Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter season

The winter off-season is just about here. As such, I won't be going to any games for the next month or so. Winter training matches usually begin the first week of January, so you can expect some updates around then. In the meantime, I will write some posts about games I have been to in the past, in Wales, England, Canada and a few other countries.

November 21st - Gambrinus Liga - Brno 0 České Budějovice 2

November 21st, 2009
Gambrinus Liga
Brno 0 České Budějovice 2
Attendance: 3111 (away support 0)
Admission: 80kc
Game rating: 5/10 (couldn't see much of the 2nd half because of fog)

I've been meaning to get to Brno for the past two years, as it isn't far from where I live. For whatever reason, I never managed to get there until last weekend. Brno is the 2nd largest city in the Czech Republic, but their football club has rarely challenged for the first division title.

The ground is in the north part of the city called Kralovo Pole. It is easiest to reach by taking a tram from the train station for about 20 minutes. From there, it is about a 5 minute walk to the stadium. You can also take trolley bus 32 from the Česká stop, which is located just north of the city centre.

As for the stadium, I'm sure it use to have a larger capacity when it was mostly terraces. It just has a look of a stadium which was renovated. Three sides are open to the elements, so make sure you bring an umbrella if it looks like its going to rain. The stands are set a little further than normal from the pitch. As it stands right now, capacity is around 12,500. Average crowds are probably around 4,000-5,000, which means it can be hard to create an atmosphere. However, the ultras behind one of the goals do their best to create an atmosphere.

The match itself was kind of disappointing, but this had more to do with the fog. It rolled in during the second half, and made viewing the ball in the far end of the pitch nearly impossible. You couldn't even see the stand behind the goal.

České Budějovice were sitting near the bottom of the table going into this game, and desperately needed the three points. However, Brno have been struggling over the past few rounds. They even lost 5-0 away to Sigma Olomouc. The Brno supporters are starting to show their displeasure at these results, and were quite when the final whistle blew and Česke Budějovice defeated their hosts 2-0. All in all, it was not a bad day out.

This weekend is the last round of Gambrinus Liga matches. The lower leagues finished a few weeks back. The first division starts up in a few months, closely followed by the other leagues. However, winter training games starts in January, and I expect to head out to a few games.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 14th - FIFA Friendly - Macedonia 3 Canada 0

November 14, 2009 - Strumica
FIFA Friendly
Macedonia 3 Canada 0
Attendance: 5,000 (soldout)
Admission: 300mkd
Distance travelled: 3,500km

This game was originally scheduled to be played at the national stadium in Skopje, but the Macedonian FA decided to switch it over to the town of Strumica (50,000). National team games are rarely played outside of Skopje, so this was a big deal for the people of Strumica. It is located in southern Macedonian, about 30km north of Greece and 20km to the west of Bulgaria.

As a Canadian living in the Czech Republic, I made the trip to Macedonia. It was a early morning on Friday, as I had to leave at 5am to get to the Prague airport. From there, I flew to Skopje, and then took a dodgy taxi to the city centre. For anyone who has flown into the Skopje airport, you will know that the taxi cabs are unregulated. So, one must haggle. The first offer was 30 euros, which was ridiculous. I finally found someone for around 18 euros. Once I got to the Skopje bus station, I waited around for the bus to Strumica, which is about 3 hours away (175km).

There were only 2 Canadian supporters at the game, including me. Watching Canada away from home, is certainly not like watching England, Scotland etc where thousands show up. Many of the Macedonians seemed to be surprised that any Canadian supporters were at the game. We had a lot of requests for pictures.

The stadium is about a 10 minute walk north of the city centre. From the outside it looks quite run down, but the stands have recently been renovated. The pitch was in awful shape, thanks to constant rain over the week.

Canada was dominated for most of the first half, even though it ended 0-0. The play was slightly more even in the second half, despite Macedonia scoring three goals. Incredibly, the game had four penalty kicks. Macedonia scored on their two, but Canada missed both of theirs. The visitors couldn't match the size and physical play of the hosts.