Zdars In Your Eyes

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Zelena Hora

Žďár nad Sázavou is not up there in our list of favourite places in the world, it’s the Milton Keynes of the Czech Republic. It’s done nothing wrong, but it’s just one of those “new towns” that grew around the success of the Zdas steelworks. If you mention the city to Czechs, they will mention the beautiful countryside, some might talk about the UNESCO site “Zelena Hora”, others will associate it with cycling and cross-country skiing. Of course like most places we go to, the general reaction from friends is “Why are you going there?” – they should know better.

To answer the above question, we were obviously in Zdar for Blanko’s final away game of the season, a massive 3 pointer. For those of you who are unaware of the current situation in Divize D (and of course, we don’t expect you to be), Blansko are one point clear of Uhersky Brod and Hodonin with two matches left. The prize of winning the league is a place in MSFL, the third tier of Czech Football league system and it looks like all 3 clubs are interested in going up. That last sentence might seem a strange one, but the truth is that promotion has huge financial implications and out of the three teams in pushing for the title only Hodonin have the financial backing to be able to afford it. We would need a huge donation of around 40,000 euros to help with the costs of playing in a higher league. What this means is that we are still unsure that we are going up.

For The Blansko Klobasa, the dream is still alive, not just the seeing the players test themselves at a higher level, but for us it’s a chance to see new places, new grounds – as groundhoppers we’ve been in this division far too long. Roll on Sigma Olomouc B.

Back to Žďár, the train ride was a pleasant one, the train weaved it’s way through some stunning countryside on the way up to the Czech-Moravian highlands – and the journey was made a lot nicer by  2ltrs Knezihorsky Lezak. I had been groundhopping the day before in a small town called Bzenec and the owner of the brewery showed amazing kindness by sending me on my way back to Brno with a sample of his beer. I digress. But before I finish this paragraph, I feel I must mention the football team. Definitely the most entertaining team I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. They play with two old-fashioned wingers and have been hammering teams out of sight – this time Boskovice were on the end of 6-3 bashing. Next season the club will play Divize for the first time in their history.

So, as I was saying back to Žďár, we arrived on familiar ground and with Wingy on his way down from a beer festival in Prague, we decided to find the bar we always go to, it’s about 300m from the train station and serves up 3 local beers for a great price, the service is always hit and miss, but we can handle it for 20kc a beer.

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Žďár

The last time we visited this place, we’d been moved from table to table as every one of them had been reserved..the pub was empty. This time, we were greeted by a face from the past, Big Dave Sharp, an American who has made Zdar his home..On the plus side for us, he was on friendly terms with the bar staff making our pub experience a more friendly one.

Wingy eventually turned up for nostalgia, beer and a photograph before we said our goodbyes and walked to the ground for a game which was equally important for both sides. The home side needing a win to confirm their place in Divize for next season and for us, a win would see us hold on to top spot.

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Žďár Stadium

The game started at a frantic pace and that was just Pavel the drummer, who was beating his drum orgasmically. This had an instant impact on our team as we conceded after some poor defending.

The pessimist in me began to believe that we were about to witness a trouncing and the end of our title hopes, but thankfully the players saw it differently and midway through the first half we were 3-1 up and cruising. “WE ARE GOING UP, WE ARE GOING UP” – it’s amazing how optimism can return before the end of a paragraph.

At half-time we were joined by the rest of the Blansko away end, eager to join the fun and make the most a free trip to Zdar…ahhh, that’s probably me being a bit harsh, but they travel around Moravia on the players’ coach..for free.

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Mid-game

Blansko kicked off the final 45 minutes attacking our end and looked in complete control.. This basically involves Petr Svancara showboating and playing up to the crowd and then getting fouled. It is complete control, isn’t it?  This period of possession football ended when the home team banged in their second goal of the game, against the run of play. In truth, I can’t quite remember the strike, I think it was scrappy – it was most certainly not a goal of season contender – that goes to Franta Schneider who restored our two goal advantage with a screamer from the edge of the box. I won’t bother to describe the goal, I will put a link in below. It is well worth watching.

4-2 up with a minute or so to play, we conceded a penalty.. Nobody knows what for and I am sure that includes the officials, but it was coolly slotted away and the ref blew his whistle to signal he’d had enough.

The joy on the faces of all connected to the club was there for everybody to see. As supporters we very rarely see all the players come over to celebrate with the fans, but they all knew the significance of this result.  They walked over to our small band, joined hands and raised them three times in unison to show their gratitude. It also gave us a chance to sing ” We are going up” one more time, before racing off for a pint.

Heroes, the lot of them.

We are going up.

UPDATE: Since this game we have found out that WE ARE (definitely) GOING UP!

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We are going up!

Watch the highlights here: Žďár n. Sáz – FK Blansko

 

 

 

 

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A Bridge too Zdar for FK Blansko

The Blansko Klobasa

The Blansko Klobasa

I should begin by telling you about the best goal I have ever seen live and before anybody says it,no it wasn’t scored by Gareth Bale… It was scored by a player by the name of Lukas Zelnicek of FC Moravsky Krumlov, a team sitting mid-table in the 5th tier of Czech Football.

After a Saturday afternoon of enjoying a day of sunshine at the Starobrno brewery, we took tram number 1 from Mendlovo Namesti to the home of Dosta Bystrc for a late afternoon game of football. Now, it must be said that most of the game passed us by as we sat in the club beer garden, but in the 59th minute the whole stadium rose to applaud a pure moment of magic from the away team’s centre midfielder.

Lukas Zelnicek picked up the ball in the centre circle, sidestepped the oncoming Bystrc player before looking up and hitting a shot from near on 60 yards which sailed of the goalkeeper (a Slovak U19 international) and into the net. It was a wonderful bit of skill and I doubt anybody recorded it, so we will never see it again. Just brilliant and I had to share it.

Sunday morning, the usual meeting place for the slow train to Zdar nad Sasavou, a small town in the Czech-Moravian highlands, famous for cross country skiing and the Unesco site of Zelena Hora. Of course, we were going there, not to see the sights or to ski, but to watch our first Blansko away game of the Spring season.

Zdar square

Zdar square

First stop (after a cashpoint) was a pub we knew from our previous visit to the town. With it being a stones through from the train station and beer a very reasonable 17kc, we felt it rude not go and say hello.

It was empty apart from one local, propping up the bar. As we sat at exactly the same table we had done a few months earlier, the man told us not to sit there as it was reserved for regulars. Not wanting to upset the people of Zdar, we moved to the next table, only to be told the same thing. Beginning to feel that TBK were not welcome and contemplating trying to find a place with a friendlier atmosphere, we were pointed in the direction of a table that could be ours and beers were ordered…Now, I’d recently read a report where two thirds of Czechs had admitted to being afraid of foreigners…but I never expected to see it in a pub in a small town in Vysocina. Of course, I jest.

On the way to the ground, we found a relatively nice restaurant doing a fine pork gulas, washed it down with a lovely Rychtar (note to self – must visit the brewery) and made the short walk to the game taking in Zelena Hora as we got closer to the stadium.

Pork gulas

Pork gulas

Zdar’s ground is one of the better at this level. A stand running all the way alongside the pitch with some terracing behind the goal and a club bar, which is where we found the majority of the Blansko support.

Greeted like long lost friends by the physio and the drummer, we ordered our beers and went to take our seats in the stand, only once again to be moved further along, but this time from a friendly face as Pavel needed to find more room for the drum. Once a suitable space was found, it wasn’t before he was belting out the first song of the day.

Zdar

Zdar

Like Pavel, Blansko started the game promisingly, with both Dolezal and Trtilek looking dangerous on the break and Zdar not really causing any problems. The first chance fell to our centre back, David Muller, who put his header wide of the post when it seemed easier to score. Had that gone in, I am fairly sure we would have gone on to win the game quite easily, but all our good work in keeping the home side quiet was undone by an uncharacteristic error from goalkeeper David Juran. Midway through the first half, the ball was played back to him for a routine kick up field. Juran played the ball straight to a Zdar player for him to square the ball for an easy tap in. 1-0 Zdar. Noticeably, players’ heads dropped and not even Pavel could lift them with his melodic drumbeats.

Pavel - the FK Blansko drummer

Pavel – the FK Blansko drummer

Halftime brought its own entertainment as we turned our attentions to the bar. On our way round to the bar for a half-time pint and klobasa (no klobasa), the Zdar subs were warming up by attempting to ping balls into an empty goal. I pointed out to Craggy that there was a reason why they were on the bench and not on the pitch; all attempts at goal went flying anywhere, but the back of the net. Anyway, beer bought, we made our way back to the not-so-grand stand, dodging flying footballs as we walked. Well, at least I was. Craggy on the other hand… well, he was a few steps behind me, so I only saw the aftermath. As he passed the goal, so did another size 5 Adidas, which crashed straight into his beer, knocking it out of his hand and onto the floor. The player offered an apology twice and seemed unsurprised by his actions. Perhaps, this is a regular occurrence in Zdar, but it was the first time it had happened to us. As funny as it was, I was surprised to find that the player doesn’t carry a bag of 20kc in his tracksuit bottoms.

Michal Kugler, back in charge for a second spell, must have tried to rally the troops at half-time as the Blansko team were back on the field looking a bit more confident than they had 15 minutes earlier.

No Klobasa no Party

No Klobasa no Party

Honza, Honza, Honza was back flicking the ball in the direction of his teammates, Honza Dolezal was beginning to find some joy down the right and just like the start of first half, it was Blansko who looked more likely to grab the goal. Except, except we were lacking one thing. A player in the box to get on the end of the crosses. It once again showed how important Honza Koudelka (there are a lot of Honza’s in Moravia) was to the side last season. Since he moved onto bigger and better things (now playing for Prostejov in MSFL and looking to play higher) we have lacked a player of any pace at all.

So, you won’t be surprised to read that after spending a great deal of the half knocking balls into an empty box, Zdar went straight up the other end and bagged their second to seal the match.

As the final whistle blew, we said our goodbyes to the Blansko ultra (it used to be plural), had a shot of hruskovice and even found time for Craggy to spill his second beer of the day.

A bridge too Zdar indeed.

Hruskovice

Hruskovice

With A Rebel Yell – We Cried Score, Score, Score

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One of the peculiar Easter traditions in the Czech Republic is to beat “your women” (copyright Czech man) with a stick and in return she will give you either an egg or a glass of slivovice. … So on Easter Sunday we decided to avoid this pagan ritual and take the 8,20 train from Brno Hlavni to Havlíčkův Brod in search of a brewery, a Blansko game and of course a klobasa. Espresso and a digital copy of the Sunday newspaper in hand, I met the only other person mad enough to join me on this venture into the Czech Moravian highlands.

First stop on the trip was a visit to Havlíčkův Brod, a small town that I had stumbled upon only once before and that was by mistake. Many moons ago, shortly after I had swapped life in London for Brno, I was forced off the train by an angry conductor, the reason being I was on the wrong train, so I suppose he had a point. On that occasion I didn’t get past the station pub, but this time we were to venture further into town…destination the Rebel brewery. Billy Idol once wrote a song about it.

We weren’t really expecting too much from the town, nobody had ever talked about it as a place to visit, so we were pleasantly surprised at the pretty square, but more so at the number of pubs we passed on the way to the centre. Hundreds, blooming hundreds.

Rebel Brewery

Rebel Brewery

After taking the customary photos of the square and a quick check of the map, we headed in the direction of the brewery. To double check we were heading the right way, I approached a local for confirmation. “Excuse me, we are looking for the Rebel brewery” I asked. She looked at me as though it was the first question anybody had ever asked her, so I repeated it and just to be your stereotypical tourist a bit louder. Of course, she had heard me the first time, but probably thought the question was so silly that it didn’t need answering. I knew this as soon she pointed to the building opposite and walked on.

As with any TBK trip, it’s is never straight forward – and the brewery wasn’t open until 11.00 (yep, we start early) leaving us with an hour to kill before we have our first glass of Billy (ed. not amphetamine sort). We took a few more pictures and went off to look for the ice hockey stadium and some of the other sights of the town before arriving back at Rebel at exactly 10.58 am

11.00  the waitress opened the door to the brewery pub and once we had made ourselves comfortable the waiter started to list the beers on offer with immense pride. This took a  couple of minutes and I am sure did it it without drawing breath and naturally we had already decided that we liked the first beer mentioned, so a rather pointless exercise.

Beers downed and electrical appliances recharged, we headed back to the station for the 12.03 train to Žďár nad Sázavou… a big mistake. I had spent a bit of time here in the late 90s teaching a group of supermarket managers who were interested in each other and bed swapping than learning how to use the present perfect tenses. I also recall the town being the Czech equivalent of Luton and the train station toilet being something similar to the one in Trainspotting. Ahhh, perhaps I am being a bit harsh as it is home to Zelená Hora, a stunning  Baroque church  (which I think is now a World Heritage Site)..

Zelena Hora

Zelena Hora

Another pint downed at the local football club and a quick tour of the church and it was back to the station  for the trip to Polná , home to SK Polná  and known as the gateway to Moravia and Bohemia. The 40 minute bus journey was long enough for us to appreciate the CzechMoravian highlands and for us to pick 11 songs we think the FK Blansko players listen to before they run out on to the pitch. Yes, we are really are that sad…and more on that later.

So, off the bus and more directions (“turn left at the cemetery and it right in front of you”) we made our way to the stadium, one of the best in the division as it has stands on two sides of the pitch. Beers bought and high fives given to the drummer, we took our places in the stand and immediately joined in the first Blansko chant of the day. “BLLLAAANNNSKOOO” the 5 of us screamed.

Polna

Polna

I am afraid to report that the game passed me by, I remember the two cracking goals from Goaldelka – the first from just inside the Polná half which looped over the goalkeepers head and the second a mazy run and shot. I also recall Honza, Honza, Honza Trtilek hitting the post when it seemed easier to score (he apologised to us after the game), but the rest of the game was a blur for which I blame the awful klobása that the Polná grill served up. No horseradish, again.

Polna klobasa

Polna klobasa

After the game, we said our goodbyes to the away support and some of the players and with an hour to kill before taking the last bus out of town we went in search of the local pub. Ahhh the local pub can only be described as a bar that wouldn’t look out of place in a Simon Pegg project.  Apart from the extremely attractive barmaid and us, the rest of the place was full of pissed up regulars including a father sipping his beer while waiting for his son to come out of his slumber. Although we’d had a few ourselves, we did stick out like sore thumbs and it wasn’t long before a Polná fan cornered me in the toilet and told me I was brave to be in here. I returned from the toilet to find Craggy in conversation with a second Polná fan who was telling him that we wouldn’t have won had the sun been out….

I am probably not really doing the pub any justice at all, as both of us with have quite happily stayed there all night and once we had presented the bar with a TBK sticker, the bar became a much friendlier place to drink. However, we had a bus to catch to make our train connection back to Brno and this sadly meant an end to the Polná experience.

Polna pub

Polna pub

Back in Žďár and with another hour before the train home, we propped up the bar, chatted to the local barmaid, who was actually a dental nurse if my memory serves me right, but decided that bar work was more fun and sipped our final beer of the day. With a Rebel yell, we cried more, more… Anyone fancy Tasovice away?