Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bursaspor v Fenerbahçe

Crocodile Walk

Bursaspor 1-1 Fenerbahçe (29.10.10)

EFW is delighted to announce that we've made a new signing. Starting today Ulas Gürsat will be bringing us weekly updates from games all over Turkey. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:

Fittingly for Halloween we kick off this column with a look at Fenerbahçe's visit to Bursaspor. Fitting because Bursaspor are Fener's favourite worst nightmare. This doesn't stem from last seasons double over the Istanbul giants, but moreover because of the events on the final day of last season. This is a story that needs telling.

It was a sultry spring evening in Istanbul - at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium - and Fenerbahçe were leading the Turkish Super League. Their opponents were Trabzonspor. At the same time, second placed Bursaspor were playing against Besiktas at home. And, just a single point divided the two teams. It was widely expected that Fenerbahce would cruise home and clinch the title. Special T-shirts for that day had already been prepared.

But it didn't happen. Fenerbahce could only draw with Trabzonspor. And this is where it gets interesting; Fenerbahce fans thought they'd won the title and began celebrating on the pitch. They even started doing the crocodile walk. Ah, the crocodile walk, more of that later. They celebrated because they'd heard the score in the Bursa match was 2-2. Actually It wasn't. Bursaspor had beaten Besiktas 2-1 and they were the real champions.

Match tickets start from around 50 Turkish Lira (£20).

In true Turkish tradition, fans arrive hours early.

Best seats in the house - tick.

It was an historical night for Turkish football because Bursa had ended the dominance of the big four teams in the league. Meanwhile, back in Istanbul, Fenerbahce fans soon realised that the scoreline from Bursa had been misreported - it was an hoax. So why did they think it had ended 2-2 at the Bursa Ataturk Stadium? Well, the guy on the Fener PA system had announced it so with his mic. As such - amid wild celebrations - the Fener players stopped attacking Trabzonspor in last few minutes. Happiness then turned to misery as news spread out via mobile phones as to what had really happened. Fenerbahce fans burned some seats, threw bottles at the police, and Trabzonspor and Fenerbahce players escaped from the stadium in police cars and ambulances.

After that traumatic night, this Bursaspor-Fenerbahce match was always going to have a real edge. Before the game everyone expected insults from the Bursa fans mocking that fake 2-2 score. And they didn't disappoint. Before the game they chanted "Husband of Fenerbahce is coming" And they opened a huge Banner with a picture of celebrating Fenerbahce fans from last year declaring "We said everyone will make a crocodile walk".

So, just what is the crocodile walk? Well, it's a traditional goal celebration in Bursaspor. It was introduced to Bursa by Ugandan player Majid Mususi in the middle of 90's. And they called it Timsah Yürüyüşü (Crocodile Walk). I Don't know how to describe it but you can just take look at he picture. After that celebration, Bursaspor's nickname became "Yeşil Timsahlar" (Green Crocodiles).

The famous Bursa crocodile walk lead by Majid Mususi.

Erm, lads. Ahem, you've not actually won the league. This is going to look rather silly in the morning.

Translation: "Didn't we say everyone will do the crocodile walk one day?".

So, to the Game. Fenerbahçe dominated the first half and opened the scoring through Semih Sentürk. In the second half Bursaspor raised their game and Serbian Midfielder Ivan Ergic equalised. A draw pleased both sides, and in truth, it produced the best football of this season. Both teams fought for the win with passion. It was great to watch. Bursaspor battered the Fener goal in the closing stages, and Sercan Yildirim in particular was outstanding.

I've heard you like to think of your bellies over there at EFW right? (cheeky scamp - Ed.) So what to eat in Bursa? There isn't too much around stadium aside from the famous doner kebab. Sunflower seeds are also popular amongst fans, but not to those who have to clean up the stadium. However, just a twenty minutes walk from stadium you can find one of the best meals in Turkey. It's called the Iskender and consists of a doner on a plate with a special sauce and yogurt. It's impossible to eat more that one and you must try it. It's worth the journey alone.

A good point well made.

The Fenerbahce fans penned into their section with some rather over the top netting.

The Iskender. Don't return from Bursa without trying it.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Spartak Trnava

Living the dream

Spartak Trnava 0-0 FC Vion Zlate Moravce (23:10:10)

Have Spartak Trnava got the best fans in Slovakia?. Despite only having a smallish population, the Bíli andeli (White Angels) pull in a fair sized crowd infamous for their noise, colour and passion. Most travel to away games as well where unfortunately, some incidents have also earmarked them out for criticism in the uber-hooligan department. You can only speak as you find though so EFW went to see what they were all about.

This was always going to be the highlight of the 2010 EFW Oktoberfest which to recap is annual event of twenty-nine lads from all over Europe attending several matches within a space of a few days. On the morning of this game, we'd been a few kilometres north in Trencin enjoying a Division Two match, and now it was the turn of Spartak Trnava - a team whose fans reputation precedes them somewhat.

We arrived by coach. That coach. It had chugged through the gears from Budapest, to Trencin and now onto the Trnava - a city in western Slovakia just north-east of Bratislava. At least we arrived in time for kick off - or so we thought.

I'd arranged to meet Marian Cerny, Marketing Manger of the club to hand over our match tickets. It was a good job I did because there were chaotic scenes outside the ground just before kick off. That saved us us one queue, but there was still another to negotiate. Tickets were €4 by the way - Na zdravie Mr Cerny!

Queues o'clock just before kick off.

Trnvavsky Kotel.

Confetti. Photographer of year gong not in post.

Slovakia's finest?

Security is tight at the Stadium of Anton Malatinský - well sort of. Just two electronic turnstiles were open to cope with the impatient crowd of thousands waiting to get in. As tempers flared, a few stewards shrugged their shoulders, until eventually, they opened a big set of gates and the baying mob surged in en mass.

I'd been told that tanks are often on patrol in these parts to control the crowds, but they weren't in evidence for this match in the top division on the Slovak league, or the Corgoň Liga to give it the correct title. Corgoň being a Slovak brewery (I thought you might know that - Ed.). Instead we just had around 100 local policemen for company. Quite a few considering the visitors had very few away fans, but then one has to factor in the events of the previous week in Senica where evidently their fans had ran a mock.

Marian had assured us that sitting in with the Ultras Spartak was fairly safe. So - after a bit of faffing to get in - the twenty-nine of us procured pints of beer for €1 each and took the stand behind the goal. It was a lot to take in at once. We had to wade ankle deep in confetti to take to our seats, flares were being fired off, streamers were launched onto the pitch and Jesus H. Christ the floodlights were the hulking great Eastern European ones that you dream about. A good start no?

A huge bit of netting had been set up in front of the stand, which is common practice to contain the hail of missiles from exuberant fans. However, the mandatory toilet rolls (which I'll hold my hands up and say I used to love throwing onto a pitch in my youth) had been replaced by till rolls. A little more sinister, and smaller of course, enabling them to sneak through the netting and onto the flight path of the opposition goalkeeper.

Ladies and gentlemen - a snap of the main stand *applause*

Let the party begin...

In the thick of it.

Things were a little more tranquil in the away end.

The match ebbed and flowed nicely, helped enormously by a referee who didn't want to blow his whistle for anything. I loved him. I hate pernickety officials who stop the game for every minor offence. If I wanted to watch a game that stopped every two seconds - for no reason whatsoever - I'd follow American Football. This is football. Get on with the game man, but first could you clear those streamers, there's a good chap.

Refreshed by beer at half time we took to our seats to erm, stand again. Now it was time for the terrace display. Up went a huge flag of the Trnvavsky Kotel. Kotel means boiler and it's a word they use for the heart of the ultras section. We were in the thick of it that's for sure. Underneath the flag all sorts of naughtiness was occurring with smoke bombs and more flares being set off. These were lit by fans under the 'safety' of the flag because they're banned items in the stadium. No checks had been made at the turnstiles so they were clearly easy to get in the ground in the first place.

Nobody got hurt though and the noise was deafening. Relentless support for 90 minutes at a home game where there's no away fans present - and the team aren't playing particularly well - ticks all of my boxes.

It finished 0-0. Spartak Trnava had a goal disallowed which prompted another flow of items to be thrown on the pitch. And there was still time for a comedy sending off on the final whistle when an opposition substitute entered the pitch prematurely, got booked, called the referee a **** and then got sent off. Pretty pointless, but enormously good fun, obviously.

We'd had tremendous fun on that terrace. It was a sort of Boca Juniors Lite. I'd sung and danced along the with the home fans. Participated in a song that requires a little shimmy along to the left of the seats, and then over to the right. Clapped along to a few ditties just like they do in North Korea. Frankly, it was like a 90 minute dream. Football fans at their best. Maybe things are a lot more malevolent when Slovan Bratislava roll into town, I hope not because on this evidence Spartak Trnava fans are absolutely superb. The best in Slovakia? Probably.

The first rule of which....


Life's a pitch.

The EFW team.

For another version of events by the excellent James Baxter CLICK ME.

For more professional photos of the ultras taken from another stand CLICK ME.

For lots more photos of that night and the rest of the trip CLICK ME.

For an excellent video put together by The Ball is Round blog CLICK ME.

- Feel free to comment or ask any questions below -

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

AS Trencin

Teši ma AS Trencin!*

AS Trenčín 2-1 MFK Petrzalka (23:10:10)

Flying to Budapest before hiring a coach to take twenty-nine chaps on a four-hour journey to watch a Slovak Division Two match is a bit bonkers, but it's what I do. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Peterjon Cresswell and Simon Evans. They got me into this whole sorry mess in 1997 by writing the Rough Guide to European Football. I've not looked back since.

This was a special day even by EFW standards. Later in the day we'd pitch up at Spartak Trnava for another match, but for now our thoughts were with AS Trenčín and their wonderful Štadión na Sihoti which - save for an artificial pitch - is one of the best little grounds I've ever been to, and I've been to a few.

Those present on this trip will probably always remember that coach journey. Leaving no stone unturned in preparation, I'd punched the details into Google Maps and their little box of tricks returned a journey time of three hours from Budapest. I can now tell you that Google Maps doesn't factor in Hungary's slowest-coach into their journey times. It took well over four hours and we arrived late for the kick-off. I tendered my resignation as Editor of EFW there and then, and that is still up for discussion as I type. Sniff.

Now then, how to appease an angry mob of punters? Beer obviously. There was lots of that. Which meant more stops as the on-board toilet was broken. And bingo, obviously. Ah, bingo. This wasn't my idea, but that of Maria - our hostest with the mostest for the day. She'd long given up on explaining the history of this and indeed that en route, and had resorted to bingo to pass the time. She did so along with the admirable help of her glamorous assistant Stoffers - officially the nicest bloke in the world; German, 1860 Munich fan, wicked sense of humour etcetera.

Anyone for bingo? Stoffers and Maria's eyes meet across a crowded coach.

Talking of coaches. How about this for a bit of the old l-u-x-u-r-y.

29 beers please bartender. The EFW team arrive.

The local ultras. Soon to be our best mates.

Maria's coach company is a family run business called Mi Ti Busz Travel Utazási Iroda, and according to an announcement on the on-board microphone - as well as ferrying fans of Slovak Division Two football around Europe - are a firm that can organise wife tasting tours. She might have meant wine tasting, but either or sounded good the to now hysterical members of the EFW team.

I'd rung ahead to the football club to let them know of our tardiness. The idea of a delayed kick-off was mooted, but then kicked into touch. Instead, how about a special package? We were Zoë Ball (all ears). For €10 we could have a match ticket, an AS Trenčín scarf and a pint of beer upon our arrival. This was all the work of Martin Galajda, PR Manager of the club and proprietor to some mighty fine ideas.

So we gathered around a little hut carved into one of the stands, collected our AS Trenčín goodie bag and headed out into the stadium. Wow. It's set majestically underneath Trenčín Castle of which - if I'm not mistaken - the oldest building is a stone rotunda, plausibly founded in the Great Moravian period. The floodlights were absolutely beautiful. They're best described as beefier Euro cousins of the ones at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. Identikit Stadium with matching seats? Nope. Crumbling terracing with moss and plants growing freely? Yes. I loved it.

Across from us and standing on the terracing were a small knot of AS Trenčín ultras. I'd heard they were largely peaceful and furthermore held non-racists and anti-Nazi views which isn't always the case with Slovak ultras by all accounts. I went over to join them. This could have gone one of two ways, but luckily my peace offering of a few pints of local beer - at €0.90 a pop - went down a treat. Friends for life just how we like it.

A bit of mighty lighty.

We're by far the greatest team....

The artists formerly known as Artmedia Bratislava.

This chap was a complete loon and we loved him.

Amusingly, I wasn't allowed to carry the beers around to the other side of the stadium in a beer carrier because of safety fears. As such, the bartender caddied them around for us. Slightly bemusing due to the fact the terrace is covered in more stones than Brighton beach.

With so much bonding and back slapping occurring it was a job to watch what little of the game remained. Thankfully the home side ran out 2-1 winners maintaining their grip on the Second Division title and everyone was happy. Happy that is aside from the 50 or so away fans. Want to know more about MFK Petrzalka? Then head to our good friends over at Britski Belasi and these fine articles penned by James Baxter and Ian Cusack.

I'm not sure Slovakia has a Heat Magazine equivalent, but we'll be dropping them a line after spotting a celebrity in the crowd. It was only Leo Beenhakker. Evidently, Hakkers is a friend of the owner of the club and was there to lend a bit of moral support. Later in the week, the official club website reported not only on Mr Beenhakker's appearance, but that of EFW as well. These are the circles we move in these days.

The win sent AS Trenčín eleven points clear at the top of the 1. Liga meaning a return to the glory days can't be too far away for a club that we've taken to our hearts. So if you're ever knocking around Western Slovakia and you fancy seeing a welcoming club in some old skool and scenic surroundings then you know where to head first.

Loud and proud.

The rolling stones gather no moss.

We had hoped to get on the pitch. No chance obviously.

Na zdravie!

*Nice to meet you....

For lots more photos of that night and the rest of the trip CLICK ME.

For an excellent video put together by The Ball is Round blog CLICK ME.

- Feel free to comment or ask any questions below -

Zalaegerszeg TE


Zalaegerszeg TE 2 Vasas SC 1 (22:10:10)

by Chris Mills

THE winning goal came in the final second but the European Football Weekends Oktoberfest contingent are getting their disclaimers in early.

Whatever any Hungarians tell you, the EFW team did not pollute beautiful Lake Balaton with their toxic sludge. Later, however, a field of maize and a several rows of ornamental shrubs were pretty-much destroyed by the barely controllable ground-hoppers in an Olympic-standard display of synchronised urination.

And so, pursued along the autoroutes by fist-waving Magyar farmers and gas station managers, the EFW Oktoberfest trundled very slowly through breath-taking autumnal scenery aboard the Danny-bus – having alighted at the Budapest hotel of the same name (surely “Hotel Danubius”? Ed.) – towards the unsuspecting western Hungarian town of Zalaegerszeg.

Cultural highlights on the way included a stop-off at the town of Siófok on the south bank of Lake Balaton – a 592 square-kilometre (77km long) body of water glistening the late October sun, which was barely acknowledged by the majority in favour of cheap beer.

Reaction to the news that beer would be available on the Danny-bus was favourable.

Hans empties Lake Balaton of its contents.

The ZTE megastore.

The match itself (in the Hungarian Soproni Liga – Soproni is a cheap but very drinkable beer) was damned by EFW experts with faint praise (surely “no praise”? Ed.) who appeared to have been expecting the English Premiership. Or this may have been due to the fact that Stoffers - a 6ft something German linguistics expert - was the only man present who was able to pronounce “Zalaegerszeg”.

Less sophisticated members of the crew confessed to having enjoyed the game, appreciating its unpretentious kick-and-run style and equally simple approach to finishing. It was won in bizarre style by the home side (see Stoffers for spelling/pronunciation) with literally the last kick of the match. This apparently coincided exactly with the final whistle, causing the officials to deem no re-start necessary.

Pre-match in the beer/hot-dog/popcorn area under the stand, it appeared that apart from the EFW team, only around eight or nine locals had showed up. But once inside, a small but perfectly formed block of Ultras were visible waving giant flags and chanting in that ominous Eastern European/Communist way directly behind the far goal. There was some good call-and-response chanting between these nutters and the 2,000-odd others allegedly present in the stadion (Vasas, the “Sport Club of Iron and Steel Workers” from Budapest, brought about 40).

The travelling army of Vasas SC supporters.

The three wise men of Zalaegerszeg

Not much of a queue at the Deli counter.

The action unfolds in front of a small but perfectly formed block of ZTE Ultras.

Other fun elements included a home shot hitting the bar late on, the fact the shock final-kick goal caused the giant scoreboard to momentarily read “1-2” instead of “2-1” and the pitch – it had been clearly home to 20 or 30 horses before the game. Divots as big as yer head were kicked up and skid-marks as long as yer trousers were ploughed into the “turf”.

A certain degree of hostility from the locals was reported post-match and, indeed, the Oktoberfest boys were later mystified to have to laugh off a gang of 15-year-old “Ultras” (from the safety of the inside of the bus) who'd sadly mistaken us for some sort of Vasas SC hooligan crew.

Terrace Trent D'Arby? (That is a straight red - Ed.)

We all follow the Abs...Mer...Zalae...oh forget it.

For lots more photos of that night and the rest of the trip CLICK ME.

For an excellent video put together by The Ball is Round blog CLICK ME.

- Feel free to comment or ask any questions below -

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Debrecen v PSV Eindhoven - Europa League

Florints Against the Machine

Debrecen 1-2 PSV Eindhoven (21:10:10)

The first rule of the EFW Oktoberfest is that you should talk about the EFW Oktoberfest. Although you might find this hard to believe - I normally take a couple of notes at games I attend. However, upon my return from four days in Hungary and Slovakia, my notes consisted of just four words and read thus: Florints Against the Machine. It's a headline I was very pleased with, but it's not quite the 5000 words required for five reports. Tsk.

The reason for the lack of notes is that on these trips, it's pretty much mirth and hilarity all the way; an abundance of football, oodles of beer and 29 first-rate lads who make the trip what it is. And then there is the locals to factor in - all of whom were friendly and welcoming. Well, aside from the briefest of run-ins with a few Zalaegerszegi Torna Egylet ultras who mistook us for followers of Budapesti Vasas Sport Club, but more of them later in the week.

First up was this Europa League tie, and we weren't the only ones who'd had to travel a fair distance to the Hungarian capital for it. Debrecen is well over 200km from Budapest, but because their current stadium doesn't have enough backstage requirements for the UEFA suits, they have to switch their increasingly frequent European ties to the national stadium. In fairness, the club bused in the Loki supporters free of charge. The majority of the several hundred PSV fans had sat on a coach for more than a day to be here as well. And it was chilly. Lovely floodlights though. They look like giraffes.

Janos (Hungary), Pat and Hans (Belgium) chug through the pre-match gears.

Hi-de-Hi! The red coats guarding the Eric (gates).

The Debcren ultras.

We'll probably go on to beat Feyenoord 10-0 on Saturday. 300 buoyant PSV fans.

The ground itself was built by the people for the people. As such it was called the 'People's Stadium' up until around 10 years ago when the Hungarian FA decided to name it after Ferenc Puskás - no introduction or explanation required. It was the flagship of Hungary's Communist, postwar reconstruction. It was also the place where Trevor Brooking scored my favourite ever goal in football - the one where brilliantly, the ball got stuck into the stanchion.

The reception at the EFW hotel - across the road from the stadium - had doubled up as the press accreditation centre for the evening. A couple of the lads had press passes, but chose to sit with the masses. Some late arrivals received free tickets, and the Belgians on the trip picked up some player passes from a PSV player they knew. The rest of us coughed up around £6 for actual match tickets.

In the run up to the match, I'd been in contact with Janos Varga - a Debrecen fan who had booked a pub near to the stadium for us. This is fairly normal procedure in Budapest for such a large group of people, and you can never be too sure how the locals will react. As it was there was no trouble at all and the huge police operation on the night seemed a trifle superfluous.

The novelty of travelling to Budapest for these games is clearly wearing thin with the Debrecen supporters. Just over 18,000 strained their eyes to see over the running track (boo - Ed.) onto the pitch in a ground that holds 56,000. They are the process of planning a new stadium, but in the meantime, surely there is a better place to hold these ties? The next day, the local paper run a story with a computer generated image of that new ground - interestingly enough, alongside a bigger photo of two naked lesbians. Welcome to Hungary.

The actual match was fairly entertaining, especially when the 'home' side took the lead. For a while the stadium was rocking, but then - as the Loki website reported via Google translate - PSV turned on the rockets, and eased to a 2-1 win.

Our lux was in on the hulking great Eastern European floodlights front.

Additional assistant referee sporting tights and a wand - tick.

A giraffe-like floodlight keeps a check on the empty seats.

Well, our hotel was only across the road. It would have been rude not to sneak back in for another look.

If only the Europa League would revert back to a straight knock out competition. It seems utterly ridiculous to have to play 342 matches to get to the final. No club makes any money out of it, clubs rest players, fans are bored and so - to inject a modicum of interest back - a straight two-legged knock out seems to be the only way forward. These are well worn views of course, but just in case Michel Platini is reading this nonsense and that.

After the match we holed up in a nearby local pub for local people where pints of very agreeable Hungarian beer cost around £1. After a bit of encouragement from the landlord - who must have thought it was Christmas - we sung a few songs. There were fans of Debrecen, Ferencvaras, Vasas SC, Lewes, Royal Antwerp, 1860 Munich, Maccabi Haifa, Legia Warsaw, Tranmere, Barnet, Forest Green Rovers, Weymouth, Leeds United, Scarborough Athletic, Merstham, Brighton, West Ham, Rochdale, Liverpool, Ipswich, Tooting and Mitcham, PSV and Colywn Bay in there - all getting along famously and forming new friendships. That's is exactly what I love and why European Football Weekends are so special. Egészségedre.

For lots more photos of that night and the rest of the trip CLICK ME.

For an excellent video put together by The Ball is Round blog CLICK ME.

- Feel free to comment or ask any questions below -