Friday, 28 October 2011

Sparta Praha B v Zbrojovka Brno

Brno Boycott Blues

Sparta Praha B 2-2 Zbrojovka Brno (22:10:11)

Day 3 of the Oktoberfest and the EFWers are split between those who fancy staying a lie-in and those who are keen for a bit of Czech Division Two action. Britski Belasi's Dan Richardson was in the latter group....

A reality of having ‘B’ teams in the league pyramid is that with one relegation you can find yourself playing your main rival’s reserve team. This was exactly the case for Zbrojovka Brno last Saturday morning.

Brno is the second biggest city in the Czech Republic, with Zbrojovka historically a regular fixture in the Top Division. Last season, the travelling support would have been on a civilised mid-morning train departing to the capital for a sensible kick-off time in one of the city’s main stadiums. This season, it is ‘Druha Liga’ and the ignominy of travelling to an outer city suburb for a 10:15 am kick-off at Viktoria Žižkov’s training ground (a team who were promoted as Brno were relegated).

Zbrojovka fans could have made it, by train or by bus, but decided not to. Not that anyone told the Prague police.  On a murky morning in Praha 9, with hardly a soul on the street, the parking area at the back of the stadium was lined with a riot van, 3 police mini-buses and a team of stewards bigger than the Sparta Prague’s entire squad. At least one of them brought a ball for a kick-about.  The welcoming committee was obviously prepared after serious trouble broke out at Brno’s last away match, in Znojmo. 200-or so Brno followers travelled there intent on having the match abandoned. It required a heavy-handed police blanket clearance of the visitors section to enable the 3-0 home win to stand and leave Brno second bottom, with today’s hosts for company in the 2nd Division relegation zone.

The two teams slip into the morning fog

400 or so home fans assemble in the main stand. There are no away fans present. Or are there?

Since then a change of coach brought 3 points at home last week, but the fans are boycotting matches in protest against poor form and the general state of football in their city. Instead they’ve been travelling to Slovan Bratislava games. Bus-loads of Brno Ultras were present at both the PSG match on Thursday night, and Senica in the Slovak league on Sunday. Slovan and Brno have formed a partnership which could well have been founded on hooliganism but now seems to be spreading to genuine support on the terraces.

After the previous night’s healthy consumption of the liquid refreshment you’ll be hearing plenty about on these pages in coming days (Czech lager), it was a 09:30 alarm for me and a taxi straight to the ground.  In remarkable testament to the EFW-ers stamina, a healthy contingent had made kick-off travelling by public transport. Honestly, this was no mean feat! Beer and sausages, coffee for some, we tried to get in this over-policed away end;  no chance - despite there being a good thirty-off stewards there, plus half of Prague’s police force, the visitor’s section was closed today. So we settled for the main stand, to start with.

The police convey made tracks after around 10 minutes and it wasn’t long before Brno took the lead.  Lively football surely good enough to keep this team in Division 2, saw the opening goal and a few cheers to accompany it. A Sparta penalty saw things level at the break, and some smart thinking from the Polish contingent had us inside the club bar to warm up at half time. Which is where we found most of the rest of the EFW crowd. Warm and welcoming, with random sporting memorabilia on the walls, this bar got the touring masses supping again, a perfect way to clear the cobwebs from the night before.

The bar at the ground had a football pitch painted on the ceiling. A FOOTBALL PITCH PAINTED ON THE CEILING. 

“They won’t let us behind the one goal, so we’ll head behind the other one then.”

We headed out of the ground, down the street, and back in another entrance. I was subject of a frisky body search from a 14-year-old female steward but we had successfully set up the unofficial away end. OK, it was only really myself with any affinity for Brno, so I’ll have to apologise for ignoring the boycott, but I had to take my opportunity to support Zbrojovka.

Bottom of the table Sparta went 2-1 up and things were looking very ominous for Brno. The boycott didn’t seem to be helping, lads. On a misty morning in a nicely enclosed ground, a few hundred away supporters would surely have helped. They would certainly have made for a better atmosphere.

In the 66th minute we witnessed a candidate for football-related comedy moment of the weekend, if not the season. The penalty awarded to Zbrojovka was pure comedy gold. Defender pulls out of tackle, attacker runs a few steps further, then with a dramatic shriek, hits the deck. The crowd are literally laughing as the ref points to the spot.  That had everyone talking after the match.  Superb. Having taken up position behind the goal, we had a perfect vantage point to see Petr Švancara emphatically convert. Exclusive video footage is available of this moment, although as yet, not of the moments leading up to it.

      Brno equalise from the spot then, as the camera pans around, see if you can spot the loan Brno fan celebrating in the stand.

2-2 was probably a fair result and everyone went home (or onto more football matches) happy. Especially the stewards, who (apparently) collected 200 Kc each for their mornings work. Not bad for a kick-about behind the stands. Estimating roughly 30 stewards at the match, I calculate that to be approximately one third of the gate receipts being paid out on stewarding.  With an official attendance of 410, that is roughly one steward for every 14 spectators. Which is all without consideration of the police resources used that morning. Crazy, when you think about it.

For Zbrojovka, the real fans continue to make their feelings known. The ultras have agreed with the club that entrance to the next home match will cost just 10 Kc (35p). Personally I’d expect a healthy attendance at that one.

After the final whistle most EFW-ers were on the pitch, photos opportunities galore. A very enjoyable start to a long day watching football.  Having left a few more quid behind the bar, it was onwards via bus, metro, bus and tram to another distant suburb for the afternoon kick-off.

Brno to be wild

Over half of #TeamEFW were in bed. These were the hardcore, and they knew the score. 

Oh dear, those early morning beers were already starting to kick in. #Poznan

Richardson is the Editor of Britski Belasi your first port of call for all things related to Slovakian football.

Here's two photo montages of this trip set to the music of the Arcade Fire and the Stone Roses.

Previously on EFW Oktoberfest: Slovan Bratislava v PSG and Slovan Liberec v Banik Ostrava

Tomorrow on EFW: Dukla Prague v Jablonec

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