Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fotbal Fulnek - Where are they now?

Quick, does anyone remember Fotbal Fulnek? Does anyone actually know where the town is (apart from Czech people that is)? While not a famous club by any means, they did achieve second division status for two years from 2007-2009. Where are they now? Well, they are playing in Okres Nový Jíčin IV třida, skupina B. That places them firmly at the bottom of the Czech pyramid, the 10th level, but more on that later. First, it is important to get a perspective on the town and club.

Fulnek is a small town of 5,930 located about 30km south of Opava in the Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic. The town might best be known for Jan Amos Komenský (Jan Amos Comenius), who lived in the town from 1618-1621. He is widely considered to be the father of education. If you ever find yourself in Fulnek, there is a small, but interesting museum dedicated to him. You can also find a beautiful old chateau which over-looks the town. During WWII, much of the centre of the town was burned down.

I don't know the exact date the club was established but by 2002, it was promoted to 1 A třída, which is the 6th level of football in the country. By 2005/06 season they found themselves in Divize E (4th division), where they were subsequently promoted. The 2006/07 season they were again promoted from the MSFL (3rd division). By the 2007/08 season, they found themselves in the unlikely position of being in the second division.

Their first ever second division game was played away to Marila Přibram infront of a crowd of 1,831. Fulnek earned a 1-1 draw on that day thanks to a goal by Ondřej Malohlava. The following weekend, they hosted Vítkovice. Fulnek came away 3-0 victors, with Ondřej Smetana scoring all three goals. A crowd of 1,320 people looked on as Fulnek celebrated their first three points in the second division. If I remember correctly, stadium capacity was listed around 1,200.

Despite being a rather modest club from the countryside in Moravia, they showed that they belonged in the second division. At the end of the season, they finished a respectable 6th place, and for a time in the Spring were actually pushing for promotion to the first division. For the most part, the club usually got under 1,000 fans a game. The season high came in the 9th round, as regional rivals, Opava turned up, bringing a crowd of 1,632 through the gates. A season low crowd of 330 attended a 27th round game against Ustí nad Labem. The game finished in a 2-2 draw. In the last home game of the season, they beat Slovácko 3-2.

They ended up averaging 780 people a game. Ondřej Smetana was the leading goal scorer for the club with seven. The club had surpassed expectations of almost everyone with their play, but just how long could this small club perform and stay in the second highest competition in the country?

Unfortunately, their 2008/09 second division campaign would be nothing short of a disaster. The club finished with a record of 1 win, 6 draws, and 23 losses in 30 games, scoring 16 goals while giving up 70.

The season started on a positive note, with a 2-2 away draw to Jihlava. During the second round, they hosted Hradec Kralove. The game would finish 0-0, with only 613 in attendance. A sign of things to come? It was certainly a disappointing crowd for the first game of the season, especially since they had performed so well during the previous season. The final 15 games of the season, saw them lose 15 times. They scored 3 goals, while giving up 46. This was all a result of the club trying to cut costs, and shipping away all of their high paid players to help costs. Their final second division game was at home against Slovácko, a 2-0 loss infront of just 154 people. They averaged just 408 people a game. It definitely looked like many in the town had given up, but 15 losses in a row would certainly demoralise even the strongest of football supporter.

After their awful 2008/09 season, the club was relegated to the MSFL (3rd division). It was hoped that they would be able to establish themselves again, and turn things around. Unfortunately, it didn't work out this way, because the club was too much in debt. They couldn't fulfill their commitment and withdrew altogether from the MSFL after the autumn half of the season. During the first half of the season, they only managed 3 wins, and 1 draw.

At the start of the 2010/11 season, the club reformed in the local IV třída (10th level), with the hopes of slowly moving up the pyramid. Who knows, perhaps one day we might see Fulnek back near the 2nd and 3rd divisions?

So, what happened to football in Fulnek? A victim of their own success? Or moving up too quickly through the Czech football pyramid? Or just a bad timing? Despite all their problems, this small town had, for a short time period, a professional club. Now, the focus is on the men who play in the 10th level of the Czech pyramid, trying to bring football back in the town. The good news is, that they have been promoted to the 9th level of the pyramid. After 17 games this season (so far), they have won all 17. Perhaps things will begin to turn around for Fulnek? It might just take a few years.

The clubs website can be found here.

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