted from outside Charl’s flat.

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The entrance to the ground. Love a classic concrete gateway entrance

This was not the first time I’d planned to go to a Skalica game. Last time was back in October, although that trip was squandered days before and it was all thanks to the floodlights. Skalica decided to install new floodlights in the first half of the season and were clearly very proud of them; so much so that they moved many of their games to Friday nights to play with them on, like a child with a new toy (although I’m sure it was also partly down to improving their crowd numbers with less going on on a Friday night). Even on this particular evening, I found it curious that they chose to play their game a couple of hours later than the rest of the league. What I will say though, is that they are some rather sexy floodlights.

We arrived at the gate into the ground and were charged €6 for the three of us – or so I thought. It seemed that me and Maťo had been charged €3 each and Charlotte was allowed in for free, as she had the audacity to be female – as if they thought “well, a silly woman won’t understand football, so we may as well let them all in for free.” An anachronistic and bizarre pricing system I have encountered a few times in Slovakia now.

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Behind the newest stand.

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Lots of green…

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…and some more green.

The ground itself followed the typical Slovak football/athletic format, although there was certainly more of a glistening feel to everything here than at any other similar ground in the Slovak 2nd and 3rd tier I’d been to. One side had one of those long, modern, almost comma-shaped, metallic stands which they seem to love so much in Slovakia. Opposite this was a more typical old stand, but flanked either side by smaller seating stands. Both curved ends of the grounds were completely open, although the one end had a little sheltered food and drink area in the corner. And it would be here we’d head first.

I’m not sure what happened between 2017 becoming 2018, but it seems that Slovak football has run out of my beloved cigánska pečienka. Almost every game I had been to in Slovakia would have the Slovak favourite of chicken in (sort of) mustard sauce in a big bun grilling away, but I’m still yet to have one in 2018. There wasn’t even proper klobása here either, so instead I had to settle for a rather shitty 0,80€ hot dog in a roll. At least the beer was half decent, as for €1 I could have a Starobrno rather than the usually crappy Corgoň served at Slovak grounds.

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The little food and drink shelter in the corner.

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Another ground with a running track.

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Match action.

We arrived just as the teams were completing their warm ups. As the 2.Liga table stood, Skalica were 3rd in the league and Liptovský Mikuláš sat towards the bottom of the league. Skalica are generally considered one of the better teams in the 2nd tier and it was only a couple of years ago that they were in the top league; maybe explaining why the ground is perhaps a bit shinier than others at this level. The club also surprisingly made the Slovak Cup final last season only to lose to Slovan Bratislava in the final at Poprad.

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Watching them play.

I’m a big fan of random entry music in European football and not sure I’ve encountered many weirder than this evening when the teams walked out to Mike Oldfield’s Punkadiddle. Skalica were in their usual green and white (I always like teams that wear green for some reason) and Liptovský Mikuláš in red.

Skalica are looking to get promoted back to the big time (if you can call the Slovak top flight ‘the big time’) and from minute one they looked far superior than their opponents. There were few real chances though.

On finishing my first Starobrno, I went for a wander of the ground to take some photos. Unsurprisingly there were no away fans to be seen, but the end of the newer stand in the ground did host a small band of home Ultras, drumming away and cheering their team on. If there were any away fans present, it would be them cheering first.

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The away team take the lead.

In the 13th minute, Skalica sloppily gave the ball away and the away team broke forward quickly. From absolutely nothing, Halgoš found himself 1-v-1 with the Skalica keeper and rifled the ball past him from just inside the box.

We were now joined in the stand by Charlotte’s other Skalica pals (‘my crazy friends’ as she called them) and we would all witness an entertaining end of the half as both teams had more chances. But to no avail, as the scored remained 1-0 at half-time.

Half-time: MFK Skalica 0 – 1 Liptovský Mikuláš.

It was back to the beer and hot dog stall for half-time and for the usual thumbs up photos and all that cheesy, posing jazz. An oblivious gentleman came strolling across one such photo, but instead of berating him, we asked him to join us. I’m not sure he had any idea what was going on, but we refused to believe him when he began repeatedly telling us he was 82.

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Na, you’re not 82 mate.

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The old guard watch on.

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Big fan of those new floodlights, not going to lie.

After not taking advantage of their dominance in the first half, Skalica came out guns blazing for the second.

Skalica were playing some full-blooded football now alongside some really beautiful stuff too. Their deserved equaliser would certainly be considered more full-blooded than beautiful, as a looping cross into the box seemed destined for the goalie’s gloves; Hlavatovič had other ideas though and soared high to header past the keeper just as he was about to punch the ball away. Cue weird goal music (which again may have been a Mike Oldfield song now that I think about).

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GOOOL.

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Match action.

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Match action.

There was no doubt in my mind that Skalica were going to win now and even more so when a Liptovský Mikuláš attacker missed a golden chance to score with a free header from 5 yards in front of goal.

Skalica would go on to score two quickfire goals. The first came in the 66th minute after the keeper could only a parry a 25 yard freekick to Szöcs, who tapped in from a couple of yards. And the second would also come courtesy of Szöcs, as he tapped in at the back post from a corner.

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Match action.

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Skalica players celebrate with their fans.

The final goal of the game would go Skalica’s way again. In the 78th minute a simple cross into the box was controlled by who took one touch before firing the ball in from a few yards.

With not long left in the game, the sun began to set and, being very much a man of the 21st century, there was only one thought going to go through my mind on seeing a sunset: ‘this will make a lovely Instagram photo won’t it?’ Well it looked okay, but could have been better. The sun set on the game though and Skalica ended up as deserved winners.

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Far too much saturation on that Instagram post Matt lad. By the way, follow ‘lostboyo’ on Instagram for me attempting to take more pretentious photos of football grounds.

Full-time: MFK Skalica 4 – 1 Liptovský Mikuláš.

A comprehensive and deserved win for Skalica, who headed over to celebrate with the band of Ultras in the corner.

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May as well have one more floodlight shot.

We didn’t hang around after the game and we made a beeline back to Čambalu. It seemed smiley barmaid lady had now been replaced by her equally smiley husband. Fortunately, the fine beer hadn’t been replaced and that remained excellent – although beer wasn’t the only drink that would be consumed. Firstly, and I’m not sure why, rounds of rum were purchased, before I stupidly declared my love for borovička; this meant one of the others bought a borovička to accompany my IPA and rum. Fair to say, the rest of the evening was a tad blurry, but good fun nonetheless with good company.

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Got chatting to this fine flat-capped gentleman on the walk to the pub.

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Good times back in Čambalu.

Skalica may be one of the big surprises of this season’s Lost Boyos travels. A small unheralded town, but one I felt was a bit of a hidden gem. A decent place to watch football too.

Highlights: visiting Charlotte, pleasant town, Čambalu, good ground, great floodlights, decent game.

Low Points: Shame not more out to watch the local team, more football ground food needed.

See all my photos from my day in Skalica here.

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