Stick a fork in I’m done with 2018/19

Here is a review of my itinerant football watching during the 2018/19 campaign.

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Total Matches Attended: 280

New Grounds Visited: 202

Total Goals Scored: 1,147 (Average of 4.10 goals per game, up on 3.81 last season, I saw seven 0-0 draws this season)

Biggest Win: Bestwood Miners Welfare 15 NG Vikings 0

Biggest Crowd: 59,903 West Ham United v Liverpool

Grounds Abroad: 49 (Romania 12, Serbia 12, Germany 11, Greece 3, Iceland 3, Italy 3, Bosnia 1, Bulgaria 1, Gibraltar 1, Netherlands 1, San Marino 1)

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BEST GROUNDS VISITED IN THE UK IN 2018/19

1.THE STANKS


An amateur pitch marked out on a rough piece of grass against the Elizabethan fortified walls of Berwick-upon-Tweed. If it was good enough for L.S.Lowry to draw then it’s good enough for me. An absolute bucket list footballing experience.
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2. HOPEMAN – Sea Park
The Moray Welfare League is a summer competition played on parched pitches across the Morayshire region. Hopeman play on a pitch adjacent to the sea and harbour and the view from up on the hill towards the High Street is just stunning. Sea Park should be a new entry on anyone’s iconic football venues list.
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3. FORRES MECHANICS – Mosset Park

A sturdy main stand, ample banking around the rest of the ground. One of the best grounds in a league full of decent venues.

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4.KILSYTH RANGERS– Duncansfield Park

Huge covered terrace on one side and sweeping curves of terrace around the rest of the ground. To cap it all there is player’s tunnel that goes under the terracing before rising up to pitch level. Steadfastly Junior and all power to its elbow.

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5.ELGIN CITY– Borough Briggs

A traditional old ground completing a strong Scottish bias to this season’s awards list. Magically old school and seeming untouched by the rampant need to modernise.

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BEST GROUNDS VISITED ABROAD IN 2018/19

1.BOLOGNA – Stadio Renato Dall’Ara

Just an incredible footballing amphitheatre. Built in the 1920’s with so many amazing architectural features from the Littoral, the cover walkway on the open side of the ground to Nervi’s masterpiece tower. Despite a fairly recent revamping for the 1990 World Cup, it would seem the owners, the City of Bologna, are keen to modernise it further, you would trust the traditional features are retained but who knows?

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2.RHEYDTER SV – Jahnstadion

When you get to hear that an old school stadium is to soon be “modernised” you experience two emotions. One is the pang of sadness of another lost playground and then that’s superseded by the urge to go and see it as it is before the “improvements” destroy the essential character. The Jahnstadion will have its 20,000 capacity terracing removed in its entirety and just a revamped grandstand will be left. Work is scheduled to start on this latest act of social vandalism in early 2020, be warned!

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3.ASC OLIMPIC ZARNESTI – Stadion Celuloza

Dramatic mountain setting, ancient wooden stand somehow held together for more than 80 years and a bright red pavilion. Just a stunning place to watch football.

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4.FK ŽAK KIKINDA – Stadion ŽAK

Features a big old grandstand and a perimeter wall made from about a million roof tiles stood on their ends. An indescribably good football ground.

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5.ALTONA ‘93 – Adolf Jäger Kampfbahn

One of the oldest remaining stadiums in Germany, perfect in every way. Coupled with a great fan scene, this a must do venue before their muted plans to move come to fruition.

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BEST PROGRAMMES BOUGHT IN 2018/19

(based on status, resources, effort and originality)

1. Clapton Community FC

Clapton CFC

2.Lower Breck

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3. St. Helens Town

St Helens

4. Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth

5. Steeton

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BEST FOOD IN 2018/19

  1. Curry (Queens Park Crescents)

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2. Scouse (Litherland REMYCA)

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3. Jerk Chicken (Enfield Borough)

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Notes From A Small Island 4 (Anglesey)

The Island Games are a biennial multi sport festival held to encourage sporting development among tiny islands, peninsulas and archipelagos. From the initial event in the Isle of Man where 15 islands entered the event has become increasingly popular with the most recent staging being in Gotland in 2017. There were 2,500 athletes representing 23 islands across 14 sports on Sweden’s largest island.

The 18th Island Games were awarded to Gibraltar and it meant a severe logistical problem given that the peninsula’s only major sporting facility, the Victoria Stadium, would be earmarked for track and field athletics. This meant for the first time since 1989 there would be no football tournament at the Island Games, cycling and volleyball would also miss out for the first time.

The decision to omit football was particularly controversial as its one of the major and most popular of the attractions. Into the breach stepped prospective 2025 Island Games hosts, Ynys Môn (Anglesey) who offered to stage a football tournament run on similar lines to the Island Games. In addition to the hosts a further nine islands agreed to send a mans team and six would send womens squads to what was dubbed the Inter-Islands Games. An oddity of this event is Gibraltar sending a womens team to the event but being unable to field a mens team due to their membership of UEFA.

Eleven football grounds of varying sizes and facilities were selected as host venues including some from very small communities like Aberffraw FC from the tiny village of Tŷ Croes and Bro Goronwy FC from the north east coastal village of Moelfre, home to barely 1,000 inhabitants.

Some interesting tweaks on the normal rules were announced for this event. Drawn group games would be settled on penalties as a means to separate teams in the eventuality of two having identical records. Entrants were allowed to make five substitutions but in an attempt to speed up potentially ten changes per game, teams had to make them in batches up to five (eg a triple substitution then two single substitutions).

Having already enjoy games at six of the eleven host grounds I decided to baulk on the crazy early start needed to make the 11am Jersey v Orkney opener at Llangefni Town’s excellent Cae Bob Parry. Instead my first action of this tournament would be a special one as it marked the international debut of a representative team from the south Atlantic island nation of St.Helena. It’s a British Overseas Territory and incorporates the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha as well. The population of 4,500 people is one of the remotest in the world and only got a commercial airport as recently as 2017!

Cae Cynlas is a fairly basic ground with a railed off pitch and a spare dugout pressed into service as a small area of cover but it’s not needed as pre-match rain drifts off in the opposite direction. With around 50 St Helena fans present there is a good, colourful vibe to the place but the Shetlands, Island Games veterans and winners of the tournament at their own games in 2005, are in no mood to roll over for the far flung debutants. The Shetland side are limited in numbers due to injuries but are no match for St Helena, the Atlantic islanders struggling to deal with the physicality and the strong buffeting wind. The Scots win 6-1 although Ronan Legg has the honour of scoring St. Helena’s first ever international goal from the penalty spot. There are nearly 500 people watching and there is mayhem outside with cars parked everywhere, Tŷ Groes will have never seen the like before!

Sunday June 16th 2019 2pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Shetland 6 (Leask 12,17, Bradley 25, Arthur 27,85, Smith 45)
St.Helena 1 (Legg pen 36)

Att:462 (at Aberffraw FC)

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The next game is at the main stadium in the island capital of Holyhead. Intriguingly the old Holyhead Hotspur is still in decent condition despite being vacated in 2007 for the New Oval next door. Evidently the old ground is still used for local matches. The place is busy with the hosts, Ynys Môn, making their entry into the tournament with a game against another Scottish entrant, the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides). It’s a much tighter game with the hosts enjoying a larger portion of the possession but it’s the Western Islanders that silence the crowd with the opening goal on the stroke of halftime. The forecast rain duly arrives and it’s standing room only in the main stand and the covered stand, repurposed from a Stena Line gangway, it also full as over a 1,000 people try in vain to stay dry. Ynys Môn come good in the second half and while some speed off to make the tight kick off time at Cemaes Bay, the majority of the crowd at Holyhead go home happy.

Sunday June 16th 2019 5pm – Inter-Island Games Group A

Ynys Mon 2 (McGinness 60, Morris 67)
Western Isles 1 (L.Mackay 45)

Att: 1,025 (at Holyhead Hotspur FC)

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Most of the arrivals from Holyhead just about make kick off thanks to Cemaes Bay prudently opening a field adjacent to the School Lane ground for parking. The rain has now reached monsoon proportions as Channel Islanders take on Hitra, an island archipelago off the west coast of Norway.

Few Welsh clubs can have fallen as far as Cemaes Bay. Although football started in the north coast town in 1870, the current club started life in 1976 and played at a ground on the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station for much of the time, except for a short period in 1980, at a ground next to the Gadlys Hotel. The move to School Lane in 1988 coincided with a period of heavy investment as the club moved from the Anglesey League to winning the Welsh Alliance in 1993 and the Cymru Alliance in 1995. The latter resulted in an historic promotion to the Welsh Premier League. After two seasons the finance was pulled and by 2005 the club had been relegated to the Gwynedd League. After a short period in abeyance the club went full circle and rejoined the Anglesey League for the 2018/19 season.

Despite the appalling weather Alderney and Hitra put on a highly entertaining match in front of a doubtless weather effected crowd of slightly over 200. It’s a fine, if a little soggy end, to an excellent days entertainment.

Sunday June 16th 2019 7.30pm – Inter-Island Games Group B

Alderney 2 (Benfield 26, J. Concanen 67)
Hitra 4 (Kvakland 24, Jorgensen 27, Hansen 45, Johansen 74)

Att:206 (at Cemaes Bay FC)

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With the first game of day two not scheduled to 3.30pm there is plenty of time to see some of the beguiling sights of this stunning little island. From Beaumaris Castle in the east to South Stack lighthouse there really is something for everyone here. Thankfully the rain had relented but it was still very windy.

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IMG_5859Cliff side church at Llanbadrig

IMG_5855Headland at Bull Bay

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IMG_5857Benllech beach

IMG_0115Beaumaris Castle

IMG_0122Menai Bridge

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The afternoon game is a Bodedern Athletic’s compact Cae Tŷ Cristion ground. This club took over from the old disbanded CPD Bodedern in 2007, initially playing at Cae’r Ysgol until securing a return to Bodedern’s traditional ground at Tŷ Cristion. The new Bodedern club have risen quickly to the Welsh Alliance Division One and finished runners up to Llangefni Town this season.

It’s another tight game as Guernsey take on an injury depleted Shetland team. Guernsey take a 2-0 lead before halftime, bizarrely the fourth game running where a goal was scored in the 45th minute. Shetland pulled one back with a rebound from a saved penalty kick but it wasn’t to be for the North Sea team.

Monday June 17th 2019 3.30 pm – Inter-Island Games Group C

Guernsey 2 (Marsh 21, Hall 45)
Shetland 1 (Leask 52)

Att:208 (at Bodedern Athletic FC)

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So with just a two day taste of the tournament it was a massive thumbs up to the organisers. Everything ran like clockwork and there was enough volunteers to cater for the crowds. The tournament programme was excellent and informative at £3. Only wished I could have stayed a little longer. Roll on Guernsey 2021, Orkneys 2023 and, all being well, Anglesey in 2025, they would deserve it on this showing.

Island Games Programme

Rheydt On Time (Rheydter SV)

Rheydter Spielverein (pronounced Ride-ter) were formed in 1905 by members of the Rheydter Turnverein, a gymnastics club formed in 1847. The gymnastics club refused to diverge into football so a separate club was formed which nowadays not only maintains a football club it has handball, tennis, table tennis and hockey sections. Within three years of forming the club had won the Rheinisch-Westfälische district league.

The club are based in the outskirts of Mönchengladbach and have played at the incredible Jahnstadion since September 1922. During its heyday, following expansion in 1947, the stadium could accommodate 40,000 spectators. In 1950 Rheydter had reached the top level of German football, the Oberliga West, and enjoyed a further season at that level in 1954.

The club steadily declined from this heady zenith and the Jahnstadion grew older in the way only football stadiums can. The terraces began crumbling and became overgrown with moss and other vegetation. At one end of the ground the war memorial with the names of fifty odd lost sons grew a little more faded. The only cosmetic change to it came in the mid 1990’s when RSV acquired the scoreboard from Borussia’s old Bökelberg Stadion and it was sited on the opposite end to the memorial. Times grew tougher for RSV and they eventually sold the scoreboard back to Borussia so it could be used by their second team whose home games are played in the Grenzlandstadion, an athletics stadium next to the Jahnstadion. It still has vintage floodlights which emit a strangely ethereal greeny/orange glow and look like it they would fry anything that happens to fly too close to them.

RSV last played at level five of German football in season 2002/03 when a sixteen season stay in the now obsolete Oberliga Nordrhein ended in a bottom place finish. More recently the club has been toling away in the murky depths of the Bezirksliga, the seventh level of German football. With home games rarely in three figures these days the local authorities have decided there is no longer a need for such a vast stadium in Rheydt, albeit these days with a reduced capacity of 20,000. The plan is to renovate the main stand and effectively have a one sided ground with all the terracing removed. This will make space for two full size artificial pitches for the club which will see new revenue streams open up.

While it was initially stated the work would begin at the end of the 2018/19 season the club have been told they will be staying put at least until the end of 2019. So if you want to see this magnificent relic before it’s substantial reduced in size and appeal make sure you visit before Christmas. For an old stadium romantic like me the planned downsizing will be an act of social vandalism, terracing is as elemental to a grandstand as the sun is to rain.

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Friday May 17th 2019 – Bezirksliga Niederrhein Gruppe 3

Rheydter SV 2 (Berberoglu 24, Haklaj 58)
SV Schwafheim 3 (Boyacilar 40, Derikx pen 70, Hilla 71)

Att:138 (at RSV-Stadion)

Entry €5, free programme

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Rheydter prog

Hunter Of The Lost Pennies (Altona ’93)

The Adolf-Jäger-Kampfbahn was opened in Griegstraße in August 1908, just three years after Germany’s oldest stadium, the Waldau-Stadion home of Stuttgarter Kickers. The club were formed in 1893 as Altonaer Cricket Club and were Northern German champions in 1909 and 1914. They played continuously in Germany’s top level from 1918 to the end of the Second World War. The Third Reich then reorganised German football into 16 regional Gauligas.

The 50’s and 60’s were something of a heyday for the club, playing in the then top tier Oberliga Nord. They would finish third in the league in 1953/4 and 1957/8 as well as being DFB Pokal semi-finalists in 1954/55 and 1963/64 losing to Karlsrüher and TSV 1860 München. 1860 needed extra time to defeat Altona, in a match that drew 15,000 to the AJK. These days the Kampfbahn can still accommodate 8,000 people, even with one end partitioned off with new fencing. In more recent years Altona have been coming and going between the fourth and firth tiers. Currently the first team compete in the fifth tier, Oberliga Hamburg.

Once inside, the stadium is just glorious. Massive open terracing which extends well past the goal line attesting to the running track that once surrounded the pitch. The grandstand is huge and looks better for the seating acquired from the old Volksparkstadion in 2001. The players’ tunnel has a floral tribute to Adolf Jäger, Altona’s most famous player. He played for them between 1907 and 1927 and was reputed to have scored over 2,000 goals in his career, which saw him win 16 international caps for Germany. He was 55 when he was killed in Hamburg in 1944 working for bomb sweeping in the city.

The AJK is about a ten minute walk from Bahrenfeld S-Bahn station which itself is bedecked in images from Altona ‘93’s long history. In the well known fan bar adjacent was Jan Stöver, a key mover in Altona’s link up with Dulwich Hamlet, who were also formed in 1893, and editor of their excellent fanzine, “All to Nah”, some editions of which are solely in English. Jan has also done a historical fanzine, which is in German, called “Jäger der verlorenen pfennigs“. This is a clever play on words for the fact that the designer of the iconic German coin, the pfennig, was also called Adolf Jäger.

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Tonight’s game is Altona’s second team in seventh level Bezirksliga Süd action against SV Wilhelmsburg, and costs just €2 for entry. The game is quite remarkable as Altona II, resplendent in their iconic white, black and red kit, race into a 5-2 lead and look totally dominant when the visitors are reduced to ten men. They then start playing considerably better and promptly rattle in three goals to share the spoils in a remarkable 5-5 draw! The open terrace has a veranda for Altona’s ultras group the “Maniacs” even though they are small in number as it’s a reserve game they still create a decent atmosphere. As expected the sausages are top notch.

In 2016 Altona announced plans for a new stadium in nearby Diebsteich, but while this has yet to get off the drawing board, a visit to the AJK is highly recommended for any groundhopper worth their salt!

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Friday April 5th 2019 – Bezirksliga Süd

Altona ‘93 II 5 (Sachs 13,20, Lipke 39, pen 69, Demiral 43)
SV Wilhelmsburg 5 (Kirchner 48, Greff 63, Rejmanowski 85, Pohlmann 89,90+2)

Att: 85 (at Adolf- Jäger- Kampfbahn)

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Fang Tales of Tran Sylvania (Football In Heaven 3)

After two highly successful organised “Football In Heaven” trips to his home province of Bucovina, Romanian journalist Emanuel Roșu decided to branch out a little further into central Romania for his third expedition. The destination captured the imagination of even more attendees this time, as a total of 37 people from serious photographers, to serious groundhoppers to serious beer drinkers all descended on Sibiu for the first ever organised groundhop in Transylvania!

To access the impact the previous trips have had you only have to take a look at the different nationalities turning up for this tour. As well as the usual healthy contingent of Brits, there were seven Norwegians, two Frenchmen, a Dane, a Belgian and a Pole, a united nations of enthusiasts in search of a healthy balance of football, culture and Dracula!

After arriving late the previous night what immediately strikes you about Sibiu, as dawn escapes through shutters and blinds, is that it really is an extremely pleasant city. Straddling the River Cibin, it has an obvious Germanic influence and is still referred to as Hermannstadt on occasion. Originally a Roman settlement, it was refounded in the 13th Century by Saxon settlers. Subsequently Sibiu fell into the hands of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. A tempestuous history has given way to a peaceful, clean and architecturally important cultural city.

Sibiu

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Normally there would be no games on a Thursday but with Emi’s negotiating skills the Sibiu County FA president, Traian Marcu, had a game moved to an early evening slot just for us.

AS Bradu play at the named Stadionul Central, a pretty basic venue in a glorious location surrounded by rolling pastures and bounded to the south by the Olt River and the glorious Făgăraș Mountains of the Southern Carpathians with their peaks still sporting their white winter caps. This evenings opponents are Interstar Sibiu primarily an under 21 team but with a veteran utility player, Vasile Armenean, who plays the full 90 minutes in a variety of positions at the incredible age of 59! It’s the younger team who beat the hosts comfortably by four unanswered goals.

Thursday March 21st 2019 – Romania IV Liga (Sibiu County)

AS Bradu 0

FC Interstar Sibiu 4 (Oprișor 33, Standima 65, Dancu 76,90)

Attendance: 48 (at Stadionul Central)

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The schedule for Friday was looking particularly memorable and was to conclude with another early evening game this time in neighbouring Braşov county, again moved for our convenience by the local FA man, Octavian Goga. Emi had already teased the group with pictures of a wonderfully decrepit looking old wooden stand so anticipation for the visit to ASC Olimpic Zărneşti was palpable.

But first we had a morning to fill and when you are in Transylvania it is almost unthinkable not to visit Bran Castle, legendary “home” of Vlad III Dracula, better known as Vlad the Impaler, who was the ruler of Wallachia, and said to be the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s world famous novel Dracula. It is a stunning castle in its own right, overlooking the Bran Gorge. For a few additional Lei you can gain access to Vlad’s torture chamber including replicas of his favoured method of sending a message to invading Ottoman forces, the impaling pole.

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We headed to Zărneşti which was primarily an industrial town with the Celuloza paper manufacturing plant opening in the mid 1850’s and a weapons plant “6 Martie” in 1936. In 1939 the paper factory had a leak of chlorine gas which killed 60 inhabitants. The heavy industry closed down after the downfall of Nicolae Ceaușescu and left mass unemployment until tourism kicked in. However, Celuloza left the town a really magnificent football ground, photogenic from all parts. A bright red dressing room building, the crumbling 80 odd year old wooden stand and rickety bleacher style seating on the opposite side make for a classic ground in a stunning mountain setting. There is a very decent gathering of locals for this game against ACSM Codlea, and there is even merchandise for sale in the form of scarves and pennants. Our Norwegian contingent clear the local bar of bottled beer as we watch the game in early evening sunshine. The home side rise to the occasion and win 4-0, and we all feel a sense of immense privilege of being able to have seen a match in this quite breathtaking place.

Friday March 22nd 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Braşov County)

ASC Olimpic Zărneşti 4 (Berloiu 26, Dascâlu 39, Mielusolu 51, Simon 56)

ACSM Codlea 0

Attendance: 256 (at Stadionul Celuloza Zărneşti)

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Saturday morning arrived and we have a trip south west of Sibiu to FC Cisnădie. I was aware the stadium in Cisnădie was a lot bigger than the little village grounds we had been to so far but was taken aback by the sheer beauty of their Stadionul Textila. Sited next to a carpet factory, the ground has a large concrete stand with a wooden pitched roof. On the opposite side there is a raised bank of uncovered seating with approximately 2,500 seats. Throw in the obligatory mountain back drop, church spires and a cemetery and we have another photographic bobby dazzler on our hands. Today’s opponents are the army reservists of AS Armata Sibiu. They lack fitness and skill and hold out for barely four minutes before they concede the first of 13 goals to a rampant host team. To their credit Armata score two cracking goals themselves before the referee puts them out of their misery by not playing any additional time at all. Cisnădie are wonderful hosts and supply us all with free half time beer, most welcome on a warm day.

Saturday March 23rd 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

FC Cisnădie 13 (Cotofan 4,72, Dragomir 23, Cocos 33, Coman 36,42, Bratima pen 48,87, Andrei 66, Rodean 76,86,89, Anghel 80)

AS Armata Sibiu 2 (Trasca 12, Raulea 45)

Attendance: 84 (at Stadionul Textila)

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We then travelled north west to the incredible mountain ground of AS Cindrelul Gura Râului who were hosting a Romanian Cup third round game against the team from the neighbouring village, AS Silvatex Orlat. Once again the ground itself is nothing special, a caged 3G pitch with one stand of wooden bleacher style seating. Behind the stand was an almost vertical cliff face, which of course didn’t some some scallywags (and Norwegians) climbing up for a loftier vantage point. The rest of the ground is surrounded by a lunar looking mountain landscape. I have never been to a place quite like Gura Râului. On the field the two fifth level sides bludgeon each other and all three goals came in a crazy three minute spell early in the first half. The winner for the hosts coming from a comical own goal, a Silvertex defender completing an fantastic goal line clearance only for the ball to hit a team mate on the backside and cannon into the corner of the net.

Saturday March 23rd 2019 – Cupa Romaniei (Faza 3)

AS Cindrelul Gura Râului 2 (Ruse 16, Damaschin og 19)

AS Silvatex Orlat 1 (Topîrcean 17)

Attendance: 198 (at Stadionul Comunal)

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We had the option of basketball at the Sala Transylvania on Saturday night as local side CSM Sibiu had a game against CSM Oradea, a team from near the Hungarian border. Some of the party are keen to go especially as its only 15 lei (£3) to get in. It turned out to be a really thrilling game with the home side come from a sizeable deficit to almost snatching victory with one second on the clock remaining.

For the Sunday we had two games planned and the first was at Unirea Miercurea-Sibiului with attractive opposition in the shape of LSS Voința Sibiu. This is a fan owned club arisen from the ashes of the bankrupt Liga I side CSU Voința Sibiu. Unirea have decent ground just off the main square, with a stand with uncovered seating and around 30 away fans who sung, waved flags and let off firecrackers throughout the 90 minutes. Unfortunately for Voința, the home side didn’t read the script and eased to a 3-0 win. The away fans were exceedingly friendly and explained that want to perpetuate the legend of Sibiu’s historic club, Șoimii Sibiu, who folded in 2001.

Sunday March 24th 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

ACS Unirea Miercurea-Sibiului 3 (Roman 36,71, Albean 62)

AS LSS Voința Sibiu 0

Attendance: 155 (at Stadionul Orăşenesc-Miercurea)

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Our sixth and final game of the tour promised to be really interesting and a total antithesis of the scenic mountain and sleepy village grounds we had visited so far. We were heading to the tragic town of Copșa Mică. Before Chernobyl this town was the most polluted town in all of Europe, thanks to years of unregulated industrial emissions. Most guilty of polluting Copșa Mică were Carbosin, who produced a black powder dye used in the rubber industry and Sometra who processed non-ferrous metals in huge smelters. To this day a nasty black sludge can be seen on the terracotta roof tiles of the towns’ houses. Lead emissions were 1,000 times over agreed international limits, and the factories belched 10 tons of carbon soot into the air on a daily basis.

The ground is surrounded by old industrial chimneys and the pitch is more like straw than grass. The visitors are ACS Păltiniş Raşinari who are riding high in the table but it’s the hosts that take a shock second minute lead. It doesn’t last though and the visitors score four times leaving this sorry, dirty old town with all three points.

Sunday March 24th 2019 – Romanian IV Liga (Sibiu County)

AS Copșa Mică 1 (Getner 2)

ACS Paltinis Răşinari 4 (Nasta 37,45, Chirila 40, Ganea 73)

Att:Attendance: 116 (at Stadionul Orăşenesc)

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We had left our base in Sibiu on Sunday morning with our bags ready to spend the night in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Sighişoara. En route we have a pit stop at the delightful town of Biertan and its famous Lutherian fortified church. It’s dark when we get to the superb Mercure Hotel in Sighişoara but you can see this is a really special place.

Biertan

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We have the morning to mooch about the cobbled streets. The 13th century clock tower is just stunning and the old citadel is dominated by the Church on the Hill. It’s a fitting end to a superb tour and we are whisked off on the fifty mile trip back to Sibiu airport for our flights back to normality. I have said it before and I will say it again, Romania is a vast untouched beauty. Do yourself a favour and visit Romania at least once in your lifetime.

Sighişoara

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A greatly expanded version of this review can be found in the June 2019 edition of Football Weekends magazine

 

Fearless (Atromitos)

Atromitos (meaning “Fearless”) were formed in 1923 and initially played at Aris Park, the home of both Panathinaikos and Panellinios. Within five years Atromitos had won the Athens League. 1928 was the first time the Greek season ended with a Pan Hellenic Championship to decide the overall national champions. Atromitos could only finish third behind champions Aris Thessaloniki and Ethnikos, however, it was a promising start for a fledgling club.

The club quickly found themselves in the shadow of Panathinaikos and were struggling to attract support. In 1932 the decision was made to move to Peristeri and merge with local side Astir Peristeriou. Astir or “Star” is where the prominent blue stat comes from on the club crest.

The club spent much of its time in the second tier but enjoyed a golden period in the 1970’s when they were regulars in the top division. They have spent much of the 21st century in the Super League and had some really impressive seasons in recent years finishing third in 2012-13 and had fourth place finishes in 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15. They were also Greek Cup runners up in 2010-11 and 2011-12 losing to AEK and Olympicos respectively.

When Atromitos first moved to Peristeri in 1932 the played at a modest ground called Gennaiótita which was located beyond the boundary of a shanty town known as Evangelistria. In 1947 they moved to the the present stadium although this was not properly finished until 1953.

My €10 ticket is for the uncovered side opposite the main stand. This side has a sector fenced off for their ultras group which is called called Fentagin.

Tonight’s game is against a woeful Levadiakos side and plays out for a predictable home win with a fine goal by Congolese striker Clarck N’Sikulu, settling the game with the opposition barely mustering a chance worthy of the name. All the graffiti in and around the stadium promotes an anti fascist message, so it is almost beyond belief that Levadiakos’ black players, Souleymane Sawadogo and Tackey Diogo were subjected to repeated monkey chants.

That unsavoury aspect aside it’s a great ground to visit and good to see a smaller club trying to become a force in a league that has traditionally been dominated by just a few clubs.

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Sunday February 10th 2019 – Greek Super League

Atromitos 1 (N’Sikulu 16)
Levadiakos 0

Att:435 (at Stádio Peristeri)

Entry €10, free programme

Gallery

IMG_5271IMG_5273IMG_5301IMG_5274Feb 2019 185IMG_5268Feb 2019 192IMG_5291Atromitos ticket

Atromitos prog

They Might Be Giants (AEK Athens)

AEK stands for the Athletic Union of Constantinople, with the founding members being Greek refugees displaced from Constantinople and Anatolia after the Greco-Turkish War. Prior to the war Constantinople had two dominant Greek clubs, Énosis Tatávlon and Ermís and it was former members of these clubs who met in a Athens sports shop in 1924 to form AEK.

Domestically AEK are the third most successful Greek side behind Olympiacos and Panathinaikos with 12 championship wins and 15 Greek Cup triumphs.

In the post WWII period AEK had some success under English coach Jack Beby who had a modest career in England with the likes of Darlington, Bristol Rovers, Gillingham and Leicester City. Under Beby AEK won two Greek cups and the Athens regional championship, although sadly the Pan Hellenic Championship to decide the overall champion wasn’t played that season.

AEK have a proud record in European competition with their best performance in the European Cup being quarter-finalists in 1968-69 when they were beaten by Spartak Trnava of Slovakia having eliminated Jeunesse Esch and AB Gladsaxe. In the UEFA Cup of 1976-77 they beat Dynamo Moscow, Derby County, Red Star Belgrade and Queens Park Rangers before a semi-final defeat to eventual winners Juventus.

AEK’s traditional home, since inauguration in 1930, was the Nikos Goumas Stadium in Nea Filadelfeia. Sadly the stadium had to be demolished in 2003 following damage sustained in the terrible earthquake of 1999. The club do have a new stadium, Agia Sophia Stadium, under construction in their traditional heartland of Nea Filadelfeia. After years of political wrangling permission was formally granted in July 2017. Until it is ready, AEK have somewhat reluctantly shared the Olympic stadium with Panathinaikos, although Pana occasionally return for spells at their own ground, the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium.

Today’s game sees the visit of lowly OFI Crete to the Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty poor game, OFI offering scant resistance and the hosts win by a single goal scored by the fans favourite, the Croatian striker Marko Livaja. There is an ultras section of around 800 of AEK’s Original 21 ultras, lead by a capo of colossal proportions who is stood bouncing on a very rickety looking tower. They belt out a relentless catalogue of chants. The ultras are profoundly left wing and have a “triangle of brotherhood” with Livorno and Marseille as well as friendships with St Pauli and Fenerbahçe. It was all rather impressive and made up for the turgid game and some of the worst sight lines at a modern football stadium I can ever remember.

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Sunday February 10th 2019 – Greek Super League

AEK Athens 1 (Livaja 37)
OFI Crete 0

Att: 7,580 (at Olympiakó Stádio Spiros Louis)

Entry €10, no programme

Gallery

IMG_5182IMG_5179Feb 2019 154IMG_5248IMG_5233Feb 2019 155Feb 2019 168AEK ticket