The ultimate guide to the Sunday Derby match between Slovan and Trnava
Peter Sterančák / March 2, 2019
(8 min read)
Sunday 18:00, 3 March 2019. This day and time will probably be remembered by every fan of ŠK Slovan Bratislava – historically the most famous and successful football club in Slovakia. It’s a day when Slovan, after 10 years, will return to the place where the history was written and where his fans feel at home– the iconic Tehelné Pole stadium (a brick field – loosely translated). When the old Tehelné Pole stadium was abandoned by Slovan in the autumn of 2009, there was a lot of hope that the new stadium will soon be built on the place where old one stood. The story of this 10-year-long wait is mostly the story of politics and arguing about who should build the stadium and who should finance it (the state, the city, the club, the football association?). Who will own the stadium? Slovan? The state? The Football Association? These questions still hang upon the newly built stadium like a mist waiting to be dispersed. I will come back to the problem at the end of this article. However, let’s now about football and history first.
Moving back from Pasienky
During the past 10 years, after moving out from the increasingly outdated Tehelné Pole, Slovan moved to the neighbouring stadium Pasienky, right across from Bajkalská street. Pasienky, a multi-purpose stadium with an athletic track around the football pitch, was prior to that mostly known as the home of Slovan’s city rival Inter Bratislava (a club, that, at that time, had had its best years behind and was just about to go bankrupt). Still, it was its multi-purpose character, as well as the fact that it was the home of Inter Bratislava for decades, coupled with its reputation as one of the most ugliest stadiums in Slovakia, that caused a rapid drop of attendance. The avarage attendance of Slovan games settled around 1000 fans per (league) match during the „Pasienky era“. In comparison, the last season of Slovan on Tehelné Pole the avarage attendance was around 5500 fans per match. Slovan played the last competitive match in Pasienky on the 8th of December 2018 against MŠK Žilina (a match between two of the most successful clubs in modern football history in Slovakia). The attendance of the match was 1370 people. You get the idea...
The history of the rivalry of the “Traditional Derby”
When it turned out Slovan will play against FC Spartak Trnava in the opening game, as part of the 21th round of Fortuna liga (the top football division in Slovakia), it became clear that the “homecoming“ would be spectacular. Matches between Slovan and Trnava are known as the oldest and most famous derby matches in Slovakia. The rivalry between the two clubs is both historical and competetive. A history of great games, as well as (unfortunatelly) a history of frequent violent incidents in the recent past. A newly rebuilt stadium in Trnava was finished in 2015 and, so, the continued modernization of football stadiums across Slovakia (a part of the government and football association project) is said to eliminate this negative aspect of the recent past. We need to wait to see if this turns out to be the case.
The full capacity of the new Tehelné pole is 22 500 seats (although a few hundred seats will still not be available due to continued work on the skyscraper intersecting a sector in one corner of the stadium). Once Slovan launched ticket sales back in February, it took only two weeks to sell out all available seats (around 21 000). Historically, the highest attendance in a domestic league in modern Slovakia dates back to the year 1996, when Slovan played against Trnava in Tehelné Pole and there were 22 354 people watching it. So, technically, it cannot be outdone, yet, still, the excitement among Slovan fans is palpable. Slovan managment promises a great show that will start a few hours before the big match. Activities, a musical concert, and a specatcular introduction of great players of Slovan’s history is prepared for fans. The stadium should be one of the most modern in Central Europe with the latest technology in play.
Recent media controversy
Less excited are the fans of FC Spartak Trnava. It seems no derby match between Slovan and Trnava can go without a little media controversy. The latest one was spurred by the management and Ultras of Spartak Trnava about a week ago. They claimed Slovan didn’t secure enough security measures for Trnava fans. Spartak Trnava published a memo in which they criticized the restricted capacity for their sector. They complained that Slovan didn’t give them the mandatory 5% (around 1100) share of tickets for their fans but only 400. On top of that, they said in the memo that the sector for their fans is provocatively placed above home fans and that it’s not properly isolated with transparent plastic wall (as was guaranteed by Slovan) but only with a temporary iron barrier. Spartak fans also stated this was directly orchestrated so that, in case of the slightest sign of provocation, they could be cleared out from their sector by the Slovak police. Both clubs then met again with the police and the managing authority of Fortuna liga (Union of the League Clubs - ÚLK) after which Slovan later released another few hundred tickets for Spartak Trnava fans up to the required 5% of capacity. However, Spartak hard core Ultras decide to boycott the match regardless. As a result, Slovan later gave those tickets to home fans and the Derby will be held without Spartak fans.
Current situation in both clubs
FC Spartak Trnava
Football-wise, the current situation in Fortuna liga favours Slovan as the potential winner of the derby, although, Spartak Trnava is still the current holder of the last title from the previous season. Spartak had a good run in Europa League group, where they finished third only 1 point behind Fenerbahce Istanbul. However, during the winter break, the long-time owner and oligarch Vladimír Póor decided to leave the club after decades of financing and running it. Many journalists say this was mainly because the political situation in Slovakia changed in the last year or so, so he can therefore no longer count on beneficial support of the ruling class. He now moved his financial activities to the Czech Republic and decided to support financially Bohemians Prague instead, another football club with a long history. Póor, however, was not very popular among the fans of Spartak. In fact, during the opening of the newly modernized stadium in Trnava in 2015, he was booed by the full stadium of home fans. Among other things, they taunt him for the ill-conceived and chaotic managment of the club over the years. It’s ironic that he finally left after the season in which Spartak Trnava won the title after decades of trying.
During the winter break, 14 core players left along with the manager, owner and management team. More than 13 players came in and the new management is now trying to sell the club, while still profiting from the generous financial bonus they earned in European competitions last year. The table of Fortuna liga will be divided into two sections after the 22nd round. Top 6 clubs will play in “the group of champions” and the last 6 clubs will play in the less lucrative group for the next 10 rounds, in which it will be decided which clubs will be relegated to the second-tier. Trnava can still secure a position in the top 6 but they need to secure at least 1 point in the derby match to have a real chance. First two games after the winter break, Spartak showed that the huge turbulence inside the club hasn’t weakened the squad. Slovan will need to be aware of the strength of the new Spartak team, with players such as Depetris, Yilmaz, or Grendel.
ŠK Slovan Bratislava
On the other hand, Slovan is in a completely different situation, with a 14 points lead ahead of the second team in the table,FC 1904 DAC Dunajská Streda, and still unbeatable this season. The manager, Martin Ševela, said during the recent press conference before the Derby that they are motivated to finish the season without a single defeat. Many experts say that the current team Ševela manages is the best Slovan had in decades. However, many fans are not happy with the composition of the team. There are only 6 Slovak players (out of 24) currently registered in the first team, and, out of those, only goalkeepers Dominik Greif and Martin Šulla, and still only 17 years-old wonder-kid Dávid Strelec can actually get (more or less regularly) their share of minutes on the pitch. The rest of the players are mainly compiled by Balkan players, although many play for their national team. Worth mentioning is the top scorer Adraž Šporar (17 goals out of 20 matches in Fortuna liga), or Vasiľ Božikov – the captain and a player for the Bulgarian national team.
The owner of Slovan Bratislava, Ivan Kmotrík, is also not popular among Slovan fans. He used to own FC Artmedia Petržálka (another city rival) before he bought Slovan. He is also said to be connected to the ruling class oligarchy in Slovakia. Perhaps, because of that bad image, he delegated his directorial position within the club to his son, Ivan Kmotrík Junior. Kmotrík junior has yet to win the hearts and support of Slovan fans. However, he already made headlines in the media several times last year. First, during the derby match in Trnava last April, he allegedly insulted one of the security guards inside the stadium, as well as getting into a verbal fight during the match with home fans under his VIP box. A month later, he was even investigated by the police after he made the infamous “Heil Hitler” gesture towards the stands, after Slovan won the domestic cup final against MFK Ružomberok (again in Trnava). The hard-core Slovan ultras are infamous for their aggressive behaviour and far-right signs and chants.
However, things are changing even among them. The newly formed fanclub “Slovanista” that replaced the old one seems to be on the good path to eliminate this type of people among themselves. They even tried to negotiate with Spartak fans, in order for them to come to this game on Sunday. In addition, to give credit to the current management as well, it seems that, after years of experimenting, they finally found the right type of players and the right manager in the form of Martin Ševela. He is now the longest serving manager in Slovan in the last 10 years (since October 2017). He is considered to be one of the most progressive managers in Slovakia and predicted to have big future in front of him (he is 43 years-old). Moreover, he is also ex-Slovan player and very popular among Slovan fans.
Controversies around financing the stadium
To quickly get back to the financing of the stadium, it’s important to add some more details. The initial budget for the entire stadium was 75 milion euros. 27,2 milions was projected to be the state investment (read people’s taxes) and the rest would be provided by the investor (Ivan Kmotrík Senior). However, the budget has already been outdone by 10 milion euros (possibly more). The investor admitted to that fact and defended their transparency by explaining that those are additional costs on the part of the contractor Strabag (namely, the wages of the workers that went up), as well as the new UEFA requirements. Some journalists say this miscalculation is a direct failure of management of the investor. It is still not clear who will pay for the additional cost. Another controversial part is an addition on to the contract which was announced later last year that the state can later repurchase the stadium from the investor. This basically means that the state will eventually pay the entire cost for it and Slovan will get the stadium almost for free, should the investor (Ivan Kmotrík senior) decide to do so.
Not to mention that the stadium was supposed to be called National Football Stadium, to suggest the role the Slovak football national team will have on this newly built stadium. However, during the press conference for the opening of the stadium, Slovan announced that, during the home matches of Slovan, the stadium will be called Tehelné Pole. How we are supposed to read this move I don’t know but, in the light of all I mentioned, it is strange, to say the least. The club itself has a reputation of hostility towards journalistic questions of this sort. That is a shame because it clouds the presentable and modern play of its players under current manager Martin Ševela.
The game between ŠK Slovan Bratislava and FC Spartak Trnava starts on Sunday, March 3th, 18:00. Let’s hope it will be a good one.