Friday, October 31, 2008

Israel October/November 2008

Ra'anana it is.

Hapoel Ra'anana 3 Hapoel Kfar Saba 2.

In the 2nd level of Israeli football this was a local derby played in a small ground in a town near Herzliya , north of Tel Aviv.
Around 400 saw it , fairly evenly divided in the main seating area between the greens and the reds.

The 'green vein' fans of Kfar Saba brought a drum and some large flags. They would go home disappointed.

It was a fluctuating game played in a very pleasant conditions of around 20 degrees.

First Kfar lead then Ra'anana equalised before the break.

The home team then got in front , Kfar replied amongst much celebration after which Ra'anana had a man sent off.

But the ten men had the last word following a left wing break and cross shot.

This being Friday afternoon my main concern was to get the last bus back to Tel Aviv - which I made OK arriving back in a nearly deserted central bus station just after sunset.

Dele done good.

Arrive early in Netanya and you can wander along the beach, improve your sun tan and enjoy a decent capucchino.
I shook the sand off my shoes and strolled to their stadium for :-

Maccabi Netanya 2 Bnei Yehuda 2

An Israel Premier League clash of top against bottom - not that it seemed like it.

Netanya have an old ground (in fact older than the state of Israel) hemmed into a residential area of this seaside city to the north of Tel Aviv.
Next year they are expected to move to a new stadium , presumably with the assistance of finances from their affluent German owner.

Meanwhile the Sar-Tov provides an old style setting with the fans very near to the pitch and ready to celebrate with the players as the goals go in.
Bnei Yehuda had their orange clad fans behind one goal whilst the home fans, in yellow , had their flags along the larger side.
It was another very enjoyable contest though probably not for the famous Netanya coach , one Lothar Matthaus.

His side did take the lead from a deflected Tazemeta header but were pegged back early in the second half by another header - from Baldut.

Bnei Yehuda then gained the initiative and after some Pedro Galvan trickery Atar was able to turn and score to give the away team the lead.

Netanya did equalise, again from a cross , nodded home by sub. Yampolski.
Bnei Yehuda goalie Dele Aiyenugba had a generally commanding game and he had the final say, following the award of a dubious looking penalty, saving Shechter's shot to preserve the 2-2 scoreline.

In about forty five minuites I was back in Tel Aviv via a brisk Sherut.

Beitar bit.

Many visitors come to Jerusalem to sample the history and the religious experience.
But if you are a football fan then go to see the atmosphere at the Teddy stadium.

Your correspondent joined the Teddy boys (and girls), some 15000, to watch :-

Beitar Jerusalem 0 Hapoel Tel Aviv 2.

Even though its 3/4 quarters built the ground is impressive and both sets of fans generated some serious noise for this Premier League game.

Beitar scorned various chances , especially the luckless Itzahki who contrived to miss one from 5 yards.
They paid for it later as Samuel Yeboah scored two in the last 6 minutes to secure the victory.

All three of these matches provided excellent entertainment.

That combined with great November weather and some passionate fans made for a enjoyable trip to the promised land.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Germany October 2008

Pens for Thurk.

Augsburg 2 FSV Frankfurt 2

In coldish, damp conditions a very respectable 15,800 turned out on a late Tuesday afternoon to see FC A draw with lowly FSV.

The stadium is large , mainly open to the elements, with plenty of terracing. Next year they will move to a (presumably) more comfortable new stadium.

A couple of free kicks by Werner caused problems for the visitors but they managed not to concede. It took a penalty by Thurk for FC A to go in front. He would get another, in similar fashion, in the second half.

In between Shapourzadeh had got a possibly dubious reply and he provided FSVs 2nd. with a great cross nodded in by Mokhtari.
Despite Barletta being sent off near the end FSV held on OK. Their small group of fans probably went home reasonably happy.

Two by Two.

SpVgg Unterhaching 0 Stuttgart II 2

A small team in a Munich suburb played a big team's 'reserves' in the 3rd Liga.

Unterhaching have a reasonable ground for their fan base - I think I saw most of the 'ultras' in a station bar before the game and the terracing at the left hand end had no trouble accomodating the 4 fans supporting the away team.
Zillner of Unterhacing started and finished the game by hitting the woodwork.

In the meantime his side mostly controlled possession but had difficulty producing the killer pass.
League top scorers Stuttgart won with a header from a corner and from a somewhat fortunate penalty given when a defender handled whilst jumping to stop a free kick.
It was cold.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Poland October 2008

Cold & Even.

Polonia Warsaw 1 Cracovia 1

One of three games in the Polish 'Premier'.

In a small stadium, a walkable distance from the recreated old town, some 3500 or so braved the wind, rain and cold. There were only a handful of away fans.

Polonia were top before this game but played more like a middle of the table team.

Cracovia scored early through Kasuba after a nice left wing drive by the tall Milosevic.

The home ultras brought out their flags and got the noise going.

Five minutes into the second half a decisive Lato free kick secured the equaliser.

After that there were some near things at both ends but no more goals.

Nice Centre.

Slask Wroclaw 2 Arka Gdynia 1

Wroclaw gets less tourists than Krakow but it does have a very pleasant central area.

From which it takes around 35 minutes to get to the Slask Wroclaw stadium.

The ground does include some temporary style stands. At one end the 50 or so Arka fans congregated for a while before disappearing with about half an hour to go.

The home ultras got the banners up around the periphery and started the hands up clapping - even the press in the main stand joined in.

This was another hard fought game. Slask went in front after about 15 minutes and were rather surprised when Arka equalised with a Anderson header on the stroke of half time.

Top scorer Szweczuk got the winner.


Ruch Chorzow 2 Lech Poznan 0

Take the train to this one and you arrive at Chorzow Batory station in the midst of the somewhat intimidating home fans. They cluster around the shops and amongst the trees before kick-off.

Most wear blue but many also have red - the colours of 'partner' team Widzew Lodz.

A good crowd of 10,000 saw this with around 400 fans from Poznan isolated at the left hand end.

The stadium has a striking main stand perhaps reminiscent of Springfield Park, Wigan. The rest is typically circular ends with about 10 rows of seats all round. The leading home ultras are to the right. They produce the flares (see pics) and coordinate the chants.

Ruch got the goals in the first half and tended to back off later in the game. Lech didn't manage to get too close apart from a late scramble.

The home fans seem to disperse happily enough as I waited for my return train to Zabrze.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Belarus v England October 2008


Belarus - Minsk

From Sofia via Berlin and Vilnius to the Belarus capital.

After the conviviality of a restaurant in Sofia to an Irish bar near the Berlin Zoo for some (middle-of-the-road) music and a couple of cocktails.

Up early for a flight to Vilnius - 'Double Coffee' lunch and some Internet browsing.

Then a four/five train uneventful ride to Minsk amongst some compatriots.

Where it seemed kind of communist-lite.
Though the government does control the heating - the availability of gas etc is restricted until a specified date which means if it suddenly gets cold, unless you have independent control of your energy, many do suffer.
The weather is cool , some rain but eventually mainly dry .

Wide streets , friendly people and without the feeling of a security culture as in Russia.

There are some good museums, parks, decent architecture and characteristically attractive 'scenery'.

But its a struggle , without local knowledge, to identify good restaurants and bars as their presence is not identified the same way as in the West.

Though McDonald's does not have that problem.


Belarus 1 England 3

Some difficulty for our guys in the first half as the locals opened some spaces in the England defence for a period but in the 2nd we had it well under control , helped by an early Rooney goal.

It was another strong away result against a team who could pass it around.

Heskey enjoying a renaissance, was spirited , Walcott pacy as expected and Gerrard got a Liverpool -like cracker.

Rooney , spikey and back to his best.

The uncovered, centrally located stadium was nearly full except for the upper tier above the main stand - restricted because of safety concerns.

The atmosphere was not as intimidating as Croatia (for instance) - the Belarussians generally not having too high expectations for their team.

It looked like there was no spectator problems.

more pics at

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bulgaria v Italy October 2008


Bulgaria 0 Italy 0

Fairly predictable result ?

The world champions didn't have too many scares as the home team generally struggled to overcome the well organised Italian defence.

Berbatov looked isolated, he won some headers but seemed somewhat casual as is his style.

Italy threatened with their slow build-up followed by driven crosses. Often Di Rossi looked the man most likely to create a goal.

They did enough to get the away draw.

The Levski was nearly full and the home crowd enthusiastic.
The unruly reaction came as the more right-wing Italian fans showed their affiliations. The police moved in and the trouble was quelled reasonably quickly though I'm unsure as to what happened away from the stadium.


Sofia - A city where you can enjoy yourself with the locals especially at the weekend as they eat late and indulge themselves. Many speak English.

This correspondents experience was of meeting outgoing Bulgarians , visiting some interesting museums in a compact city that has a certain buzz about it.
Recommended. Though smoking is still allowed in restaurants and bars.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Italy, Austria & Switzerland October 2008

Udinese 0 Borussia Dortmund 2 (Udinese won 4-3 on penalties)

In the UEFA Cup this was nearly a terrific comeback by Borussia. They had over 2000 fans, and could have had lots more if the Italians had allocated further tickets in time.

The stadium, a venue in Italia 90, was nowhere near full.
The locals sang their impressive song and produced a typically effective Italian-style 'presentation' prior to kick-off.

But as you would expect Udinese tended to sit back and see if the germans could create anything.
Generally they didn't much but did score twice at strategic times - at the end of each half - and both by Hungarian Hajnal.

Into extra time and no change before penalties decided the outcome - sadly for Hajnal his shot was saved.

Udinese just scraped the win with Lucovic scoring the clinching penalty.
As I walked the half an hour or so back to my hotel I stopped at a nearby Irish bar , enjoyed a pint and saw amongst the locals two Udinese players - drinking (coke) , relaxing with their friends and not being overly bothered.
A pleasant end to the day for most.

By train it takes over four hours to get to Leoben in Austria through some typical scenery.

The train was late but made up most of the delay once into Austria.

Leoben 3 Lustenau 2 in the Austrian '1st league'

Constant rain and cold to endure.

But it was a watchable, even contest between teams near the bottom of the table.

In a smallish stadium with a reasonable sized main stand and an open side opposite and not much at either end. Only 200 were there to see it.

The home side just edged it with the winner some 8 minutes before the end.

It took a very brisk walk, a couple of weiss beer and a weiner schnitzel (what else) to warm up this traveller.

Onto Graz , and a better day weather-wise.

In the very pleasant Hauptplatz this visitor enjoyed some 'sturm' a wine based drink whilst the locals mingled in the sunshine amongst the stalls . A violinist and guitarist made the moment even better.

Meanwhile another Sturm set about their opponents for :-

Sturm Graz 3 Austria Karnten 0

In the Austrian bundesliga , at the UPC Arena (ex Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium - likely the man himself was not present being somewhere warmer i guess)

The neat, compact, stadium was mostly full (almost 13,000) to see Sturm eventually overcome Karnten easily enough with one particularly cracking strike on the turn by Beichler.

Before that it had been a fairly even first half with few chances before a looping shot by Muratovic beat the goalie.

And in the second Sturm got on top.

Karnten had some enthusiastic support from their smallish group of fans whilst Sturm had their black & white support packed behind the right hand goal - they kept up a good level of noise most of the time.

From Graz to Linz via Selzthal through that typically impressive scenery in bright sunshine with the local, red capped, stationmasters coming out to greet the train as it passed.

LASK Linz 1 Altach 3

An older style stadium , with curved roofing, a track and a gap at the left hand end.

Linz had their 'ultras' opposite with no sign of any away fans in the 6,000 crowd.

Linz had a group of Croatians in their squad whilst Altach had Brazilian Ailton (ex-Werder Bremen etc)

This was not a good day at the office for Linz even though top scorer Mayrleb had equalised an early strike by Konrad.

In the second half Altach went ahead again through Koch and somewhat inevitably Ailton slotted the third. He should have scored more.

Lastly a 9 hour train ride, involving 5 changes , to Thun in Switzerland.

Thun 4 Gossau 1

In the Swiss Challenge League , Thun played three up front and despite Gossau getting one back won convincingly enough.

Their ground is a little quirky with a miniscule stand on one side next to an entrance displaying the Olympic rings. Partial low level terracing curves around.

Two larger stands are on the other side.

Gossau did have a smallish group of fans with the usual flags and the home fans did turn up in larger than expected (to this viewer) numbers , some 2800 in total.

For Thun Scarione scored from a free kick and Cattaruzzi got two , sub Moser another with only captain Knopfel replying for the visitors.

Fortunately the rain had stopped as I walked back to my hotel via the picturesque town centre.

A Long Island Ice Tea was a welcome end to the evening.

To see more pictures :-