Budafok are you?

Budafoki Labdarúgó Club’s history dates back to 1912 when they were formed as Világosság Football Csapat, the first of twelve different identities. The latest moniker has stuck since 2007. Prior to World War II this modest village in the 22nd District of Budapest was represented by two clubs, the other being Gamma FC who would eventually be consumed into the BKV Előre club in 1950.

Budafok play in the Nemzeti Bajnokság III, a division they have won on three occasions in 1972-73, 1985-86, 1988-89. The club has also enjoyed some success at the second tier, winning the title in 1944-45 and 1950-51. The club’s sole season in the top flight came in 1945-46 when they finished next to bottom winning only five of their 26 matches. Arguably the clubs’ best known players over the years have been József Zakariás, who was part of the squad for the legendary Hungarian national team fondly remembered as the “Golden Team”. More recently Márton Esterházy started his career with Budafok before winning 29 caps for the national team. He scored for Hungary against Canada in the 1986 World Cup tournament.

Confusingly Budafok’s modest stadium actually has several names BMTE Sporttelep, Budafok Stadion and Promontor utcai Stadion, and it forms part of a bigger sports venue which also accommodates athletics and tennis. The stadium has clearly undergone recent renovation with new plastic seats, electronic scoreboard and an elevated dignitary’s stand opposite the open seating. It’s a modest but tidy venue and it seems scarcely believable that 7,000 people crammed into it for a Magyar Kupa match against Ferencváros in February 1984. The venue now has 1,200 seats with standing available around the athletics track which would mean looking through a fence for the duration of the match.

A lack of floodlights means a 12pm kick off for this Magyar Kupa tie against mighty FC Videoton who sit in second place in NB I just a point behind leaders Vasas FC. On a cold day, the hilltop location of the stadium clearly unsettles the illustrious visitors and they are very slow out of the blocks. The hosts play well and skipper Tamás Grúz gives them the lead at half time. Thoughts of a cup upset dwindle as Videoton exert huge pressure on the home goal in the second half. Clearly the half time team talk and a triple substitution have galvanised the visitors. Therefore it is no surprise when Videoton draw level when Ádám Bódi cleverly disguises his shot enough to beat the home goalkeeper with ease. It was evident that Videoton did not fancy extra time as the temperature dropped and they upped the pressure further really throwing players forward. As the game drew to a close Videoton cracked a shot against the post before the unthinkable happened and a quick break saw Sándor Kovács lash home an unlikely and wildly celebrated winner. Who doesn’t love a cup upset?

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Wednesday November 30th 2016 – Magyar Kupa 8th Rd

Budafok LC 2 (Grúz 29, Kovács 84)
FC Videoton Fehérvár 1 (Bódi 66)

Att: 336 (at BMTE Sporttelep)

Admission free, teamsheet free

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Distant ETO

Győri Egyetértés Torna Osztály Football Club or ETO FC Győr as they are more commonly known were formed in 1904 and have a rich history of European competition participation and the no little matter of 69 seasons in the Hungarian top flight, the Nemzeti Bajnokság I.

The club are four time champions of Hungary, the most recent of which came in 2012/13. So why you might be asking are the club currently languishing in the murky depths of the regionalised third division? Győr’s most recent season in NB I was 2014/15 when despite finishing eighth in the then 16 team league the club were found guilty of breaching licensing and financial regulations and were demoted to the third tier.

The Győr club has undergone many name changes over the years and these Include the name of Rába Vasas ETO Győr for which they are probably best known to English football fans. This was the club’s name in the 1984/85 when they were drawn against Manchester United in the old Cup Winner Cup competition.

Győr’s past European pedigree is truly impressive. They had been crowned Hungarian champions for the first time in 1963/4 and the success meant a tilt at the European Cup the following season. The green and whites defeated Chemie Leipzig, Lokomotiv Sofia and somewhat forgotten Dutch club Door Wilskracht Sterk before drawing the mighty Benfica in the semi final. The home leg was played in front of 62,000 people at the old Népstadion in Budapest and the Portuguese won 1-0. Braces from the legendary Eusebio and José Torres in the second leg ended Hungarian hopes of success.

Continued success in Europe saw the club move into a new stadium in 1967, the ETO Stadion. Initially it had a capacity of 25,000 but in its later existence this had been savagely cut to 14,000. In 2008 Győr moved again to a new stadium, hotel and a total white elephant of a shopping centre complex on the eastern edge of town called ETO Park. It has two huge modern double tiered stands on either side, one end has nothing other than a scoreboard while the hotel end has a blink and you will miss it tiny section of terracing for away fans. After the old Ferenc Puskás Stadion in Budapest was decommissioned and the Groupama Arena was opened the Hungarian national team played several home internationals at ETO Park.

After the success of clinching the NB I championship in 2012/13, the club faced huge problems when in 2015 its owners, Quaestor Financial Hrurira, went bankrupt. Unable to operate ETO Györ declared debts of 200 million florints (over £500,000) to the Hungarian FA. The enforced demotion was inevitable as the club looked to just survive and regroup in the third tier.

This season has been one of hope for Győr as they are challenging for promotion from NB III and also enjoying a run in the Magyar Kupa. Having already eliminated top flight Debrecen (1-0) and Komárom (7-1), the draw was harsh for the green and whites as they were pitted against NB I league leaders Vasas FC.

Tonight Győr played some scintillating attacking football with Lukas Szabó really catching the eye up front. The hosts were never out of this contest until virtually the last kick of the game when Vasas substitute Yevhen Pavlov prodded home an undeserved winner.

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Tuesday November 29th 2016 – Magyar Kupa 8th Round 

ETO FC Győr 2 (Rácz pen 39, Szabó 46)
Vasas FC 3 (Saglik 11, Remili 80, Pavlov 90)

Att: c.2,000

Admission HUF 1,000 (£3) Programme Free

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Glorious Előre

For the last few years, while the redevelopment of old Hungarian football stadiums has marched on apace,  I have felt somewhat left out as the likes of the Ferenc Puskás Stadion (the old Népstadion), the Albert Flórián Stadion (former Ferencváros home stadium) and more recently  Vasas’ Illovzsky Rudolf Stadion and MTK’s iconic Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion (we all surely remember its’ starring role in “Escape to Victory”?) have been erased from the footballing map if not its consciousness.

They have been replaced by undoubtedly better facilities but as always the shiny new arenas lack the grace and elegance that can only be achieved with the reverence and patina that only old age affords. I hasten to add that one new Hungarian stadium that is the exception to the sterility of modernist construction is the Puskás Akadémia stadium in Felcsút, which is audacious in design and alluring in appearance. Felcsút is a small village which has become synonymous with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a huge football fan, and one of the driving forces behind the provision of better football facilities. The collective hope is that better stadiums will lead to the country challenging on the world stage once again.

With the wind of change sweeping across the football landscape of Hungary I was determined to get to a few grounds this season and probably top of the list was BKV Előre’s quite magnificent Sport utca Stadion. Erstwhile neighbour to MTK’s old, and now new, Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Előre’s huge grandstand rightfully holds a lofty status among football stadia aficionados.

Előre currently ply their trade in Hungary’s third tier and since formation in 1912 have never really hit the heights of success, a sole appearance in the final of the Magyar Kupa came in 1934, but ended in defeat to Soroksár. The club has spent a total of four seasons in the top flight of Hungarian football during their 1940’s and 1950’s heyday. Előre’s wider sports associations have produced several Olympic Games medallists. The club has its roots in the cities’ iron workers and in 1923 a merger occurred with a team representing transport workers. The grandstand at the Sport utca Stadion dates from this merger era, the original pre-merger club played at a field simply known as Nova Pálya (New Field). The rest of ground is, by comparison, somewhat of a disappointment. Opposite the gargantuan grandstand is a small sized all weather training pitch with a token few rows of seating and a couple of dugouts. Previously there was a large covered standing area on this side of the ground. One end of the ground houses MTK’s old offices and the other end is BKV’s indoor bowls club.

This afternoon’s match sees Előre gaining some much needed additional income as MTK’s second string use the main pitch for their Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti fixtures and today sees Debrecen’s second XI role into the capital.

A muddy pitch sees the hosts ease to comfortable win in a game low on excitement, although strangely all three goals come from substitutes. The real excitement comes from the wonderful grandstand, some might say a draughty almost redundant relic of yesteryear but most will regard it for what it is an iconic and beautiful old stand belligerently still doing sterling service in a throwaway society. And after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

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Sunday November 29th 2016 – Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti 

MTK Budapest II 3 (Csicsek 31,71, Lustyik 80)

Debrecen II 0

Att:42 (at BKV Előre)

Admission free, teamsheet free

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Three’s a Crowd, a Short History of Malmö Football

There cannot be many clubs in existence that have all its previous grounds still standing and in use for football, but such is the case with Malmö FF.

Malmö Fotbollförening were formed in 1910 after BK Idrotts had merged with IFK Malmö a year before only to de-merge following a difference of opinion between the two. Malmö FF initially played at the magnificent Malmö Idrottsplats which they shared with rivals IFK Malmö. Opened in July 1896 the Malmö Idrottsplats is located north of Pildammsparken off the junction between Pildammsvägen and  Karl Gustafsväg. The first football matches in the Malmö area had taken place on a field at Rörsjöstaden, and featured local men against the already established Kjøbenhavns Boldklub. The local cycling club  Malmö Velocipedklubb, who also used Rörsjöstaden, were so impressed with this new sport they immediately formed their own football wing. In 1893 MVK were notified that their sports ground was needed for housing and after consultation with Malmö Stad the land north of Pildammsparken was offered as a replacement.

The Idrottsplats was home to IFK between 1903 and 1958 and for Malmö FF from 1910-58 before both decamped to the Malmö Stadion newly opened for the football World Cup. A third club, Malmö Boll and Idrottsförening, now called FC Rosengård, also played at the IP from 1904 having been formed by former MVK members. Initially the IP had a cycling and athletics track but after MVK folded and athletics moved to the Malmö Stadion, the IP was reconfigured to a football only venue from 1999. After the big two clubs moved to the Malmö Stadion, lower division football remained at the IP in the form of FC Rosengård and IF Allians. The former moved to their own district IP in 1973 and Allians moved to Kronsprinsen. The IP had fallen into disuse and disrepair so the renovations of 1978 and later in 1999 saved this wonderful venue from an ignominious end. Despite Malmö FF’s glorious history, including that memorable European Cup Final defeat to Nottingham Forest in 1979, crowds for both them and IFK fell massively towards the end of the century and it was decided that an improved Malmö IP was the answer. After just a season back at their original home, however, FF decided that it was far from suitable to their needs and swiftly returned to the Stadion. IFK stayed at the IP until 2008 when in protest to the installation of an artificial pitch, they rejoined FF at the Malmö Stadion. The IP is used by Malmö FF for pre season friendlies as invariably the artificial turf is perfect for their winter warm up games.

Nowadays the IP is home to FC Rosengård once again, the clubs ladies team are in the Damen Allsvenskan and take priority use of the IP. If there is no conflicting fixture the men also play there in preference to their own Rosengård IP in Frölichs Väg. The IP has five separate stands all beautifully clad in that pale yellow weatherboard so prevalent in old Swedish grounds. Thank goodness Malmö Stad decided against demolition all those years ago for it is a real treasure.

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So the story moves on to 1958, Sweden World Cup hosts, a teenage Pelé and Brazil sweep all before them to win the Jules Rimet, the first nation to do so away from their own continent. France’s Just Fontaine peppers the Nordic nets no less than 13 times an all time Mundial record. Football becomes a true global game. The Swedes are magnificent hosts with the stadiums in Stockholm (Råsunda), Gothenburg (Ullevi), Borås (Ryavallen), Eskilstuna (Tunavallen), Norrköping (Idrottsparken), Helsingborg (Olympia), Sandviken (Jernvallen), Uddevalla (Rimnersvallen) and Malmö being selected to stage matches.

Malmö’s Idrottsplats could hold 20,000, and indeed a 1956 derby with Helsingborgs saw an all time record gate of 22,436 cram into the old IP. However a crowd crushing incident for the same game in 1951 weighed heavily on the minds of the commune and it was decided that a new bigger venue would be built for the World Cup on a site to the south of Pildammsparken.

Designed by architects Sten Samuelsson and Fritz Jaenecke the Malmö Stadion is a real monument to reinforced concrete, all graceful curves and extensive external load bearing cantilevers. Even nearly 60 later it is still a magnificent venue and can hold 27,500. It is a great pity that its sole tenant, IFK Malmö, struggle to attract three figure crowds now their glory days are very much behind them.

In 2009 the mighty Malmö FF moved to the newly opened Swedbank Stadion, built directly behind the Malmö Stadion. Designed by Fojab architects it is UEFA 4 star compliant and as bog standard as you would expect for a new arena style stadium. However, moving there has seen an upturn in fortune for the Sky Blues resulting in three Allsvenskan titles and regularly income from Champions League campaigns.

I saw Malmö FF play IF Elfsborg at the Swedbank Stadion and it was a tense encounter. The hosts are second in the table with eight games left and a 22nd Allsvenskan in their sights. Meanwhile, Elfsborg are sixth and hopeful of a Europa League place come the final reckoning. A very tense game eschewed with neither side really pressing fearful of a fateful mistake. However, as the stadium clock struck 90 minutes, substitute Erdal Rakip jinked past three Elfsborg defenders and guided the ball into the corner of the net. The stadium erupted and the magnificent supporters of this great club went home relieved and happy.

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Allsvenskan (22/09/2016)

Malmö FF 1 (Rakip 90)

IF Elfsborg 0

Att:16,597

Admission SEK285 (£25) programme free

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Two days later I saw IFK Malmö take on Nybro IF in a Division 2 (fourth tier) match at the magnificent Malmö Stadion. Sadly only 125 people paid the eight euros entry to this glorious place. An entertaining match first swung in the favour of the visitors but some excellent finishes from IFK ensured the points stayed in Malmö. This stadium is so good it seems somewhat criminal that the incumbent club attract so few supporters even with their illustrious past.

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Division 2 Södra Götaland (24/09/2016)

IFK Malmö 3 (Asekzaj 29, Ljung 59, El-Kayed 90)

Nybro IF 1 (Johansson 26)

Att:125  (at Malmö Stadion)

Admission SEK80 (£8) free programme

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Postcards from Belgrade (Serbian Groundhop 2016)

The first organised groundhop in Serbia got underway with an unexpected bonus match with the fixture gods having a Friday match as Radnički Niš against Novi Pazar was being broadcast by one of Serbia’s pay per view channels. An extra day of mini bus use was hastily arranged and the group headed south on the two and a half hour drive to Niš.

 
Niš is the third largest city in Serbia after Novi Sad and the capital Belgrade and the club was formed in 1923. Radnički translates as “Workers”. The club were always a consistent member of the top division of the old Yugoslavian League and in 1981/2 they reached the semi final of the UEFA Cup having eliminated Napoli, Grasshoppers, Feyenoord and Dundee United. They were drawn against Hamburg SV and Radnički won the first leg 2-1 in Niš. The second leg at the Volksparkstadion saw the Serbs collapse to a 5-1 defeat. Legend has it that the club accepted a bribe of a set of floodlights from the Hamburg chairman to throw the second leg.

 
A shock relegation in 1985 bought an end to a golden era for the club. Serbia’s independence following the Balkan War saw the club in the top division of the new league but by 2008 they dropped into the third tier regional Srpska Liga East. Happily by 2011/12 they were back in the top flight and this coincided with a return to the home stadium Čair, their home since 1963, which had undergone an €11 million revamp.

 
Tonight’s match against Novi Pazar sees the hosts in fifth place in the Jelen Super Liga while their guests occupied twelfth spot. What followed were two teams completely cancelling each other out and the 0-0 result was somewhat inevitable. Some local fans who were surprised by the English presence in their stadium told us they suspected the result had been agreed in advance between the two clubs and they feared this was common place among the smaller clubs in Serbia.

Friday 18th March 2016 – Jelen Super Liga

 

FC Radnički Niš 0

Novi Pazar 0

 
Att: 2,000 (at Gradski Stadion Čair)


The evening was concluded with a quick stroll around Niš Fortress before getting sustenance in the lively bohemian quarter of the city. As JJ Burnel once (nearly) sung it really was “So nice in Niš”. The party then headed back to our headquarters in Belgrade’s Slavija Square.

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Saturday’s busy schedule started early with a 10 am kick of at third division BASK (Beogradski Akademski Sportski Klub). The club were formed in April 1903 SK Soko as a football wing of a long established gymnastics club. That formation date means BASK are the oldest club in the kingdom of Serbia.
Initially the club used a tight field on Jugovićeva Street but this was too confined so they moved to a new field known as Bara Venecija but after a few years of use this was completely destroyed when the mighty River Sava burst its’ banks. SK Soko then moved to a new ground in Topčider but after 27 years this was lost to railway expansion. Having changed their name to BASK in 1933 the club moved to yet another new venue behind an electrical plant in Novi Beograd. Ironically after World War II this venue became home to today’s opponents, Radnički Novi Beograd.

 
In the early post War years BASK merged with Senjak and gained use of the current stadium in Topčider Park close to the former home of SK Soko. The club has enjoyed great success at the Stadion Careva Ćuprija and as recently as 2009/10 and 2010/11 they achieved a double promotion from third tier to the Super Liga. However the BASK board decided the top flight would be too much of a financial risk for the club and they sold their place in the Super Liga to FK Novi Pazar.

 
The black and whites are now back in the third tier and their stadium now boasts a 3G surface and a large pitch length stand down one side and a more modest cover behind one goal. The adjacent hotel houses player from Super Liga club Spartak Subotica, in town for the match against Red Star, and a few of them drift in to watch the game. The hosts grab an early lead with a deft left footed drive from Dejan Pajović. The visitors from Novi Beograd, in second place in the table, spend most of the game trying to score but just as they appeared to have given up they snatch the points with two very late goals.

 
Saturday March 19th 2016 – Srpska Liga Beograd
 

BASK 1 (Pajović 11)

Radnički Novi Beograd 2 (Stajić 89, Dalifi 90)

 
Att: 161 (at Stadion Careva Ćuprija)

We then head over to the suburb of Karaburma and next up is the 2pm kick off at the once mighty Stadion Omladinski, home of OFK Beograd. Omladinski Fudbalski Klub Beograd were formed as Beogradski Sport Klub in 1911 and won five national championships before World War II. The club became Metalac in 1945 before reverting five years later to BSK. In 1957 the club became OFK with Omladinski translating as “Youth”. The club won the Yugoslav Cup four times in the 1950’s and 60’s and were rarely out of the top six in the league. They were regulars in European competition until the mid 1970’s and hold victories over the likes of Napoli, Juventus, Feyenoord and Panathinaikos. In 1962/3 they reached the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup but fell to Tottenham Hotspur.

 
Then almost without warning the Romantičari fell from grace and spent two decades flitting between the first and second levels. Only in the 2000’s did European competition return to the Omladinski. The club has always struggled for support living in the shadow of Red Star and Partizan, but in 2016 it finds itself in dire straits. The stadium looks much older than it’s’ 58 years and its poor state of repair and lack of investment is evident for all to see. The club has been toward the bottom of the table all season and with relegation a real possibility what support they had has all but deserted the club amid stories of current players deliberately losing matches.

 
Only 300 people gather for this match with Vojvodina from Novi Sad and only one side of the stadium is open. A bulldozer sits on top of a terrace and is working on footing for floodlights, a luxury the stadium has never sported previously. Hopefully this will mark some much needed refurbishment at stadium that can hold some 20,000 people.

 
If OFK players are deliberately losing matches this season then they disguise it well today as they work extremely hard against a compact and tidy visiting team. A sustained spell of OFK pressure in the second half produces a towering header from Vuk Martinović to secure three much needed points for the hosts.

 
Saturday March 19th 2016 -Jelen Super Liga

 
OFK Belgrade 1 (Martinović 71)

FK Vojvodina 0

 
Att: 300 (at Stadion Omladinski)


A pleasant interlude was then spent at a restaurant on the Danube where fish soup and cevapcici was eaten before the main event at the Marakana, home of the famous Red Star Belgrade. It was also great to catch up with legendary Zvezda fan Nenad Mijaljević who many of you will know as the editor of match programmes for Seaham Red Star, Jarrow Roofing and South Shields.

 
I had been to the Marakana (or Stadion Crvena Zvezda or Stadion Rajko Mitić, take your pick) before for the legendary Eternal Derby against Partizan so I was more than interested to see what support, particularly that from the ultras “Delije”, for an ordinary league game when the hosts have a 30 point lead at the top of the table. The crowd might have been a quarter of the gathering for a derby match but the noise and support from the north stand was loud and relentless and carried on long after Zvezda cruised to a 4-0 win against Spartak Subotica. Of course there was pyro galore illuminating the night sky at regular intervals.

 
Red Star, and indeed Partizan, were formed in 1945 when several existing clubs were dissolved by Marshal Tito as they had played matches during the war without permission. One such club was SK Jugoslavija who had played on the site of the current stadium since 1927. The new club, Crvena Zvezda, were given the stadium of the old Jugoslavija while the club formed by the Yugoslav People’s Army (the JNA) were appeased with a piece of land not half a mile away which would in 1951 be ready for use and is still the stadium FK Partizan use today.

 
The old Jugoslavija Stadium held 20,000 and after Red Star’s ill fated match against Manchester United in 1958 had to be moved to Partizan’s ground to cope with demand, it became clear to the board the popularity of the “people’s club” meant a much bigger stadium was needed. The old Jugoslavija Stadium was razed to the ground and Zvezda decamped to Partizan’s ground for a few seasons.

 
By the time the stadium was ready for inauguration in September 1963, people eagerly clambered the vomitories to see the vast new bowl which could hold 110,000 people on its terraces. The locals at once declared “It looks like the Maracana” after Rio’s famous amphitheatre and so the nickname was created. It’s all time record attendance was set in 1975 when 117,000 people watched a match against the Hungarian club Ferencvaros. Nowadays its all seater, though seats are removed from the away end for derby matches, and has a more manageable capacity of 55,000.  To date Zvezda have won 26 championships and, of course, were crowned European champions when that magical side which included Dejan Savećević, Darko Pancev, Robert Prosinecki, and Vladimir Jugović defeated Marseille on penalties.

 
It is great to see this famous club back on top of the table and in the Marakana they still have one of Europe’s most iconic stadiums. In the Delije they have some of the best ultras in the world.
Saturday March 19th 2016 – Jelen Super Liga

 
Crvena Zvezda 4 (Ibanez pen 45, pen 65, Ristić 47, Oliveira 59)

Spartak Subotica 0

 
Att: 12,173 (at Stadion Crvena Zvezda “Marakana”)


The evening is wound down with a night in a typical Serbian kafana, Restoran Klopka on Stanislava Sremčevića, where quite frankly preposterous amounts of meat were consumed.

 
With many of the party still a little listless from the previous nights gastronomic excesses most a grateful for a slightly later 11 am kick off for a third tier game at FK Dorćol. Their ground is down on the banks of the Danube and the first surprise is that they now only use their own pitch, replete with an ornate stand, for training and now share the pitch of their immediately adjacent neighbours GPS Polet.

 
The ground is fairly unremarkable except that it is back dropped by the vast Kalemegden fortress which is bathed in beautiful hazy morning sun.
FK Dorćol were formed in 1952 and as recently as 2002 had a one season spell in the second tier.

 
Today’s match sees them take on FK Brodarac 1947 and the unseasonably warm weather sees both sides having to work hard to create chances on what is a pretty poor and heavily rutted pitch. It’s no surprise that the game is decided by a penalty in the visitors’ favour which is converted by their goalkeeper, Milos Lazarević.

 
In a special treat for us we are hen introduced to Ljupko Petrović, legendary coach of Red Star’s 1991 European Cup winning side. The veteran coach was more than happy to pose for photos.

 
Sunday March 20th 2016 – Srpska Liga Beograd

 
FK Dorcól 0

FK Brodarac 1 (Lazarević pen 59)

 
Att: 179 (at Stadion Polet)


A brief spell is spent wandering around Kalemegden fortress and the Pobednik statue which regally overlooks the beguiling confluence of the two great Serbian rivers of the Sava and the Daunav (Danube). It is ridiculously warm and shirt sleeves and ice cream are the order of the hour.

 
Next we travel half an hour south of Belgrade to a small Vrčín, this is co-organiser Aleks’ secret ground. We are warmly welcomed by the club president into what can only be described as a delightfully ramshackle ground. The clubhouse has a viewing gallery where a bunch of real characters sit to cheer on the team/harangue the referee (delete as applicable), some of our party who will remain nameless join them an get rather pickle on some indeterminate local poteen.

 
On the far side of the pitch is the concrete carcass of a large stand started in 1993 when Vrčín were in the third tier of the old Yugoslav third tier. The municipality then pulled the funding for it and now it has a couple of hundred plastic seats acquired from FK Partizan bolted to it.

 
Vrčín have had an awful season with just eight points gained from 15 matches and they sit bottom of the table with the visitors, PKB Padinska Skela, in tenth. A healthy crowd gathers to cheer on the team (or look at the strange group of British interlopers) in what is a must win game for the club.

 
Luckily for us we catch Vrčín on a good day and the hard working giant of a centre forward, Vanja Savić nets a well deserved brace of goals to lift this super friendly club off the bottom of the table.

 
Sunday March 20th 2016 – Beogradska Zone

 
FK Vrčín 2 (Savić 53, 73)

PKB Padinska Skela 0

 
Att: 154 (at Stadion Želežnički)


The tours final match is another Super Liga encounter between “the Hillmen” of FK Čukarički and FK Partizan. The hosts were formed in 1926 and spent many years in the amateur ranks. By 1971 they had reached the Yugoslav Second Division and twelve years later they climbed into the top division for the first time.

 
Since 2012 Čukarički have been owned by Dragan Obradović, a construction magnate, and heavy investment saw the club finish third last season and gain a Europa League place. They beat Slovenian side NK Domžale in the first qualifying round but then succumbed to the Azerbaijani side SC Gabala.
Stadion Čukarički was opened in 1969 and is also known as the Stadion na Banovom Brdu. It has undergone massive improve in recent seasons but is still a relatively small two sided venue.

 
The hosts take a shock lead after 47 seconds when Bandalovski turns a cross into his own net and Partizan’s poor season looks set to continue. However, urged on by their flare wielding, tribal drumming ultras, the Grobari, Partizan turn it around with the winning goal being scored by the ex Manchester City and Bulgaria striker Valeri Bojinov, who looks to be carrying a fair amount of weight these days.

 
Saturday March 20th 2016 -Jelen Super Liga

 
FK Čukarički 1 (Bandalovski og 1)

FK Partizan 2 (M.Stevanović 49, Bojinov 67)

 
Att: 1,500 (at Stadion Čukarički)


The evening is spent in the bohemian quarter of Belgrade called Skadarlija in the upmarket restaurant Tri Sesira where the food is once again top notch.

 

 

Tastes of Belgrade

 

Sights of Belgrade


So there it was the first ever Serbian groundhop superbly hosted by our good friends Aleks Peković and Bogdan Mitrović. After such an excellent time few would bet against a second groundhop occurring in 2017!

 

 

Keeping What’s Good (KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk)

The original Beerschot club, Koninklijke Beerschot Voetbal en Atletiek Club, were formed in 1899, matricule 13, and had a glorious history including being seven time Belgian champions. From 1920 the club used the Antwerp Olympic Stadium, also known as Het Kiel (named after the district), as its home ground. The late 1960’s and 1970’s were a golden period for Beerschot as they often qualified for European competition. However, by 1999 the old club were consumed with financial problems and ended their centennial year my merging with Germinal Ekeren from the north of the city. The fused club called itself Germinal Beerschot and kept Ekeren’s matricule number of 3530 in order to maintain a place in the First Division.

The merger was attractive to Ekeren as their progress was being hampered by the restrictive confines of their ground at Veltwijckstadion. Germinal Beerschot adopted the purple colours of the old Beerschot VAC club and the yellow and red of Ekeren. Initially the merger was a success with a Belgian Cup win in 2005 and several sortie in European competitions. Germinal Beerschot changed its name in 2011 to Beerschot Antwerpen Club however just two seasons later Beerschot AC were no more. Liquidation followed their failure to present the Belgian FA with a suitable financial plan to secure a First Division operating licence.

After the collapse of Beerschot AC an unofficial merger took place with KFCO Wilrijk to produce the current club. KFC Wilrijk had been formed in 1921 and has the matricule number 155. The club enjoyed a brief stint in the Second Division in the 1930’s but spent most of their existence in either the third tier or in provincial football. In 1993 KFC Wilrijk merged with Olympia Wilrijk 72 forming KFC Olympia Wilrijk.

In order to tap into the traditional support of Beerschot, the newly merged club adopted Beerschot’s purple colours and took over the tenancy of the Olympisch Stadion. They adopted the Latin motto “Tene Quod Bene” which translates as “keep what is good”. Wise words indeed given their tempestuous recent history. The new club’s first game was in the Antwerpen Provincial League (level 5) against Ternesse VV and produced a crowd of 8,500 a record for the provincial leagues.

The new club won the Antwerp League in 2013/14 and the Promotion League in 2014/15 to climb into Division Three (Group B) for the current season. Today’s visitors are Hoogstraten VV who are perilously close to the relegation places. The hosts have continued to dominate the league and lead the table four points ahead of nearest rivals Oosterwijk. It is no surprise then that the hosts enjoy an easy win against a very lacklustre visiting team. Enjoying almost total possession the only surprise is Beerschot settle for just two goals, one in either half. On the evidence of this afternoon, few will back against Beerschot achieving a third straight promotion.

The Olympisch Stadion is less than half full today but still generates a good level of noise particularly in the main stand. Antwerp was the host city of the seventh modern Olympiad in 1920. The stadium hosted Athletics, hockey, gymnastics, equestrianism, rugby union, korfball as well as football. Many of the football matches had to be held elsewhere and the other venues used were the then newly opened Stade Joseph Marien in Brussels, Gent’s Jules Ottenstadion and the Stadion Broodstraat in Antwerp.

The Olympisch Stadion is thought to have significant input from legendary stadium architect Archibald Leitch as it is documented that he made several consultation visits to the site before it was opened. It was officially opened on May 23rd 1920 and had a sizeable capacity for the time of 27,250. The original stadium was oval in shape but much of the original stadium was demolished and replaced with three new stands in 1978. The modern day stadium has a capacity of 12,771 and is ideal for the sizeable support of Beerschot, a club with long associations with Antwerp’s bourgeoisie.

Beerschot badge

Sunday November 8th 2015 – Third Division, Group B

KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk (1) 2 (Ventôse 24, Vansimpsen 65)
Hoogstraten VV (0) 0

Att: 5,804 (at Olympisch Stadion)

Admission: €15

Programme: None

Gallery

The original Antwerp Olympisch Stadion, one of Archibald Leitch’s lesser known attributions.

interior

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Beerschot ticket

Deep Purple (RSC Anderlecht)

Anderlecht appear to be the team that everyone else in Belgium appears to hate, success, of course, breeds jealousy and a record 33 Belgian titles and 5 European trophies play no small part in that.

A certain part of the East Midlands also dislike the Mauves with a passion. Back in 1984 then Anderlecht president, Constant Vanden Stock, after whom the stadium is named, admitted that he bribed Spanish referee Emilio Guruceta Muro with £18,000 to ensure they qualified for the UEFA Cup final at the expense of Nottingham Forest. Brian Clough’s men were 2-0 up from the first leg at the City Ground and looked odds on to reach another European final. Enzo Scifo put the Mauves in with a shout and then Muro awarded a highly dubious penalty against Kenny Swain. A third goal came with two minutes left. Muro intervened again in injury time ruling out a perfectly legitimate Ian Bowyer goal. Forest always suspected foul play and 13 years later Anderlecht admitted that Vanden Stock had used a local gangster to set up the deception. One of football’s great bribery scandals was met with just a years ban from European competitions for the Belgians.

Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht were formed in 1908 and were awarded the Belgian FA matricule of 35. Strangely their phenomenal success has all happened since World War II. Prior to then they lived very much in the shadow of Brussels’ neighbours Union Saint Gilloise and Daring Club.
Anderlecht play at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium which was often known as the Parc Astrid after the municipal park in which it was built. The public gardens were opened in 1911 and were know as Parc du Meir until 1935 when it was renamed Parc Astrid in memory of Astrid of Sweden, consort of King Leopald III, father of King Baudouin.

Anderlecht opened their stadium in 1917 and it was inaugurated as the Stade Émile Versé after an early benefactor. Originally they played on a field call Le Scheut. The original stadium was completely rebuilt and modernised between 1983 and 1991 at a cost of £1.5 million Belgian francs. The renovations left the stadium with a capacity of 21,500. The clubs boisterous support has seen rail seats put in at either end but the relatively modest modern capacity often results in sell outs. Plans are afoot to extend the stadium to 30,000 in the near future, a great way to bring up its centenary.

Tonight’s match is a televised game against newly promoted St Truiden, owned by Roland Duchâtelet a micro electronics mogul who owns a number of clubs including Charlton Athletic. The hosts aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders but take the lead when Dennis Praet’s cross is turned in by giant front man Stefano Okaka. The mauves never really look in trouble against a toothless St Truiden attack but they squander the chance to double their lead when experienced international Steven Dufour made a mess of a penalty. Perhaps justice as the tackle on Ezekiel looked perfectly fair.

 

Ander
Sunday September 27th 2015 – Jupiler Pro League
RSC Anderlecht (1) 1 (Okaka 32)

K.St.Truiden VV (0) 0

Att: 20,300

Gallery

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Anderlecht prog

Anderlecht ticket