Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Opava in the 1996 Inter-Toto Cup

In the wonderful 3rd tier tournament that was the Inter-Toto Cup, a club could finish mid-table in their league and still have a chance to play in Europe.  That is, only if they wanted to get a rather early start to the season, and venture off into some of the lesser known areas of European club football.

Opava was one such club.  After the 1995/96 1st division season, Opava finished in 6th place out of 16, with Liberec two points behind them.  This was one of the most successful seasons for Opava in the 1st division, which gave them the chance to experience European football for the first time.  The key player during the season was Jiří Bartl who scored 11 goals.  However, his best run of club form came at Vítkovice where he played from 1986-1991.  Perhaps the most famous player with Opava at the time, was Alois Grussmann who appeared in 6 games for Czechoslovakia and scored 1 goal from 1988-1991.  From 1991-1992, he played with Real Betis in Spain.

The 1996 season of the Inter-Toto Cup was a rather bloated one, even for Inter-Toto Cup standards. Sixty European sides stretching from Keflavik in Iceland to FC Kamaz in Tatarstan, Russia.
Five teams in a group with each team playing one another once.  So, every team in a group would get two home games and two away games.

Opava were drawn with FC Kamaz (Russia), Lodz (Poland), 1860 Munich (Germany) and Varna (Bulgaria).  The big draw for Opava was obviously 1860 from Germany.   Unfortunately, for the fans of Opava, the stadium in the city wasn't up to the high standard of the Inter-Toto Cup, so they had to play all their home games at NH Ostrava stadium.
In their first ever European match, Opava came up against FC Kamaz of Russia.  A crowd of 1523 turned up.  It was 0-0 at the half, but shortly after the break, Baběnkov scored for the visitors.  In the 65th minute, Martin Rozhon scored for the hosts setting up a dramatic last 25 minutes.  Unfortunately for Opava, Vladimir Klontsak, scored for Kamaz to give them a 2-1 victory.

Not getting the result they wanted at home, Opava now had to travel to Varna, Bulgaria hoping to get three points.  Varna was probably a destination most Czech people were familiar more for the beach rather than football.  An estimated 3000 people turned up in Varna, but it was Opava who came away with a surprise 1-0 victory.  Roman Hendrych scored the winner in the 84th minute.

With the three points in Bulgaria tucked away, it now came down to a crucial match against Bundesliga giants 1860 Munich.  At least, they were giants for their rather modest Silesian opposition.
Unfortunately, for the 2343 supporters at the game, the visitors proved too much and won 2-0 on goals by famous Bulgarian midfielder Daniel Borimirov and Polish international Piotr Nowak.  Some 1860 Munich supporters did make the trip to Ostrava, as a German flag appears in this rather small scanned copy of an old newspaper article.

Image from -
With the loss to 1860 Munich, the hopes of Opava advancing to the next round of the Inter-Toto Cup were virtually gone.  However, they still had one more match to play in Poland against Lodz.  2000 supporters still turned up for what was essentially meaningless match in a 3rd tier European competition.  Opava ran away as 3-0 winners with goals by Roman Janoušek, Jan Baránek and Aleš Rozsypal.

Opava had the unfortunate luck of winning both of their away games, while losing both games at home.  If they could have picked up one victory at home, they could have had a longer run in the competition.  Still, two wins, and two losses were not too bad for a club making their only appearance in Europe to this date, even though it was a 3rd tier competition.

June 29
Opava 1 FC Kamaz (RUS) 2
Attendance - 1523 (NH Ostrava - now known as Ostrava Jih)

July 6, 1996
Varna (BUL) 0 Opava 1
Attendance - 3000

July 13, 1996
Opava 0 1860 Munich 2
Attendance - 2343 (NH Ostrava)

July 20, 1996
Lodz (Poland) 0 Opava 3
Attendance - 2000

More detailed information on each fixture can be found here.

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