THE BLANSKO KLOBASA

 

Back in the summer, we were asked by a football quarterly in Czech Republic to write about our blog and about why we support an amateur club and not one of the big teams. We handed the task over to Ralph and this is what he has to say.

Oh and the Czech version you can find here – Football Club Cz

 

Someone once said to me that when you start supporting a football club, you doso not because  of the trophies, or a player, or history .You support them because you have found yourself somewhere – you have found a place where you belong. For me, Swansea City will always be that club.

 

However, when I moved to Brno back in the late 90s, standing on the North Bank was not something I could do every second Saturday, so I had to look for a replacement. At the time, the local team Boby Brno were riding high in the top league, so naturally I found myself at the Luzanky stadium watching the likes of Richard Dostalek, Marek Zubek and Zdenek Valnoha strut their stuff .

 

Boby Brno became that stand-in. Yet it didn’t feel right- a bit like falling in love with someone who wasn’t your girlfriend. But I went along with it, because she (Swansea in this case, not my girlfriend) was so far away. And that’s how it stayed. We went away together,partied in the Intertoto Cup and the Gambrinua Liga,and I must admit we had fun. It was a fully-blown love affair.

 

That was until a Friday night under the lights about five years ago. The opponents were Slavia Prague and I looked up at the scoreboard after 76 minutes. The score was 0-0. Now nil-nils can be entertaining games, but not this one. A friend of mine turned to me and said, “You know,nothing has happened in the 76 minutes we’ve been here”. And he was right, not one shot, not one piece of skill to thrill the crowd. Nothing. Nic. 

 

I left and I haven’t been back since. In truth, I had probably been kidding myself for a while – going along to Srbska, just in the hope the fling would spark up again.

 

By this time, I must admitI had already discovered groundhopping,and one Saturday afternoon decided to hop on a train and see what Blansko had to offer. Blansko is most notable for being close to the Moravian Karst, a protected nature reserve a few kilometres from the town.  In the past it was an industrial town of great significance. Today, it’s a shadow of its former self.

 

It’s also home to FK Blansko, the team I now support.

 

Now, declaring your loyalty to a smaller club is like a high-stakescard game. It’s like being faced with a deal or bust decision: I could stick to my guns and hope for the best,or keep supporting a big team, for which I had no feelings. Non-league devotees like myself often lead a duplicitous life, in which the team they claim to support,  andwho they actually support,can be two vastly different things. I remember a friend of mine at school mulling over replying “Manchester United” if anyone asked whom he supported. “I would feel a bit silly saying Macclesfield Town”. Whenever somebody asks who I support, I get an inevitable look of confusion when I say “FK Blansko”,followed by, “Oh, and have I mentioned I have a blog?”

 

So, returning to the story. Disillusioned with life as a supporter of Zbrojovka Brno, I decided to  reject overpriced tickets, officious stewarding, overzealous policing, political views I disagreed with- and just poor football– and discovered the otherworld.

 

In this otherworld, I pay 40kc to get in, avoid a queue to get a beer and stand or sit where I like– rather than being confined to a numbered seat. At Udolni,or any other groundwe visit, it’s a place where segregation is unnecessary and where fans like me can just enjoy 90 minutes of football – or 89 with some referees – in perfect peace. 

 

Such is our love for our football teamthat we started a blog named the Blansko Klobasa. We travel all over Moravia (and even further field) visiting towns you don’t often read about in travel guides, all in search of footballing excellence, the perfect beer and the ultimate Czech football snack – the klobasa.  And Udolni is place we like to call home.

 

Over the seasons, we have become familiar faces at Udolni. Fellow supporters welcome us, and we often chat to the players in both Czech and English after a game.  We’ve bought scarves, as well asdesigning our ownflag. The players have bought us and friends of the blog shirts. We are on drum duty when Pav, the drum, is working the tannoy. We sing in bothour own languageand inCzech. We drink and be merry and we eat klobasaat nearly every ground we have been to.

 

And then we write about it.

 

When I was asked to write this piece, I wasn’t sure if it would be of any interest to anyone outside of the gates of Udolni. I meangirlfriends, friendsandwork colleagues who support Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United often snigger when we tell them that we spent Sunday watching Blansko away at Zdar. “Why?” is often the follow-up question.  To a degree, I understand the bemusement, but to us it’s a proper love affair and hopefully we can tell you we yearn for more Blansko home and away days.

 

You may have noticed that I am using “we” instead  of  “I”,as The Blansko Klobasais very much a joint effort. Although I can go off to Havirov for a 10.15 kick-off on a Sunday morningon my own, the fun comes when we are a small band of intrepid Klobasa.

 

 

As these words should be about lower league Czech football and what we enjoy, maybe I should just get on with that and stop babbling on about us. Belonging. But I digress. Here are some of the things that make supporting Blansko so special.

 

The Trips

 

The fixture list becomes like a map, so the moment it is released we start planning and plotting away days. Following Blansko or just groundhopping in Czech Republic has taken us down a coal mine in Petkoviceandaround the chateau gardens ofKromeriz. We’ve taken an early morning bus to Lednice, in order to walk on a nature trail to Breclav,and enjoyed a Gulas festival in Mikulov- as well as many more strange and wonderful places.

 

I suppose what we are trying to convey is how beautiful this country is,and,thanks to Cesky Drahy, we have seen more than we could ever have imagined. As much as we enjoy watching the games, football gives  an excuse to explore.

 

The Occasional Brilliant But Slightly Overweight Footballer

 

You would be forgiven for thinking that great footballers play in top leagues and ,of course,it would be silly of me  to say that the greatest Czech footballer I have ever seen is not Tomas Rosicky. However, while watching games all over the country, I occasionally watch a footballer that may have eaten a lot of klobasa, but stands out because, boy,can he play.

 

I am sure we have all observed a player like this; slightly rotund and,on occasions,barracked by the away fans (there aren’t many away fans in lower league Czech football), but only until he controls a high looping ball by stunning it dead. In addition to this,there are the passes, he can spray a ball left and right, hit a 50yrd pass right into the path of any of his forwards.He is simply worth the 40kc to get in on his own.

 

So, when people ask mewho is the best Czech footballer I have ever seen. “Have you ever heard of David Cupak or Lukas Matyska or even Honza Trtilek?” is usually my questionin turn. And naturally they respond with a shake of the head.

 

Take Lukas Matyska as one of the example, I am sure some fans would call him a bit lazy, he spends his time hogging the touchline, he definitely spent a bit of time recharging his energy by eating some of Bystrc’s finest klobasa, but give him the ball and he can play. He’s the Maradona of the lower leagues. He can shoot dribble, cross and he can definitely eat.

 

The Fans

 

Football is for the likes of everyone and so it should be. A local football club can connect people from all walks of life, and at Blansko at away grounds, we have met many good people and many eccentrics.  I was once told that the supporters who travel on the bus with the players are often only interested in the opportunity to do something different rather than watch a game of football.

 

However, these are the fans that are there atevery match.

 

Then there are the local eccentrics, whowill be recognised by nearly everyone at the game. Some might even know his name. We’ve got one at Blansko, who we have nicknamed “Angry man”. He comesin after half time (it’s free to get in), always carries the same plastic bag, always sits in the same place and then proceeds to berate the referee for the whole of the second half. He is either a former professional referee or is just infatuated with the man in the middle.

 

Every club has one. At Trebic we met a Hungarian lorry driver named Zoltan, who told us in a mixture of his native tongue, Czech and the only words of English he knew that he was a reformed alcoholic and insisted on taking us to the bar, mid-match, to prove it.

 

Although this is not so much about the eccentricity of supporters, but more about one trip, where I had gone to the bathroom at an away game, it might have been Bzenec only to come back to one of us surrounded by locals poking him. At the time I was the chief translator, so after a quick chat with the group stood around my friend, I found out that they just couldn’t believe they had a foreign supporter at their ground. Slivovice all round.

 

There are many of them and,of course,they are all welcome.  Football is really for everyone.

 

The Chants

 

The Blansko Klobasa were once described bya fellow blogger as a walking musical and we’d like to take that as compliment. We miss the originality of a song and a chant that often comes from an English, Welsh or Scottish football stadium. This is not criticism of Czech football fans;it’s just we hear the same chants up and down the country.

 

At Blansko, we have borrowed melodies from opera, musicals, rock bands – some are easy,some are complex. A lot of time there are spontaneous creations, but always in good humour. To give you an example, whenever a player goes down injured (which happens fairly often in Czech football) we sing “Bad Medicine” by Bon Jovi.

 

“He’s down, he needs bad medicine/Sasa the physio is what he needs”. All good natured,unless the player is more seriously injured.

 

The locals often give us a bemused look when webellow away in English and,of course,we sing in Czech too-although our accents usually bring chuckles from the old guys around us.

 

Football chants are an integral part of the game, almost ritual, and have brought us closer to everyone at the club.

 

Visiting Football Grounds

 

When I was back living in the UK, catching a glimpse of floodlights of a football ground from a train, car or bus was one of my main loves. Czech football has them too. I could talk for hours about the lollipops at Hradec Kralove. However, I know I am digressing,as in lower leagues you very rarely see them, well apart from at Slavia Kromeriz.The only stadium with floodlights..well, where we have managed to see Blansko play.

 

What nonleague Czech football does have is great football stands.There’s a great thrill in taking in the uniqueness and architectural nuances of main stands up and down the country. I once spent most of the game studying the old wooden stand at Slovan Podebrady,and even now I am amazed at the beauty of Meteor Prague’s grandstand.If it’s not under UNESCO,it should be.  Then there’s the stand at MFK Breclav, which has been built on top of a roof. There are literally hundreds of eye poppingly beautiful non-league grounds that make the awayday experience culturally wonderful.

 

 

My personal favourite,though,is MFK Havirov’s Stadion Dukla-a ground covering all four sides of the football pitch is a rarity in the fourth tier of Czech football,and it’s a wonderful place to watch a football match on a Sunday morning.

 

Football Games and Results

 

Football matches at the top level is a results business,and,as I mentioned earlier,the entertainment is often replaced by a team holding out for a 1-0 away win by putting 10 men behind the ball.  Well, not in the football we watch.Amateur footballers play the game for the same reason we watch it – entertainment. Even if the team is losing 3-0 with 10 minutes to play, you can still see the effort and belief from the team.  Watching games that end 5-4, 3-2or 7-3 makes any trip worthwhile.   Even if it’s Blansko on the receiving end of the that thumping, we always know we’ve been entertained.

 

The Football Snack

 

Back home the traditional football snack is a pie; here in the Czech Republic it’s the klobasa. The familiar smell of onions from catering vans at UK football stadiumshas now been replaced with the aroma of grilled sausage. The people that work behind the grill take great pride in their food and a half-time beer and sausage is definitely a ritual of the Czech game.

 

On occasions you see a local speciality, like at HFK Olomouc, where smoked mackerel is the food of choice for local fans.  At Dosta Bystrc you often see the local ultras tasting homemade chutney and snacksat half-time.

 

Kojetin was the most interesting,where uponenquiring what kind of meat was on the barbecue, I was told “kocka, vole” by the toothless  “catering manager”. Of  course, we were later told that it was pork, but by that time our  appetite had gone.

 

Having sampled the local klobasa up and down the country, our favourite is a very spicy sausage at Breclav – washed down with a local beer, Kanec.

 

And there you have it. Reading this,I am sure you will think we are bit mad, but we will all tell you that it’s like falling in love with the game again.  When at the top level of the game in any country in the world you are just a customer or the seat number on your ticket; in thelower reaches of Czech football, you are anything but that – there’s a welcome for us all.

 

Give it a try.

 

 

And finally, the camaraderie of the Klobasa is what makes following a team so enjoyable . My brother once mentioned that the trips and the sheer fun that we have actually transcends the game in some ways. The friendship, humour and warmth we have received and given make groundhopping a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. Now when is Humpolec away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Playing For The Love Of The Game

In May 2012, I took a tram up to Lisen for an afternoon of groundhopping. The game had caught my attention weeks in advance as it brought together two former Boby Brno players, Richard Dostalek and Milan Pacanda. The reason for the added interest was that in the staggering, cash-soaked grandeur of top flight football back home and I am pretty sure a lot of players have very little time for grassroots level football.

At this point, I should add that I have nothing against a footballer earning a tad more than me, seemingly having it easy and then retiring and falling into a career of either coaching or working in media. However, I used to love reading stories or seeing former professionals drop into non-league to play for peanuts, simply because they loved football. In fact, two of my heroes growing up, Robbie James and Alan Curtis, both played for clubs in the Welsh league. Well below the standard they were used to after careers at the very top.

Being a groundhopper here in Czech Republic, the opportunities to see former international footballers strutting their stuff at weekends is still very much a thing and here are a few playing just for the love of the game.

  1. David Rozenhal

After a career playing for the likes of Club Brugge, Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United and Lazio, David Rozenhal retired from the professional game at the end of last season to join his brother, Marek, at TJ Sokol Kožušany. The club are currently mid-table in the 7th tier of Czech football, playing in the Olomouc Region.

International Caps 60 goals 1

2. Pavel Nedvěd

Pavel Nedvěd needs no introduction. One of Czech Republic’s greatest ever players , he won European Footballer of the year in 2003. Currently he is on the books of FK Skalná, who play 7th tier of Czech football in the Karlovy Vary Region. It’s unlikely Pavel will be able to make the regular commute from Turin to Czech Republic, but there might still be an opportunity to see him play for his village side.

International caps 91 caps 18 goals.

3. David Lafata.

One of the greatest strikers to play Czech football in the last 20 years, Lafata is still scoring regularly for his boyhood club in Olešník . The 37 year old played for a host of clubs and is best known for his goals at FK Jablonec and Sparta Prague.

He played 41 times for Czech Republic scoring 9 goals.. Unfortunately two of them were against Wales in Teplice in 2005.

4. David Jarolím

Son of former Czechoslovak international and current national team manager Karel Jarolim, I remember reading about David Jarolím’s talent when he was a youngster at Bayern Munich. He only managed one appearance for the German giants before playing almost 300 times for Hamburg in the Bundesliga and now captains 5th Tier Čechie Vykáň, where he plays with his brother Lukáš.

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International Caps 29 goals Goals 1

5. Jan Rajnoch

A product of the Sparta Prague academy, Jan Rajnoch spent much of his time in Czech Republic and Turkey. After finishing his career with Sigma Olomouc in 2016 he signed for 4th tier Motorlet Prague.

International caps 15 no goals

6 and 7. Vladimír Šmicer and Patrik Berger.

Both players started their careers at Slavia Prague and later played together for Liverpool. Berger and Smicer were part of the golden generation which took Czech Republic to the final of Euro 96. Smicer also won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. Steven Gerrard one said of Berger “he was the best left-footed striker of a ball I have ever seen”. They now sometimes run the midfield for Dolni Chabry in the 6th tier.

Smicer 80 caps 27 goals

Berger 42 caps 18 goals

8. Jiří Štajner

In my eyes Štajner is a like a character from Roy of the Rovers. As a teenager he was picked up by Slavia Prague, playing a handful of games for them before dropping down the leagues to play for Slavia Lounovice,. After scoring for fun (and drinking in equal measures) he was picked up 2nd league Banik Most where he caught the eye of Slovan Liberec.. It was at Slovan where he continued to develop helping his team to European success and a league title. Scoring goals wherever he has been, Štajner now plays for FK Jiskra Mšeno – Jablonec nad Nisou in the 4th tier.. and yes, he’s still scoring.

Caps 37 Goals 4

9. Martin Jiránek

Another member of the successful Czech team at Euro 2004, Jiránek enjoyed a fairly successful career at home, Italy, Russia and a brief spell in England with Birmingham City where he won the League Cup in 2010. Afte further spells in Russia he finally hung up his professional boots with Dukla Prague. Now you can find captaining his first club, SC Olympia Radotín, in the 3rd tier.

Caps 31 goals 0

10. Richard Dostálek

Dostálek is probably my favourite ever Boby Brno footballer. When I first moved over here, he was a swashbuckling midfielder who took Brno back to near top of Czech football. After 6 years at the Luzanky he moved to Slavia Prague where he continued to impress for both club and country. Currently, when he’s not coaching Zbrojovka Brno’s stars of tomorrow, he’s playing 5th tier football for SK Bosonohy, a district of Brno.

Caps 5 Goals 0

11. Petr Švancara.

Now, Petr Švancara is a bit of a legend round these parts. If it hadn’t been for his love for nocturnal activity, I am sure he would have made the step up from U21 football to the full national squad – Once the most expensive player in Czech football after moving from Brno to Slavia Prague, “Mercedes” was a wizard on the ball. He spent a successful season with our FK Blansko taking us up to the 3rd tier and can now be seen at 5th tier Tatran Bohunice with a few other ex-Blansko players.

No caps no goals.

There are probably many more ex-professional footballer playing amateur football here in Czech Republic, so feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading the post.

Our Favourite Stadiums of 2018.

In the world of social media and with it being the end of the calendar year, we’ve been seeing many “top ten” or “top nine” posts, so with a four hour train journey back to Brno from the mountains, we thought that we would compile our favourite grounds of 2018.. Okay, I am sure you would have guessed what this post was about by the title above.

2018 took us to some wonderful places, we’ve seen some great football matches and a lot of awful games too, so without further ado here are our football stadiums of the year. They are in no particular order. Happy New Year everyone.

  1. Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Budapest.

Back in November and meeting up  for reunion with former work colleagues, I took the opportunity to visit the newly built  Hidekuti Nandor stadium in the Hungarian capital. I am not a huge fan of modern stadia, however this has a certain charm to it.

 

 

 

2. NTC Poprad football stadium, Poprad, Slovakia.

We’ve put this in our favourites, not because of the actual stadium, but because of the view behind. Slovak football is not always the most entertaining to watch and as the game I was there to see was particularly boring, I found myself looking out at the beautiful Tatra mountains in the background for 73 minutes of the match.

 

 

3. Alfred-Kunze-Sportpark, Leipzig.

As mentioned above, we are not huge fans of modern football stadiums, so it’s pleasing to see this beaut on the outskirts of the city.

 

 

 

4.Stadion v Hájku, Bucovice.

One of the wonderful things about Czech football is the season in the lower leagues goes well into June and to quell the tedium of  one summer afternoon in Brno, I decided to take a trip out to Bucovice, a small town about 30km away, I was not disappointed. How many grounds have nicely trimmed hedges in between the dugouts..? I know who gets my vote for groundsman of the year.

 

5. Štadión KFC Komárno, Komarno.

Komarno is a town on the banks of the river Danube, separating Slovakia from neighbouring Hungary and it’s home to the weirdest terracing I have ever seen..This goes in into our top 15 because of the terracing.. just take a look below. The capacity of the ground is 13,000, but I am not quite sure it would pass a safety check should they ever be in a position to fill the stadium.

 

6. Ynys Park, Ton Pentre.

Living abroad I don’t get the opportunity to watch the Welsh league very often, so in December I was so happy to finally get to Ynys Park, the home of Ton Pentre FC. Another traditional old ground with a beautiful view, this goes in our favourites, not only for the ground, but for the welcome we received and for serving tea in a mug.

 

7. Stadion na Údolní, Blansko

We couldn’t possibly make list  without including our second home. At the beginning of the season, money was made available to strengthen the playing squad and to tidy up Udolni. Gone are the wooden benches in the main stand, but we have seen a return of the grassy terracing that has been missing for many years and that for us is money well spent.

 

 

8. Sportovní areál, Drnovice

Built in the heart of the village of Drnovice, this stadium has hosted top league, European and international football matches. It has sadly fallen into a state of disrepair , but the history of 1990s Czech football is there for us all to see.

 

 

9. Stadion U Tržiště, Velké Meziříčí.

This is a personal favourite of mine, not necessarily for the actual ground, but I love a 10.15 k.o and FC Velké Meziříčí always kick off early Sunday morning. In addition to the early start there’s a pub next to the ground that does a lovely pint of the local brew.

 

10. Earlsmead Stadium, South Harrow.

My first game back in Britain this Christmas was Harrow Borough v Merthyr Town and although the result didn’t go the way of The Martyrs, it was a brilliant day. Highlight was the Merthyr away following who filled the clubhouse with cuddly toys for the Grenfell appeal. There is some genuine solidarity in non-league football and the people we me met on the day are exactly the reason why we love football so much.

 

 

 

11. Fotbalovy Stadion Loren, Kutna Hora.

Another wonky terrace, another 10.15k.o and another ground serving a local beer. It’s much the same as Velké Meziříčí really. However, Kutna Hora is a little prettier and is always a good day out.

 

12. Stadion Na Šlajsi, Lanžhot.

It’s very rare in Divize D to find a club with partizan support, well in our experience anyway. You get the odd chant, the angry man shouting at the referee, but to hear a crowd sing and shout for 90 minutes is something  very unusual. Step forward the fans of FK Lanzhot, it’s good to have you in the fourth tier.

 

13.Stadion pod Přehradou, Bystrc

Just like Udolni, we couldn’t create a list of favourite stadiums without including Dosta Bystrc. It’s a Sunday afternoon of pure pleasure.

 

14.Všesportovní stadion,Hradec Králové.

This could easily have been AS Trencin’s ground as we are adding this purely for the “lollipops”. The most spectacular floodlights in football.

 

15.  Stadion DuklaHavířov.

Outside of the top tier of Czech football, you don’t often see a ground with four sides. And just because of that, MFK Havirov is without doubt my favourite ground in this country.

Brewery of the Month – September

Pivovar Kamenice – 2 náměstí Československé armády, 394 70 Kamenice nad Lipou

Whilst on tour across the Czech Republic this year we had one particular stop in mind – Kamenice nad Lipou. The small town lies in the stunning region of Vysočina, not far from Pelhřimov. Now, if you look up the town on Wikipedia it will tell you the most important sight is the castle. However, we can tell you that there is also a very impressive brewery there…

The castle

After tasting the fine beer back in Brno we quickly determined that a trip to Kamenice was necessary. The brewery itself is vast and imposing. Located in the centre of the town close to the castle, the building was reconstructed after many years of inactivity: the beer finally began flowing again in 2016 – the first time since 1947.

bdr

We made the first of of two stops on the way to Ceske Budejovice, picking up a couple of bottles for the trip and taking some photos of the grand interior. On the way back we opted to sit in the expansive beer garden and soak up the summer sun with a perfect 12 degree lager. We also ordered the goulash, which while visually as spectacular as the brewery itself, didn’t quite have the bite you want from a Czech-style goulash. For the lager though, it is hard to find a brewery that rivals it.

bdr