Monday, 31 October 2011

Viktoria Plzeň v Viktoria Zizkov

Plzeň, Thrills and Bellyaches

Viktoria Plzeň 4-1 Viktoria Zizkov (23:10:11)

The last match of the 2011 EFW Oktoberfest and the chance to out with a bang. As we were based in Prague we could have opened our city maps and headed down Easy Street to Slavia Prague, but where is the thrill in that? Especially as Slavia's ground was sold to me as the Czech equivalent of Southampton's St Mary's Stadium. Yawn. The alternative was trip to Plzeň; a city known worldwide for its Pilsener beer and pronounced 'Pilsen' which would just about justify a weak Happy Mondays related headline for this piece. It wasn't such a hard decision.

The passengers on the train that chugged south west - on what proved to be a four can journey - from the Czech capital to Plzeň were in, and mostly full of, high spirits. A dozen or so Zizkov fans drunk their own body weight in bottles of lord knows what, and to pass the time on our behalf, King Stoffers entertained the assembled troops with some traditional Bavarian folk songs which brought the house down, as usual. It was all too much for our entertainments manager and Royal Antwerp legend, Hans Bressinck, who dived for cover into a carriage full of jovial and welcoming German women. Our Viktoria Festival was already in full swing.

Views from the train: On the 90-minute ride from Praha to Plzeň the view was mostly young German women (from left, Iulia, Monika, Steffi and "Wick"). On the way back it was mostly the local paramilitary "policie" - there were a few running battles between the Plzeň and Žižkov ultras post-match. The girls were far more cheerful. Fun fact: Three of them are kindergarten nurses and "Wick" is a professional cow and pig inseminator. (That's a verbal warning. Ed)

The local police didn't quite know what to make of it all. They were expecting the Zizkov fans, who were shepherded out of the station with a small escort for their own safety. But behind them were forty or so EFWers. I'm banning black coats next year because despite the fact we loathe hooliganism, we do look like an unruly mob, sometimes. Not to worry on this occasion. Our Czech speaking friend, Iain Thomson, put the police's minds at rest by whispering in their shell that we were all about beers and floodlights as opposed to pavement dancing. Bemused, they let us pass and march merrily on down the road to the pub.

Situated just across the road from the Města Plzně Stadium is a sizable micro brewery. Instead of refusing us entry, the owners opened up an additional room upstairs to accommodate the EFW masses and served up frothing pints of Lotr beer to our table at twenty minute intervals. We have a resident beer expert on these trips in the form of Liverpool fan, Andy Walker. His verdict on this ale, uniquely brewed using boiling copper pans shoved into a tiled stove before being cooled in a 160 year old spray cooler and left to ferment in oak vats? “It's alright” he beamed.

Getting horní: The exterior of the FC Viktoria Plzeň main stand; the only bit not in the process of being rebuilt. Inset left, there is "Horní" section especially for Hans Bressinck and to help this along there are even shexy gurlsh, although you have to buy a VIP ticket to meet them. 

Fill yer face: Top, the "Spiraly" stand - it's like flatty but more spiral-shaped. (Written warning. Ed.) Bottom, a big, spicy sausage with a slice of bread and lots and lots of mustard is also available. Fun fact: The word "Pilsner", as in beer, is derived from Plzeň.

After parting with £5 for match tickets (easily the most expensive of the weekend, but then these chaps are Champions League material) we spent probably a bit too long marvelling at world's tallest floodlight which, tragically, is about to be unceremoniously hauled down and shipped to a floodlight graveyard. It's akin to a LUXury version of the Blackpool Tower. There were more than one, but they're being dumped in favour of some sad looking toothpicks. It's all part of of the rebuilding of the ground which is being done to meet the demands of UEFA suits. No team competing in UEFA competitions are allowed to play in a football ground with any character, and so this place is being standardised to look like every other ground in Europe. Boo. Hiss.

I purchased no items from the club shop. Why? Because everything they had came in the colours of Crystal Palace. If I hadn't been so childish, my preferred items would have been the Viktoria Plzeň mens trouser braces (mens trouser braces!) and a box of cigars in a club presentation box. Smoking. 

The first half was a turgid affair. Four days earlier, Plzeň had been lording it up in the Champions League group stages in front of 87,000 in the Camp Nou. Here, in front of two empty stands, and with no Lionel Messi to show off in front of, it must have felt like a huge come down. And it showed. Not to fear though because we had the worlds best mobile scoreboard to entertain us...

Left blank for your scoreboard: No jumbotron yet but they have got a truck with a scoreboard on it. Turned out the truck was double-sided, the back often being viewed by as many as two people. Fun fact: Because they aren't quite up to spec yet, Plzeň must play their Champions' League games at the Stadion Eden/Synot Tip Arena in Prague.

Stairmasters: Fans risk exposure to reach the upper tiers. Right, the token match shot showing the lack of seating in the new stands.

Stand back from the edge of platform 2 - football cliché fast approaching: this was a game of two halves. The second half raced by quicker than a human eye. Suddenly, Plzeň had style, a groovy style, and a midfield trio that just wouldn't stop. Goals rained down like Argentina '78 confetti. Four for the home team, not including their three (three!) disallowed goals and, in return, all Zizkov could offer was a solitary consolation effort which did produce some comedy gold when, in a health and safety nightmare, their fans came steaming down their terrace before launching themselves into the 12 foot netting preventing them from launching missiles onto the pitch. Priceless.

Bobble hats off to the Plzeň ultras. On paper 'La la, la la la la laaaa, Vik-tor-iaaa' doesn't sound like the most inspiring terrace ditty. But in the top right hand corner of the main stand the choreographic display that accompanied the song was one of the best I'd ever seen. They split into two groups; dancing one way and then that, up, tiddly, up, up and then down, tiddly, down, down; throwing scarves aloft, pulling their trousers braces.... it went on for an age. Full ultra points to them. Turns out they have lessons every Tuesday night across the road in the brewery*. *Might not actually be true.


Suitably Kafka-esque: A belching chimney and a sinister watchtower loom over the stadion. Fun fact: It's actually a former water tower dating from 1532.

Worth a flutter: The game continues beneath a lovely Crystal Palace flag (You're fired. Ed.)

Worth a shout: Top, the cappo di tutti cappi marshals the happy Plzeň ultras. Bottom, the famous Plzeň Flag Man, together with his, er, flag. (I'm calling security. Ed.)

After, ahem, the thought of joyriding the scoreboard across the lush turf has passed. We opted for the safer option of a mini EFW pitch invasion for kicks before returning to another micro brewery, closer to the station, connected to a brewery museum. My favourite exhibits were the pints of beer which, again, kept on arriving at our table in return for £1.20. Dreamy. So that was the 2011 EFW Oktoberfest: 45 people, 7 games, 31 goals, beers and giggles shared over four days with English, Scots, Czechs, Slovakians, Polish, Belgians, An Israeli, Norwegians and Germans. That's what EFW is all about. This is what we stand for and I love it.

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

Thanks to Mills for his photographic skills, Thomson for his unrivaled logistical prowess, Stoffl and Fuller for everything and to each and everyone of you who pitched up along the way to make this trip a huge success.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Loko Vltavin v FK OEZ Letohrad

The Hedge of Glory

Loko Vltavin 3-1 FK OEZ Letohrad (22:10:11)

There's only one person European Football Weekends could commission to pen a report about a stadium famous for it's hedge. Please give it up for 2011 Sports Personality of the Year, Adventures in Tinpot's Kenny Legg....

After yesterday's brush with the Slovan Death Boys the EFW fun bus rolled onwards to Sparta Praha B v Zbrojovka Brno. Stuff that, Spencer and I revved up the EFW motorbike and sidecar, put on our goggles and sped off to the arse end of Prague to watch the Bohemian League match between Loko Vltavín and FK OEZ Letohrad just because the Stadion na Plynárně has a hedge in along the side of the pitch. Come to see the hedge, you've only come to see the hedge! Yes, yes we have.

I dusted off the AiT I-Spy book of Eastern European football clichés and ticked off 'massive tower block looming over ground' (10 points) and 'big rusty sign of former team name' (15 points) before I'd even seen the hedge. Once inside I rapidly ticked off 'tremendous mullet' (5 points), 'dog in ground' (5 points) and 'small bunch of ultras with big flag' (15 points) as well as earning myself a special spotters badge for actually getting a wave of the big flag. Woof! The home Ultras, or the 'Lokada Inseminators' to give their self appointed odd name, had their banners up early, the beers ordered well before kick off and even had time for a pre game on pitch kick about. *doffs AiT Russian style hat*

 Rusty sign with textbook eastern European club name – tick. 

The hedge. Ah the hedge. *sighs wistfully* What a beautifully trimmed, healthy and dense thing of tinpot beauty you are. How you compliment the main stand with your simple, yet magnificent, topiarian ways. Just when you think you've seen it all, boom, a ground with a hedge in it. Take that St Albans with your pathetic tree. (RIP)

 Please keep off the hedge. 

Look at that picture. Look how happy I am with that textbook example of, if I'm not wrong, a European Beech hedge. But it's not just that the hedge that's given me that odd smile and the stare of a mentalist, the choice of a bit of early 2000 skate punk in the form of Sum 41, The Offspring and then 'Eye of the Tiger' playing in the background has made me deliriously happy....that, and I was probably still a bit pissed at that time in the morning.

The teams came out and were greeted by the site of a bit of flag waving, a man airing his duvet on his tower block balcony overlooking the ground, an Englishman inappropriately fondling a hedge and a huge pink skull (almost Tony Harrison from the Mighty Boosh esque) rotating on the roof of a nearby tower block. We weren't the only ones to spot it, in fact you could say the large pink rotating skull turned a few heads. (Sorry) The managers, one resplendent in classic eastern European fake leather jacket, take their place in eastern Europeans largest technical areas, the Vltavin physio pulls his Sparta Prague hat tight round his head and the away subs cosey up under a leopard print rug and it's game on!

 Just what the bread dumplings is this all about?

And it's game on straight away Geoff. Before you could say 'Tea Martin'  the tiny scoreboard confirms it's 1-1. Letohrad's equaliser after five minutes coming after the Vltavin keeper had pelted the ball into the pivo belly of the on rushing striker.

 Token match shot.

After thirty two minutes Vltavin take the lead again thanks to some pretty poor defending and increase their lead further on forty two minutes when a free kick bobbles in after it's completely missed by everyone. Or, as the Letohrad website, via Google translate, reports it “the fate of the match decided desetiminutovka stillborn between 32 and 42 minutou....home first shook a criminal kick from the boundary of a large lime”. Quite.

 Wooly hat and shorts. That's not gonna keep you warm. Nice flag though Mr Inseminator. 

At half time everyone troops off to the clubhouse to escape the cold and for a pivo and/or grog and a cigarette. The fog is so thick you can only barely make out the AC Milan and Karel Poborsky (of course Karel Poborsky!) shirts on the nicotine soaked walls. If the hedge wasn't enough foliage based excitement for one day it got better. Outside the clubhouse a volleyball stadium is badly losing a battle against weeds, the sight of  this unexpected treat had the, by now three EFWers, salivating a little (a LOT).  An overgrown volleyball stadium. Mmmmm. Overgrown. Rusting umpires chairs, 45 degree angle floodlights slumped forward waiting for their chance to shine again and terraces tormented by cruel Mother Nature. Did I mention there were no women on this trip? Strange.

 What have you done Mother Nature! Why!!

The second half sees Vltavin continue to dominate with some slick passing football and they have further chances to score. Letohrad offer little in return and their one decent shot in the second half brings a great photo save from the keeper and the resulting corner leads to a shot that was so hopelessly wide it probably landed on the volleyball court. Mmmmm overgrown volleyball court.

Vltavin have no trouble defending their lead and the victory is celebrated with Klinsmann dives in front of the Inseminators who shower the pitch with rolls of paper. The tiny scoreboard is removed, the duvet is retrieved from the balcony and we jump back into the motorbike and sidecar before the vegetation in this fertile part of Prague begins to subsume it. Next stop, Czech 9th division football!!

 Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be an Inseminator.  

 Get down from there Spencer, what have I told you about climbing on dugouts at Czech 3rd division grounds?

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

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dukla Prague v Jablonec

The Best Things In Life

Dukla Prague 1-3 Jablonec (22:10:11)

So, things we learnt from watching football in Prague: Slavia Prague are the big boys but Sparta Prague are bigger. Bohemians 1905 are the cool guys - saved by fans who paid off a portion of the clubs debts - whereas FK Bohemians Praha are the villains of the piece; buying out the logo and using the name Bohemians even though court cases and any rational logic and morals ruled against them doing so. But all that was small beer as far as I was concerned. The highlight of my trip was always going to be a trip to Dukla Prague.

Dukla Prague seeped came crashing into my conciousness in 1987 thanks, of course, to Half Man Half Biscuit. A trip to see them at home has been on my bucket list ever since, and all I've ever wanted for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit. And now, twenty four years later, was the opportunity to lay my hands on an original. Or was it...

Sadly, there was a hole in this particular bucket list. It became more of a 'f*ck it' list as news filtered through that due to the instalment of under-soil heating at the Juliska Stadium this game was to be switched to another ground in Prague. On the plus side, it might save me £100+ by not visiting their megastore. On the flip side, every time I mention that fact I've been to Dukla Prague - roughly on the stroke of every hour - I'll have to follow it up with a sorry postscript: I had to voyage to the bottom of another road to see them.

The Evžena Rošického Stadium isn't too popular with football fans. Any guesses as to why?

In fairness, it does have a few things going for it...

....I mean, you don't get this at Arsenal do you?

After sticking two fingers up to modern football during the day with games in the second and ninth (ninth!) tier of the Czech footballing pyramid - three games in Prague on a Saturday is pretty much the norm if you're keen enough - it was time to swallow a Gambrinus liga sized pill and see how things roll in the Czech Premier League.

As we stumbled up the steep hill to the Evžena Rošického Stadium - one that's been used for Czech cup finals as well as being a temporary home to nine (nine!) other Czech teams in it's history, due in the main to those clubs also having under-soil heating installed - Leeds fan, Stephen Deacon casually dropped the fact he owns a Dukla Prague flannel into the conversation. He's always been a bit of a dude has 'Big Deacs' (we find out which bands he's listening to and then namedrop them at every opportunity) but, man alive, who wouldn't want to wipe away the after effects of a hangover with a moist Dukla Prague flannel on a Sunday morning?

I wasn't expecting a megastore to be honest. But surely a little trestle table would surface outside the ground? I was excited. Then, shining like the light at the end of the tunnel was, not the light of an oncoming train, but a large temporary yellow tented club shop. Woo Hoo. This was my big moment, twenty four years of hurt and all of that. Here's how the conversation went. Ahem...

“Do you speak English?” (one mustn't presume these things, I've travelled a fair bit and am all over my polite intros)
“Yes, of course” (great start, my pulse rate quickened somewhat as I tried to remember to breathe normally)
“I'd like a Dukla Prague away kit please” (I was trembling a little bit at this juncture as you might imagine)
“I'm sorry, we only have one shirt for sale, and it's the home kit”
“OK - not to worry” (I lied)

A Dukla Prague home shirt and home balloon. That's HOME shirt. Tsk. 

More merchandise that isn't the official away shirt, aside from that fake Toffs thing which - unless they want to sponsor EFW of course - isn't the real deal. 

So that was that. Shoulders slumped and feeling a bit of a moody chops, I turned on my heels and walked forlornly towards the ticket office. Actually, the tickets were free (come again - Ed.). No, it wasn't a bogus official conducting some dodgy business. Because Dukla Prague care about their fans and were worried about the inconvenience a trip across the city may cause to their supporters, they decided that everyone making the short journey should be rewarded with free entry to the match. Not only that, the prices of scarves were slashed to a fiver for the night as a further sweetener. They sold hundreds. And good luck to them. We declared the actual steward handing out tickets to be the King of Hi-Vis. We all laughed.

Clutching my free ticket I popped back to the shop and purchased a wooden Dukla Prague yo-yo and a t-shirt for the princely sum of £10 (warning: the price of yo-yo's can go up as well as down). Cheap as chips, no? That lot would have cost £24.99 from Argos. This obviously instigated a conversation about yo-yo tricks, but knowledge on our axle, disk and twine friends isn't quite what it once was back in the playground and we declared on just the three: Walk The Dog, Loop The Loop and the Forward Pass.

Keeping two chevrons apart, the EFW team headed to the bar to sink a few pints at 80 pence a pop before making a beeline for the Dukla Prague ultras. We like a song for Europe do us EFWers; lending a small bit of vocal support to the home team is the least we can do in return for such warm hospitality. Dukla Prague have the oldest ultras in the Czech Republic. They were hastily nicknamed the 'Oldtras', and we got on famously save for the distorted noise of their vuvuzelas. Traditionally, Dukla play on Friday nights and the gates are low. But this match had been switched to a Saturday for television. Modern football eh?

There were EFW members as far as the eye could see in the main stand. Over forty of us. It was like a Radio 1 Roadshow but with no sighting of Gary Davies, mercifully. Ooh. We helped swell the gate to four figures which was 6% of the stadiums capacity (I found out that snippet in the local paper the next day. It was the only note I wrote down the whole weekend. Further note to self: be more professional in future). Jablonec (Jabbers) for their part had brought with them four skinny indie kids and their parents for support. Eleven fans in total. Poor.

Four skinny indie kids and their parents. The green army of Jablonec "fill" the away end.

The Dukla Prague 'Oldtras'

Let's not dwell on the game. Dukla Prague kept Jabbers 14-goal hero David Lafata quiet - which was no mean feat - and even led at half time, but Jabbers stormed back in the second half and gave the Dukla fans three reasons to be miserable with goals on 53, 73 and 76 minutes. There was also 12 corners in the match according to our resident corners expert from Forest Green Rovers, Sid. Sid loves corners.

It was brass monkeys and so nobody complained when the referee peeped on his whistle a minute before the end. With an outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis threatening, it was time to retreat to the pub. If you don't fancy mixing it with tourists and getting ripped off in Prague then head to Zizkov for your night on the beer. We opted for Pivnice U Sadu and mixed it with the locals. So, no Dukla Prague away kit, but for £20 I'd got myself a yo-yo, new t-shirt, saw the team play at last and sunk around, cough, ten pints. If you don't think that's value for money then you probably don't like European Football Weekends.


Hold on a second. There she is. Finally, draped over six rows of seats: The Dukla Prague Away Kit. You can keep your Taj Mahal, this is what I'd come to see. Impossible to get in your Easy Jet hand luggage though so it'll have to stay in Prague and, as I do every year, I'll still be able to sing, and jot down on my yuletide list of needs: All I want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit. Cheers. 

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There are two photo montages of this trip set to the music of the Arcade Fire and The Stone Roses.

There are a quite a few references to Half Man Half Biscuit in this report. A prize to anyone who can spot them all. Do you worst in the comments section below.

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

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Slovan Liberec v FC Banik Ostrava

Libe, Libe, Liberec

Slovan Liberec 3-2 FC Banik Ostrava (21:10:11)

Angel of the North Andy Hudson picks up the baton to guide us through Day 2 of the EFW Oktoberfest......

This was the EFW Oktoberfest Spice Girls day when Two Become One and featured a tremendous amount of terrible singing. As one group were waking up before 7am in Bratislava and trying to find breakfast near the train station, the other half of the team were still in a deep slumber in Prague after a late night out. It would take until mid-afternoon when we’d all be in a bar on a boat before tales were swapped and we’d be drowning in beers.

Before that, the Slovak travelling boys endured: a four plus hour train journey; four people snuggling into the shoulder of their seating partner as they fell asleep; beers and knedliky; and the longest check-in known to man (or at least to Danny Last, Stuart Fuller and Big Deaksy) before pints of pivo were able to be ordered and we boarded the Liberec Boogie Bus.

The last known use for the bus was when Nick Berry had disappeared with Aidensfield’s local service and the replacement was drafted in from Prague. Years later and 39 football fans, from six different countries, were all stuck in rush hour traffic on said replacement with 31 of them desperately needing the toilet after the beers. As soon as we’d broken through the Prague city limits, we were queuing at service station for a quick toilet break and for ‘refreshments’. Then it was onwards to Liberec.

After a detour through the town on the way to Stadion U Nisy, we were off at the ground. The good guys of Liberec had helpfully stuffed an envelope full of tickets for us to collect at a window and then it was pivo time. The pub at the stadium, usually pretty empty, celebrated Christmas and their birthday that evening as the doors were flung open with the cry of “devětatřicet pivo”. One of the EFW Okoberfesters proclaimed that he was having a far better time than if he had remained in Prague. His story was that he had never heard of the trip and was on the flight over to join a stag weekend. Now when the magic words “You should come on a European Football Weekend instead” were uttered to him, he promptly signed up and instead of strippers and beers in the capital, he was up near the German and Polish border supping pre-match ales.

As we descended on the stadium (and the club shop) just before kick-off, there was the joy of looking across from our stand at the stand opposite: built coming out of rock – tick. And more....a line of cheerleaders dancing in the stand – oh yes..... and we wanted more. Cheerleaders dancing down the aisle next to the Ultras, who were already in fine voice – yes, yes, yes! Liberec: I was in love.

Devětatřicet pivo


Banik on the streets of Liberec - “Monday or Friday: you’ll never get rid of us”

The first half almost became secondary to the Ultras in the stands. Banik fans had travelled a distance of 400 km for this televised Friday night match and displayed their worth on a banner saying: “Monday or Friday: you’ll never get rid of us”. With top-flight games’ being moved for television, as is the case across the world, it was thumbs-up to the Ostrava fans for making the long trip at quite short notice.

Liberec went in at half-time with a 2-1 lead after taking the lead through a Vojtěch Hadaščok header. Václav Svěrkoš replied for the visitors with a great strike from the edge of the box before Jan Nezmar scored with a back post header that just dropped beyond the line before being cleared.

Impressed with the ‘Slovan Death Boys’ and their singing during the first half, including the brilliant Libe, Libe, Liberec chant, there was only one thing to do: we had to join them for the second half. But the question was: how? We pondered for a moment and then our Liberec host returned with beers, disappeared for a moment before reappearing on the other side of the fence and producing the keys to a magic gate that allowed us entry. From that point the beers flowed and the songs ran from our throats. In a short interview with one of the Ultra’ leaders, he explained that “Liberec are apolitical as politics causes many problems at football, and so we stand with neither the right nor the left; we only stand with football”.

Hlavni main stand embedded to a rock - tick. 

No guns allowed. Tsk.

That's me in the corner...

Midway through the second half, Banik equalised when Svěrkoš lobbed the Slovan ‘keeper. The home fans kept singing and then in injury time came the moment that left a number of the Oktoberfest contingent on the floor while celebrating: Nezmar reacted first to a defensive header that went backwards and he poked the winner in for Liberec from six yards out. I ended up in a six-man hug that sent all of us falling backwards and beers spilling all over while other fans and EFWers celebrated together.

As the Ultras continued their celebrations, we politely declined joining them in their bar as we had a journey back to Prague to complete on the Aidensfield special. After a quick pint in the pre-match bar while we waited for everyone to arrive, we then boarded and set off for our weekend home. The singing on the bus was loud; the Spice Girls could never, ever, hold a candle to us. We had a whip-round for the driver and then set off for the first pub in Prague that had spare tables. There might have been more pivo involved at this stage; I suspect that there was, yet my memory fails me. It was late, so late, and as Libe, Libe, Liberec played in my head, I drifted off to sleep....there was a football match starting in six hours.

There are two photo montages of the whole of the EFW Oktoberfest, set to music, both here and there.

More of Hudson's fine work is available at Gannin' Away and Blagul Fotboll

Tomorrow on EFW: AC Sparta Praha B v FC Brno

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Slovan Bratislava v PSG

And so the story begins...

Slovan Bratislava 0-0 Paris Saint-Germain (20:10:11)

Stuart Fuller kicks off a week long look back at the third annual European Football Weekends Oktoberfest.....

Life sometimes just isn't fair. Like the fact that I missed out on the lottery jackpot once because the winning numbers were exactly the same as I had picked in my head but couldn't find a lottery machine nearby, or when you just go past an exit on the motorway to be hit with the traffic jam from hell around the next corner. Alanis Morrissette called it "Ironic" but to me being in a plane crash is not ironic, it is just bad luck. Oh, and Ms Morrissette, when you do "meet the man of your dreams" you could just offer him a threesome with his "beautiful wife". Just saying.

No, for me life wasn't fair because I had to spend 10 days travelling. From one side of Europe to the next and I would only get to see ten football matches in that period. Just ten. I can see you crying on my behalf now.I would be taking in five countries on my travels, meeting up with numerous old friends and drinking pints (and litres) of beer ranking from €1 Pilsen's in Prague to €8 Amstel's in Zurich.

The reason for such gallivanting? Well it was the start of the Oktoberfest season. Now in its third year you can read all about it here. After our successful jaunts in Holland, Germany, Hungary (well apart from the dysentery I picked up last year) and Slovakia in our previous trips, it was the turn of the Czech Republic this year. That was until fate dealt us a lucky card, an Ace in the hole. Europa League football just over the border in Slovakia. Our EFW/TBIR charter says in paragraph 3, section 2:-

"If a game in a city/stadium is being played whereby transport is freely available and journey time is less than 4 hours and there are no alternative destinations, you have to at least spend an hour finding mitigating reasons not to go".

So that is why at 6.30am I was on board Ryanair 385 to Bratislava. Or actually, to Vienna (Bratislava). Why let hundreds of years of diplomacy get in the way of border agreements eh Ryanair?

She's electric

Known as Pressburg until 1919, Bratislava today is home to hundreds of stag/hen weekends every week. As I decamped from the plane and waited for the bus into town I was handed a leaflet offering me "Pussy Galore" at a club in town, that was apparently open at 10am. I asked the spotty youth whether it was the name of a person, since the capitalisation of the words suggested otherwise, but he simply said "girls, boobs, fanny, sexy time". He failed as a sales person trying to win me as a customer so I declined to visit, although I kept the leaflet for "research purposes".

I travelled into the city with the Barnet boys, finding our hotel with ease and then looking with curiousity at the hulking floodlights in the distance.

An hour later I was standing in what can only be described as a war zone. Around me was the rubble from what looked like a bomb attack, furniture smashed, weeds growing where once there was concrete and finally silence. Silence as if the whole city was in mourning. I was standing on the sweeping terraces of the Tehelne Pole, once one of the biggest stadiums in Czechoslovakia and preferred home of the national team.

Here was a ground steeped in history which now had been pillaged. What could have been broken up had been, and the sad netting still hanging down from the goal posts, the huge weeds growing from the terraces and the remnants of the light blue seats just made you shake your head. I felt a bit wary walking around too much, remembering the "Charlie says" videos of my youth, and seeing the electric cables and holes in the floor around the ground. Game a day John found a ball and took it on the pitch. He became the last person to take a penalty in the stadium (for now), and mirroring his hero, Chris Waddle, he ballooned it over the bar.

Nostalgia over we headed into the old town and sampled some local cuisine before meeting up with the rest of the advanced party who had arrived by train from Prague. Our first home for the evening was the Arena Bar, next to the hotel which had the cheek to try to diddle us by serving pints (well, half a litre) of fine Slovakian beer for €1.50! It got worse as we moved to a pub round the corner that had the cheek to want €1 a beer. Our host for the evening was Dan Richardson, a west country lad, who lived in Bratislava, supported Slovan and ADO Den Haag and worked on a rig in the North Sea. He is a season ticket holder at Slovan and proudly showed us the ticket which cost him just €41. The tickets for this game? €20. And who says clubs try to rip off fans these days?

But for our €20 we also got a Slovan t-shirt and a nice shiny flag to wave, which is more than the travelling PSG fans got. As they (apparently) approached the gates of the stadium en-masse, they were told they weren't welcome and the police moved them into a local pub.

Shiny happy people

Despite a major renovation of the Pasiensky in recent years to bring it up to UEFA 3 star standards so it can host games like this, it is still basically an open air athletics stadium with the biggest scoreboard known to man. That didn't stop the home fans whipping up an excellent atmosphere to try to spur on their team against their big spending opponents. Without a point from their opening two games in the Europa League few gave them a chance against the French side.

It wasn't a surprise to see the French do all the early running, with the Slovan keeper Lukáš Hroššo the busier of the two keepers. However, the home side seemed content to try to frustrate the French whenever they could and the first half ended with few chances and certainly no goals. Still, we found amusement at the littlest things, as we always do. An old fashion fire-engine, ready to douse the fires of Slovan ambition? Check. A mascot dressed up as a Slovan badge with white tights on high fiving us? Check. Big Deaks falling off the seat and tumbling down the terraces? Check.

Danny Last and Kenny Legg give the emergency services the thumbs up. 

Pass us that bucket will ya, la. 

It was much of the same in the opening exchanges of the half. But the first talking point came on the hour mark as PSG's Chantôme was sent off for a second yellow. That sparked Slovan into life and Vladimir Weiss's team started finding a bit more space and created their best chance soon after.

The night got even worse for the visitors in the 80th minute when Siaka Tiéné was sent off for a late challenge. We were standing in the "Ultra" section and sections of fans around us broke out into choruses of monkey chanting as the full back walked off. It was a shock to hear it to be truthful and Andy Hudson walked out. Slovakia had had its problems with this before, famously when England visited back in 2002 and Dan Richardson has written at length about the situation here. Having now read the UEFA match report is it surprising to see it wasn't mentioned at all? Not really. And if they did what would they do? Fine them another couple of thousand Euros? I will get the broom if you want to lift the carpet Michel.

Or are they? Let's see what action they take...

With PSG down to nine men, Slovan smelt victory. Only the timely intervention of Zoumana Camara prevented Karim Guédé slotting the ball into the net. However, they couldn't find a way through and had to settle for a nil-nil draw.

It would have been rude to simply ignore the hospitality on offer in the fine city, so we went back to the Arena bar and contributed significantly to Slovakian economy. Despite a 4am start we carried on until the wee small hours, donning our Slovan t-shirts and re-enacting various tactical subtleties of the game using shot glasses.

8am and we were all (well mostly all) up and trying to find something edible at Bratislava train station for the four hour ride through Hostel country to Prague. Oktoberfest had started with a bang, and with six games due in the next sixty hours was going to continue to just get better and better.

Must I paint you a picture?

A photo montage of the EFW Oktoberfest set to music can be found right here, right now. Ooh, and here's another.

More photos you say? Righty-o, click here or there.

Stuart Fuller is the Editor of The Ball is Round. Follow Fuller and European Football Weekends on Twitter.

Next up on this trip: Slovan Liberec v FC Banik Ostrava