Sunday, October 30, 2016

FC Slovan Liberec –FC Viktoria Plzeň (10-09-2016)

After seeing Slavoj Vyšehrad in the morning I meet up with my friend P. and his son T. and we drive the roughly 110 km north to Liberec, a town in North Bohemia, pretty close to the Polish border. We first go accidentally into the VIP entrance, which does give a beautiful look at the stadium below.

After a 20 minute walk around the stadium, we fall in with the pretty decent crowd, who are enjoying a later summer evening in September by eating and drinking in the many stands outside of the stadium.

The Stadion u Nisy is an old and small stadium with a capacity of just 9,900. We buy tickets for CZK 120 (ca $5) for one of the two stands on the long side of the pitch.

As we enter the stadium we face quite serious security. Just off our entrance the local tifosi are working on their big banners for the game. They have a nice little nook where they can drink and paint.

FC Slovan Liberece was founded in 1958. It was a small team in communist Czechoslovakia but has become one of the most successful teams in the post-communist Czech Republic. Today’s game is against Viktoria Plzen, another well-established team in the Czech First League (currently named liga). The official attendance is 5,600, which seems a bit (too) high. Some 150 fans have made the 210 km trip from Pilsen (Plzen), not that bad for the Czech Republic.

Before kick-off the group of tifosi that we saw earlier unveil a remarkable banner, or better book of banners. They have two banners for each of the last ten seasons and they display them as if it was a book. Very cool!

During the game the group will mainly sing against a smaller group of Slovan fans on the other side of the stadium. At times they will stop their inner-Slovan rivalry to silence the singing of the away supporters, who sing for most of the game too.

There are a few current Czech national team players on the pitch, although that doesn’t say too much, as the Czech national team has almost imploded as much as the Dutch national team. The only player I know is Milan Baroš, possibly one of the most successful Czech players of the last decades, having played for clubs like Liverpool, Lyon, and Galatasaray. I’ve always found him overrated, but now at the ripe age of 35, he is even lazier and slower than ever. In fact, even within a game defined by very poor passing and play, he stands out negatively.

It takes 12 minutes before we have the first shot of Slovan in the direction of the goal, which is slow and roughly 2 meters wide. Ten minutes later Plzeň gets a corner, which is headed out, and rebounded with a beautiful strike from 16 meters that goes into the top left corner with no one to stop him: 0-1. Stunning!

In the 22nd minute they get a free kick, which leads to a soft header at the goalkeeper. Slovan only excels in making extremely stupid fouls all over the pitch. There is roughly one foul a minute. I seldom have seen such bad football at the top level. In the second minute of extra time Slovak gets a hard ball into the penalty box, Baroš is fouled, but gets no penalty. Half time: 0-1.

In the second half Slovak puts a bit more pressure on Viktoria, but there are still many, many (dumb) fouls. In the 54th minute Baroš shoots a free kick just over the goal and almost 15 minutes later another Slovak free kick is headed “just” wide (by the horrifically low standards of this game).

Not that surprisingly, it is Viktoria that scores (again), in the 75th minute, although the way they do it is. After a long attack a hard pass is volleyed with the outside of foot, beautiful! 0-2. The home fans take it relatively easily. I start to think they might have seen worse, although I don’t dare to imagine what that would look like.

The next fifteen minutes the visitors create several more easy chances, but fail to score. As the game has moved into extra time, Slovan finally remembers that it is here to play football. A good through ball is met with a hard finish: 1-2. Too little, too late.

FC Slovan Liberec is an excellent example of a regional team in the top flight, small and cozy stadium with a decent and almost exclusively local crowd, which is involved but not too demanding. It is definitely worth a visit, although the quality of football could be amazingly low.

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