Power and Motion (FC Dinamo Tbilisi)

When I was a kid, Dinamo Tbilisi were a real European powerhouse, state sponsored by the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs they had some magical players that formed the back bone of the Soviet national team. The likes of Aleksandre Chivadze, David Kipiani, Vitaly Dareselia, Tengiz Sulakveledze and Ramaz Shengelia won many Soviet caps between them and four of them would win Soviet Union Footballer of the year award between 1977 and 1981. Their zenith in European competition was their 1981 Cup Winners Cup Final win over East German side Carl Zeiss Jena. Under respected coach Nodar Akhalkatsi Dinamo had dispatched the likes of Kastoria, Waterford United, West Ham United and Feyenoord before goals from Dareselia and Vladimir Gutsaev saw them triumph, 2-1, in front of a meagre crowd of 4,750 people in Düsseldorf’s Rheinstadion.

From the formation of the Soviet Top League in 1936 to the break up of the Union in 1991, Dinamo were one of only three clubs never to be relegated from the top flight, the others being Dynamo Moscow and Dynamo Kiev. Dinamo Tbilisi’s undoubted star player in those early years was Boris Paichadze who scored over 100 goals for them and was voted Georgia’s greatest player of the 20th century. Dinamo’s home stadium is named after him and his statue stands outside the entrance gates. Incidentally Dinamo or Dynamo as a prefix for football clubs comes from a corruption of Greek (dynamis) and Latin (motio) words for “Power in Motion” and was first coined by the Belgian inventor of the electrical generator, Zenobe Gramme.

Since their 70’s heyday Dinamo continue to produce wonderfully talented players who progress to a bigger stage like Temuri Ketsbaia (Newcastle United), Shota Arvaladze (Rangers), Kaka Kaladze (AC Milan), Georgi Kinkladze (Manchester City) and Levan Kobiashvili who enjoyed an extensive career in the Bundesliga with Freiburg, Schalke and Hertha and is the only Georgian player to date to win 100 international caps.

The Georgian Premier League, now sponsored by Erovnuli, has changed to a spring to autumn season from this season after a mini transitional campaign in 2016. The transitional season reduced the number of clubs in the top tier from 12 to 10. It is interesting to note that during Soviet rule a number of the smaller Tbilisi clubs like Lokomotiv, Tolia, SKIF and the cities’ oldest club, Shevardeni, competed in a separate Georgian League.

We arrived in Tbilisi for the 13th round of games and an enticing looking game against defending champions FC Samtredia, the most westerly located club in the top division. On a rainy evening a small crowd gathers at this vast stadium which can hold 55,000 spectators. Originally Dinamo played at the old Central Stadium which could only accommodate 35,000 so with the club’s golden era of the 1970’s a bigger venue was needed. The Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Dinamo Stadium, built on the same site, was opened in 1976 and designed by architect Gia Kurdiani. It could hold 75,000 people and contemporary reports suggest an attendance of 110,000 watched Dinamo’s epic win over Liverpool in 1979. In 1995 the stadium was renamed in honour of Georgia’s greatest player Boris Paichadze and an international match against Germany that year also reputedly saw 110,000 gather.

In 2006 the stadium was turned into an all-seater arena style stadium with a drastically reduced capacity of 54,549. The stadium looks to have barely 600 people present (although the official gate says 1,200) all are housed in the main stand except for a small band of Dinamo ultras in the far corner who bang drums, light a flare or two and display banners supporting the disputed territory of Abkhazia. About fifteen minutes into the game and the police scurry towards one end of the stadium, suddenly around 50 fans from Samtredia arrive. Sadly a handful of them choose to display an “M13 Ultras” banner with a prominent swastika. Disappointingly there was also no attempt to remove it.

The hosts play with no little swagger in the first half and establish a comfortable looking two goal lead. However, the reigning champions come out for the second half in fighting mood and soon level the scores. However, their good work is undone when the best player on the pitch, Dinamo’s Bachana Arabuli scored in injury time with a truly monumental header. An exciting game in a magnificent stadium, it’s a shame so few pay the 65p required to watch this grand and historic club.

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Sunday May 21st 2017 – Georgia Erovnuli Liga 

Dinamo Tbilisi 3 (Arabuli 26, 90, Lochoshvili 37)

FC Samtredia 2 (Mtchelishvili 63, Datunaishvili 76)

Att: 1,200 (at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena)

Admission: 2 Lei (65p), programme 1 Lei (32p)

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Postcards From Belgrade 2 (Serbian Groundhop 2017)

Following last years pioneering Groudhop to Belgrade a second one was arranged for the first weekend of April 2017 with no less than 45 groundhoppers attending.

The first match on the agenda was the match between Dinamo Vranje and ČSK Celarevo Pivara. Vranje is a city in the Pčinja district of Southern Serbia, just 25 miles from the border with Macedonia and 40 miles from Bulgaria. The club were formed in 1947 and have spent much of their recent history in between the second and third tiers of Serb football. However, as recently as 2013/14 they were in the fourth tier but after two straight promotions they have returned to the Prva Liga. Dinamo play at the Yumco Stadion, Yumco have their HQ next door to the stadium and produce the uniforms for the Serbian military.

The stadium is a quirky two sided affair with separate entrances for both sides meaning you had to leave the stadium and walk round the perimeter to gain access to the open terrace on the far side. What set the ground apart was its location beneath the triple peaks of the Pljačkovica, Krstilovice and Pržar mountains, as initially the sun shone it really was a most beautiful vista.

Prva Liga (07/04/2017)

FK Dinamo Vranje 2 (Djokić 51, Suraka 62)

FK ČSK Pivara 1 (Mezei 89)

Att: c.600 (at Yumco Stadion) Free admission

The footballing offering for Saturday morning was restricted to under 19 matches in the Omladinska Liga. We opted for the game between second placed FK Partizan and league leaders FK Brodarac. They play at the Sports Centre Partizan-Teleoptik in Zemun which is also known as as “Zemunelo”. As well as being Partizan’s training ground it is the home ground of FK Teleoptik who currently lead the third tier Srpska Liga Beograd Zona.

A healthy crowd of almost 400 gather to watch a scintillating performance from Brodarac who win comfortably by four goals to one. Among the crowd was former PSV, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid striker Mateja Kežman who was very friendly and seemed happy to sign autographs and pose for photos.

Omlandiska Liga (08/04/2017, 10am)

FK Partizan U19s 1 (Maksimović 78)
FK Brodarac U19s 4 (Lukić 23,53, Bjelobrk 40, Kojić 66)

Att:397 (at SC Partizan Teleoptik)

The early evening game saw a trip to Stadion Partizan for the match against southern Serbian club Radnik Surdulica. Tension in and around the stadium, despite the modest crowd, was palpable with Red Star ultras apparently trying to steal Partizan flags. The mood wasn’t helped by Radnik taking an unexpected lead early on.

The second half thankfully was less worrying and Partizan almost inevitably came back to win 2-1 thanks to the awarding of a very soft penalty.
Partizan and Red Star have been at loggerheads since both were formed in 1945 after all pre War clubs were formally dissolved. Red Star have won 27 National championships to Partizan’s 26 so you can imagine the intense rivalry between the two on derby day. The Večiti derbi, the Eternal Derby,really is one of Europe’s greatest footballing experiences.

Super Liga (08/04/2017, 5pm)

FK Partizan 2 (Janković 53, Durdević pen 78)

FK Radnik Surdulica 1 (Arsenijević 18)

Att:1,500

On Sunday we could have stayed in Belgrade for the easy option of Grafičar but instead we decided on the derby of Mladenovac! Upon entering the ground of FK Selo Mladenovac you see an old railway carriage which is used as a refreshments bar! On the far side is a pitch length uncovered terrace whose concrete steps have been almost subsumed by weeds and wild flowers. Behind the terrace is the eye catching feature of a disuse mill tower. Behind the dressing rooms is the disused factory of Petar Drapšin which manufactured tanks for the old Eastern bloc countries.

Again the club are most welcoming and insist we don’t pay to get in. The hosts need to defeat OFK Mladenovac to remain in the division and a spirited comeback in the second sees them grab the points with a 4-2 triumph.

1.Beogradska Liga Grupa C (09/04/2017, 10am)

FK Selo Mladenovac 4 (Mitrović 46, Tolić pen 64,74, Vujić 79)

OFK Mladenovac 2 (Arsić 43, Stefanović 84)

Att:79

We headed back to Belgrade for the highly anticipated match between FK Rad and Red Star. We had reserved tickets in the “neutral” sector were charged 700 Serb dinar (£5) instead of the normal 400 dinar. To our surprise the ground was not even half full and our tickets had 400 RSD written on them. The club had charged us 300 dinar per ticket for “reservation” for a game that we could have just walked up to and paid to get in. The poor experience with Rad was compounded by the searches conducted at the gates which saw all manner of items confiscated, the strangest being a packet of mints!

On the pitch zvezda eased to a 4-0 win helped by the referee failing to give Rad a clear penalty with the score at 0-1. The Rad ultras were housed in a section of uncovered terracing behind the goal and had just returned after their racist chanting had seen the club forced to play the previous three home games behind closed doors. Save for the odd bout of vigorous flag waving and a blue smoke bomb the ultras of Rad appeared to be on their best behaviour.

Super Liga (09/11/2017, 5pm)

FK Rad 0

FK Crvena Zvezda 4 (Plavšić 34,70, Ristić 65, Petković 73)

Att:2,000 (at Stadion Kralj Petar I)

With a few of the hoppers staying till Tuesday a bonus opportunity of the Prva Liga match between FK Proleter and FK Indija appeared from the fixture gods. We headed north to the stunning city of Novi Sad in good time for the 15.30pm start.

Arriving unannounced just before kick off at the Stadion Slana Bara (“salty pond”) the FK Proleter president insisted we would be his guests and again free entry was given as well as very welcome cold bottle of Coke or Fanta on a blisteringly hot afternoon.
Both Proleter and Indija have struggled for goals this season and prior to today’s match had both managed to score only 18 goals in twenty matches. A competitive and occasionally feisty encounter saw the hosts win 3-1 in front of 500 people with their third being an absolute peach of a free kick.

Prva Liga (10/04/2017)

FK Proleter Novi Sad 3 (Novaković 26,85, Mirosavljev 56)

FK Indija 1 (Marković 23)

Att:500 (at Stadion Slana Bara)

With grateful thanks to our Serbian friends Aleks Peković, Bodgan Mitrović and Teodora Rebić, Stephen Carpenter and I hope to arrange a third Serbian Groundhop in during the 2017/18 season.

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An extended review of Belgrade Groundhop 2017 will appear in the June 2017 edition of “Football Weekends” magazine. To order your copy please visit http://www.footballweekends.co.uk

 

 

Triumph and Tragedy (Romanian Groundhop 2016)

So after much hard work and promotion by organiser Andrei Otineanu, an ensemble of groundhoppers (11 English, 1 Scottish, 1 German and 1 Dane) flew into Bucharest from all points to gather for this much anticipated event.

After careful planning by our host, the itinerary was to take in seven matches over Friday to Sunday with a decent mix of three top flight games and four lower level matches. Well that was the plan but events would see the schedule torn up and thrown in the bin!

We gathered excitedly at the Ibis hotel adjacent to the preposterously enormous Palatul Parlamentului building. Our welcome packs of English language programmes and pin badges were handed out as we headed of to the first of two Friday evening games.

AS Olimpic Bucharest play at the Energoutilaj Ground in Drumul Bercenarului and currently play in the Fifth League (Bucharest). The ground is located near to Gara Progresul in the southern suburbs of the city. The modest ground lies in the shadow of the huge Statie de Betoane cement factory. The eye-catching stand is the on the right as you enter and is a decent size if a little difficult to ascend into! The pitch is noticeably poor, rutted and grassless in places and patches of mushrooms proliferate on the surface.

As an amateur ground it has everything and we witness a surprisingly skilful game given the awful playing surface. The visitors were 3-2 ahead when, having used all their substitutes at half time, three outfield players had to leave the game with various injuries leaving them reduced to just eight players. Weight of numbers told and Olimpic took full advantage scoring two late goals to seal the victory.

Friday May 6th 2016, 17.00 pm – Bucharest 5th League

AS Olimpic Bucharest 4 (Buscó 40, Cristeo 56, Mihacoche 82, Calin 84)
Benfica Noua Generatie 3 (Smarande 26, 63, Stoianis 54)

Att: 44 (at Energoutilaj Ground)

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After a hasty but excellent kebab from Calif, it is time for the second game of the evening and it’s the 20.30pm kick off for the top division play-off match between FC Dinamo and FC Viitorul Constanta. The match resulted in the tragic death of Dinamo midfielder Patrick Ekeng from a cardiac arrest, more of which can be read here: https://peterrmiles.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/when-football-cries-again-fc-dinamo-bucharest/

The morning saw the party gather in the reception of the hotel as we desperately waited for news of the fate of the weekend’s planned matches. A distraught Andrei continuously punched refresh on his phone internet browser as the very real prospect of a blanket cancellation of all matches loomed. Plans were hatched to, if necessary, dash over the border with Bulgaria to potentially take in matches in the border towns of Ruse and Svishtov. However, the consensus, in the absence of any news, was to head over to the National Stadium for some photos while a decision was made. En route the news came through that the National Leagues matches were cancelled as a mark of respect which meant we would not be visiting Concordia Chiajna and FC Voluntari. A great shame but the good news was that the lower leagues were allowed to make their own decision on cancellations and thankfully the Bucharest FA agreed games should proceed but with a minutes silence as a mark of respect to the fallen player.

While we were not allowed access to the National Stadium despite an open gate we enjoyed catching half an hour or so of a youth team match on the quirky Electroaparataj Ground between CS6 and Automatica.

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We then had time to look at the photogenic stepped street of Strada Xenofon before heading to the first match of the day at Progresul.

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Progresul Bucharest were formed in 1944 as BNR Bucharest a team from the banking industry. This gives rise to one of their nicknames of the “Bankers” but I have to say I prefer “Cavalerii frunzei de platan” which translates as “The Knights of the Sycamore Leaf”! Their history is steeped in success including 32 seasons of top flight football. However in 2009 it all came crashing down as the club went into financial meltdown and were evicted from their Cotroceni Stadium home due to unpaid rent. Worse was to follow as they were forcibly relegated to the fourth level by the Romanian FA.

Normally the club play at spartan Viitorul Ground in the shadow of the National Stadium but as May 10th marks the club formation date they have hired the superior Electromagnetica Ground normally used by the reserve side of Rapid Bucharest. It is a quite magnificent venue with a stylish concrete stand painted in a dusty pink colour. There is an enormous and blue wooden scoreboard, erected in 1939, in one corner, and adjacent to this the venue has its own chicken coop. Well why wouldn’t it! Since their enforced demotion Progresul have become something of hipster club and attract a modest band of ultras who back the team for the whole game and periodically release blue smoke bombs and flares. It’s a great atmosphere for such a modest level and the home team do their bit by easing to a comfortable 2-0 success against AS Termo.

Saturday May 7th 2016, 13.00 pm – Bucharest 4th League

FC Progresul 2 (Sidek pen 45, Nias 61)
AS Termo 0

Att: 132 (at Electromagnetica Ground)

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A hearty late lunch of chicken soup and mititei was enjoyed with some tasty unfiltered local brews at the excellent Nenea Iancu restaurant in Strada Covaci.

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The next stop is at Stadionul Biruinta, home of Venus Bucharest, a 2014 reformation of a famous name in Romanian football. The original club we formed in 1914 and were known as Negrii (The Blacks) because of their distinctive all black kit which featured a white eight pointed star as a badge. Venus were the most successful club in Romania winning eight championships before being dissolved by the Communist government in 1949. They played at the legendary Venus Stadium between 1931 and the clubs dissolution. The stadium was demolished in 1953. A bunch of enthusiasts wanted to bring football back to the district of Venus and the only pitch in the area was the former training ground of Juventus Bucharest. This was spruced up with a new clubhouse which is now festooned with a myriad of scarves and pennants from clubs across the world. The players change in a small building in the far corner of the ground adjacent to an indoor tennis centre. The Biruinta ground has three metal bleacher style stands on one side which unfortunately have no roofs.

The visitors for this Fourth League encounter rejoice in the name ACS Lucky Sport Management, but there it nothing fortunate about their victory as they easily dismantle the hosts on another very suspect pitch.

Saturday May 7th 2016, 18.00 pm – Bucharest 4th League

FC Venus Bucharest 0
ACS Lucky Sports Management 3 (Gheorghe 21, Militaru pen 37, C.Achim 60)

Att: 38 (at Stadionul Biruinta)

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Our evening meal is at a traditional Romanian eatery of Pub Horezu in Bulevardul Pache Protopopescu. The food is just superb, especially the creamy doughnut dessert.

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Sunday has been reduced to just the 17.30pm match at ASF Fratia so there is plenty of free time in the morning and I opt to wander the streets of the old town area with Stephen and Andrew.

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Then the whole group gathers for a quick visit to the incredible Giulest-Valentin Stanescu Stadium, home of Rapid Bucharest.

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Nenea Iancu was the venue for lunch once again before we headed to Fratia.

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Ah Fratia, what can you say about this place? Located behind a disused factory the ground is epically rudimentary. It can really only be accessed by walking across a field of cabbages for around half a mile! The club are welcoming as any I have ever experienced. The concept of the club was to provide a home for players that could not get a game anywhere else. They are coached by a Congolese man, Aime Lema, and famously have a one armed goalkeeper, Tudorel Mihailescu, a life affirming character whose battle to live out his dream to play football has been featured in the New York Times.

Today is Tudorel’s 50th birthday and the venue is in celebratory mood. Herve Phanzu gives the hosts an early lead against Progresul Spartac but it is a close encounter and victory is not secured until skipper Daniel Sebanescu stabs in a second amid joyous scenes of celebration, so much so he actually injures himself and has to limp off!

The Fratia-Vulcan ground is just amazing, plastic bags and assorted underwear are used for corner flags, a massive scoreboard sits unloved in one corner and a multi coloured bleacher style stand creeks alarmingly under the weight of spectators. If you want to see the real Romania it is encapsulated in this one glorious place.

Sunday May 8th 2016, 17.30 pm – Bucharest 5th League

ASF Fratia 2 (Phanzu 23, Sebanescu 85)
Progesul Spartac 0

Att: 70 (at Fratia-Vulcan Ground)

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Another fabulous meal at Pub Horezu completes the day and as dawn breaks it is time to head off to Otopeni airport for the flight home.

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What an epic weekend organised so well by young Andrei who hopes to base his university thesis on this weekend, be sure to follow the Romanian Groudhopper and #BucharestGH across all forms of social media.

When Football Cries (Again) – (FC Dinamo Bucharest)

(In memory of Patrick Ekeng Ekeng)

FC Dinamo București were formed in May 1948 and have since become one of Romania’s most successful clubs winning 18 national titles and 13 Romanian cups. The formation was the result of a merger between Unirea Tricolor București and Ciocanul București, a merger coerced by the Interior Affairs Ministry.

The club moved to the present stadium in 1951 with the inaugural match taking place against Locomotiva Timișoara. While sporadic renovation has occurred invariably funding issues have seen few projects fully realised. Cosmetic improvements like new floodlights in 2001 and more recently a modern LED scoreboard have given the old ground a fresher feel although the capacity remains a modest 15,000. There are plans to rebuild it into a modern arena style stadium but as the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly several of the clubs’ bigger matches have been staged at the National Stadium. Since 2015 FC Voluntari have groundshared with Dinamo as they look to replace their ageing Stadionul Anghel Iordansecu in the north east of the city.

The Dinamo Stadium has the unfortunate nickname of Groapa which translates as “the Hole”, not a reflection of the facilities, but due to the fact that the ground was dug out to fit the stands into a bowl rather than raising the stands vertically.

Dinamo’s golden era was undoubtedly the 1970’s and 80’s when they annexed eight of their League titles and enjoyed considerable success in European competition. Their zenith in Europe came in the 1982/83 season when they defeated Kuusysi Lahti of Finland, Hamburg SV and Dinamo Minsk on the way to a semi-final defeat to eventual winners Liverpool.

Tonight’s game is one in a baffling series of play off matches for European places and sees Dinamo draw 3-3 with FC Viitorul Constanța.

The reason for the relatively short mention of the match is the result was very much immaterial because in the 70th minute of the match Dinamo’s Cameroonian international midfielder Patrick Ekeng Ekeng, who had been on the pitch barely seven minutes, keeled over backwards with nobody else near him. While concern was immediate amongst players action from medical staff was appallingly inept. There appeared to be two ambulances at the stadium and these were stationed at the north end of the stadium behind a gate that appeared to be locked. Vital time was lost as a steward battled to open the gate. Once the ambulance headed to the pitch a white suited doctor with a case ran on from the same end like some sort of keystone cop. The prone player was attended to for some minutes but I saw no defribulator engaged and not even heart massage appeared to be performed. Ekeng was rushed to Floreasca hospital which was just minutes away but was tragically pronounced dead some two hours later. Unbelievably the match continued to a conclusion with players from both teams visibly distraught with the severity of what they had seen.

A subsequent police inquest has already revealed inconsistencies in the stories of the ambulance doctor, Dinamo’s club doctor, the hospital spokesman and the official match observer, Vasele Marcel, who has astonishingly already stated he does not even know what a defribulator is. The truth must come out and those found criminally negligent must stand trial for their actions on this fateful night.

The private company contracted to provide ambulance and medical services to Dinamo have been suspended from trading and find them $6,000 after checks revealed their ambulances had defribulators with uncharged batteries and hopelessly out of date medical supplies. Ekeng’s agent Hasan Anil Eken is adamant he knows that none of the ambulances on duty at the stadium was equipped with a defribulator.

With sudden heart defects seemingly increasingly prevalent in young fit athletes there must be action taken. FIFPRO, the world union for professional players has openly criticised Romania for “skimping on medical care” for players in the past. Indeed Dinamo themselves have seen a similar tragedy as recently as 2000 when their captain, Cătălin Hîldan, collapsed and died of a heart attack at the age of 24 during a game against FC Oltenița. Only four years ago 21 year old Nigerian player Henry Chinonso Ihelewere, sufgered a similar fair when he died during a game between his side CS Delta Tulcea and FC Balotesti. The Romanian professional players union, AFAN, tried to get a deal passed where clubs would have state of the art medical resources at every game for as little as €400 per game but clubs evidently decided against the proposal.

In the light of this latest, and I am convinced utterly preventable tragedy, I believe it should be mandatory for the issue of any professional operating licence to a football club for them to prove that they have appropriate medical screening and emergency contingencies in place for all matches. I don’t ever want to witness this happening again and it’s time for football to stop crying about these tragic events and enforce measures to fix it. That’s the least this cash rich sport owes the likes of Patrick Ekeng Ekeng.

Sleep well Indomitable Lion Ekeng.

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Friday May 6th 2016 – Romanian First League Play-Off

Dinamo Bucharest (1) 3 (Gnohere 8, pen 49, Rotariu 55)
FC Viitorul Constanța (2) 3 (Marin 10, Tanese pen 34, Matan pen 84)

Attendance: 2,881 (at Dinamo Stadium)

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Dinamo ticket

Tributes to Patrick Ekeng
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Maximising Maksimir (Dinamo Zagreb)

Građanski Nogometni Klub Dinamo Zagreb were formed in June 1945 and have won the Croatian Prva Liga championship for the last nine consecutive seasons. Interestingly the club are a “corporate personhood” which means there are no shareholders and they are a not-for- profit organisation. The club have played at the legendary Maksimir Stadium since 1949 after the old stadium had been rebuilt. Dinamo’s first game at the Maksimir took place on November 19th 1949 against FK Partizan Beograd.

Originally opened in May 1912 the stadium is opposite the urban park of the same name. The Maksimir’s original tenants were a club called HAŠK. This club and their cross town rivals, HŠK Građanski Zagreb, were both disbanded by a decree issued by the communist authorities. The new Dinamo club initially took over Građanski’s Stadion Koturaška for three seasons before moving into the rebuilt Maksimir.

The Maksimir’s original orientation had a horseshoe shaped stand around three sides of the pitch and small grandstand on the north side. In May 1941 a fascist government representative from the Independent State of Croatia addressed a large gathering of students from Zagreb. He ordered that the Croats, Serbs and Jews should be segregated from each other. The students refused his orders and with in days enraged youths burnt the Maksimir to the ground. The incident was turned into a motion picture called “Operation Stadium”.

Croat architects Vladimir Turina and Franjo Neidhard were engaged to rebuild the whole venue again and provide a capacity of 60,000. Improvements continued periodically, the new north stand was opened in 1955 and six years later the east stand was built. In July 1973 a match against NK Osijek attracted an all time record gate to the Maksimir of 64,138.

In May 1990 Dinamo Zagreb hosted Red Star Belgrade in a Yugoslavian League match. The build up to the game was shrouded in ethnic tensions and some 3,000 Delije (Red Star’s ultras group), led by Željko Ražnatović (later known as the warlord “Arkan”), made the trip north from Belgrade. Dinamo’s ultra group the Bad Blue Boys were also out in force and began stoning the Delije. The Serbs retaliated with nationalist chants like “Zagreb is Serbian” and “We’ll kill Tuđman”. The pitch was engulfed with fighting supporters. Red Star’s players returned to the dressing rooms but Dinamo’s remained on the pitch. Dinamo’s star player and captain Zvonimir Boban kicked a police officer who was seen attacking an innocent Dinamo fan. The game is generally cited as one of the major flashpoints in the build up to the horrendous Balkan War and the break up of the old Yugoslavia.

The current stadium dates from 1997 and the old north stand was replaced by the present one a year later. In 2008 there was a competition held to find a design for a new national stadium in the Kajzerica area of the city. The plan was to demolish the old Maksimir Stadium and replace it with a state of the art home for the Croatian national team as well as Croatia’s biggest club. The contest was won by architect Hrvoje Njirić whose stunning “Blue Volcano” design was widely lauded. The problem for the new project was funding and in 2011 the municipality spent a fortune, which proved to be a considerable strain on public resources, on upgrading the Maksimir. Undersoil heating and irrigation systems were installed and all surfaces were painted blue. Every seat in the stadium was also replaced. The Blue Volcano project was officially shelved in October 2012 when even a referendum to decide on staying at the Maksimir or moving to Kajzerica could not be organised effectively.

While Dinamo continue to dominate the domestic scene they have struggled for success in Europe. In this season’s qualification for the Champions League Dinamo easily beat Žalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania but surprisingly lost 2-1 on aggregate to Denmark’s AaB Aalborg. This saw the Croatians shunted into the Europa League and a group consisting of Celtic, the Romanian club Astra Giurgiu and tonight’s opponents FC Red Bull Salzburg. Having lost their last group game 4-2 in Salzburg, Dinamo were keen to celebrate their 100th European match with a win in the Maksimir.

Despite their best laid plans Salzburg took the lead through the impressive Jonathan Soriano and when Kevin Kampl doubled the lead the hosts lack of adventure seemed to hold them back. Even though Henriquez immediately reduced Dinamo’s arrears it was not to be and the Austrian’s cruised to an easy win. Soriano would score a hat-trick of real quality although Salzburg’s fourth and fifth goals were borne out of some shambolic defending by Dinamo. Even though it was a historic occasion the ground was less than a third full and the ultras group Bad Blue Boys were few in number. There has been a dispute between the club’s hierarchy and the ultras since 2010 which has seen periodic boycotting of matches. Interestingly the BBB have their own megastore in a unit at the stadium.

An iconic name in European football the Maksimir deserves full houses and great European nights, something the current team is failing to provide.

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Thursday November 6th 2014 – Europa League Group D

GNK Dinamo Zagreb (0) 1 (Henriquez 60)

FC Red Bull Salzburg (1) 5 (Soriano 40,64,85, Kampl 59, Bruno 72)

Attendance: 10,769 (at Stadion Maksimir)

Dinamo:

34. Eduardo Carvalho, 6. Ivo Pinto, 5. Jozo Šimunović, 87. Jérémy Taravel, 3. Luis Ibáñez, 16. Arijan Ademi, 77. Marcelo Brozović, 8. Domagoj Antolić ©, 2. El Arbi Soudani, 90. Duje Čop, 9. Ángelo Henriquez.

Subs: 1. Antonijo Ježina, 7. Franko Andrijašević (for 8, 69 mins), 11. Junior Fernandes (for 90, 61 mins), 19. Josip Pivarić, 22. Leonardo Sigali, 28. Wilson Eduardo, 55. Ognjen Vukojević.

Salzburg:

1. Péter Gulacsi, 4. Peter Ankersen, 5. André Ramalho, 36. Martin Hinteregger, 17. Andreas Ulmer, 44. Kevin Kampl, 13. Stefan Ilsanker, 8. Naby Keita, 24. Christoph Leitgeb, 26. Jonathan Soriano ©, 7. Marcel Sabitzer.

Subs: 33. Alexander Walke, 2. Benno Schmitz, 15. Franz Schiemer (for 36, 88 mins), 41. Konrad Laimer (for 8, 77 mins), 45. Duje Ćaleta-Car, 77. Massimo Bruno (for 7, 31 mins).

Yellow Cards: Pinto, Brozović, Ademi, Šimunović (all Dinamo); Ilsanker, Ulmer, Laimer (all Salzburg)

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Dinamo