Sunday, October 30, 2016

RECENT REPORTS:
FK Slavoj Vysehrad - FK Kraluv Dvur (10-09-2016)
Slovan Liberec - Viktoria Plzen (10-09-2016)
 Bohemians 1905 - Zbrovjoka Brno (11-09-2016)  

UPCOMING GAMES
Sporting Club Portugal - Vitória Guimarães (05-03-2017)
AB - Nykøping (14-05-2017)
Besiktas - Osmanlispor (21-05-2017)
Acharnaikos - PAE Anagennisi Karditsas 1904 (29-05-2017)
 




INTRODUCTION

The terms "groundhopping" and "groundhopper" can not (yet) be found in any dictionary, yet there are hundreds of groundhoppers around, mostly in Germany. The word combines the terms "ground" and "hopping" and refers to the visiting of different sports grounds -- usually, though not exclusively, football grounds (for a German description, see Wikipedia).

Whereas normal football fans tend to visit only home games of their favorite team, particularly when they live closeby, and more fanatical fans also attend the away games of their team, the groundhopper aims to visit as many different grounds and teams as possible. Moreover, unlike the normal fan, who generally prefers to visit the big teams in football (e.g. Bayern München, Manchester United, Real Madrid), the groundhopper goes for the exotic (e.g. Avenir Beggen, Ozeta Dukla Trencin, Selangor PKNS) and the tiny, such as the third team of the city (e.g. Partick Thistle, Royale Union Sint-Gilloise, Spvgg Unterhaching).

While groundhopping is largely a non-organized activity, by individuals and small groups, there exist a few organizations of groundhoppers. The most famous is the German Vereinigung der Groundhopper Deutschlands (V.d.G.D.): it's website is one of the major sources of information on clubs, leagues, and stadiums in the world. For other groundhopper websites, see the links on the right.


This website provides an overview of the various groundhops of me, Grondhopper. I'm a Dutch academic and football fan, supporting PSV in the Netherlands, Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany, and the Portland Timbers in the USA. I regularly travel abroad for both work and pleasure, and try to combine these trips with groundhops. In addition, I make several special groundhops every year alone or with one or more of my friends, some of which are active groundhoppers themselves. I have currently visited 413 (!) clubs in 39 countries on 6 continents.

Comments are always highly appreciated. You can post them either here on the site or you can email me at grondhopper[at]hotmail.com.

Bohemians Praha 1905 – FC Zbrojovka Brno (11-09-2016)

 
My last day in Prague I go to see the club that will forever be linked to probably the most legendary Czech player in history: Antonín Panenka of the famous Panenka penalty. It is also a club with one of the most remarkable logos, a kangaroo, the legacy of an Australian tour in 1927. Bohemians Praha 1905 is the 15th (!) name of the club. The latest renaming was a consequence of a split with FK Bohemians Praha in 2005, which led to an enormous legal mess – not uncommon in post-communist Europe. On the upside, it provided me with the opportunity for a new groundhop, as I had already seen FK Bohemians Praha in the 1990s.

 
I arrive at the legendary Ďolíček Stadium about half an hour before kick-off. The old stadium, opened in 1932, is situated in the Vršovice district – formerly working class and now increasingly hipster – and has its own tram stop (Bohemians). It is a scorching day in early September and the area around the stadium is buzzing. I get a ticket for the main stand (covered so I won’t melt in the sun) for CZK 230 (ca. $9).

 
Inside the stadium is a small courtyard that is packed with people who are lining up at the many drink and eat stands. The club has put a sprinkler in the middle to provide some much needed cooling for the fans, which is much appreciated.

 
The Ďolíček Stadium is old and small ground (capacity just 5,000), but it is full of atmosphere and history. It even has a small club museum and a wall of pictures of club heroes. Consequently, there is strong opposition among fans to the plans of the management to leave the ground and move to a new stadium further outside of the area.

 
The fans are a combination of mostly older, working class locals and hipsters and punks as well as some tourists. The stadium has only one main stand, which is almost sold out. The fanatic home fans stand behind the goal on a small stand.

 
The official attendance is 4,329, which seems a couple hundred too high, but the stadium is close to capacity. Only the opposite “stand” of the main stand is fairly empty, except for some 100 away fans, who made the roughly 200 km trip from Brno, the second biggest city in the country. Most of the fans are males, shirtless, and increasingly drunk.

 
Bohemians have their first shot at goal in the second minute; it goes well over. The next minute Brno has a good attack, which is saved by the goalie. The game flows pretty well, with both teams creating some half decent chances, forcing some decent saves by the goalies.

 
Overall the game is ok, not remarkable, but much better than the game I watched the evening before. The Brno goalie is quite poor on corners, often missing the ball. It is not punished though.

 
In the 23rd minute Bohemians have a great through ball but the goalie saves. The next minute Brno has a good counter but the final ball is weak. In the 25th minute there is a much deserved and needed water break – it must be some 30 C – and the next uncoordinated attack leads to a rebound from 18 meters, which is hidden from the goalie, and ends up in the low corner: 1-0!

 
In the 32nd minute the hosts have a corner, the header is saved by the goalie, but Bohemians score from a rebound from just 2 meters: 2-0. The crowd goes wild. Oddly enough, it doesn’t change the way Brno plays, devoid of any urgency, as if it is still 0-0.

 
In the first, and only minute of extra time in the first half Bohemians have a break, the Brno goalie comes out and slides the ball away, far from his goal. The ball end up with a defender, who shoots from roughly 40 meters, over the defenders and goalie, into the goal: 3-0! Half time.

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Early in the second half the hosts have another good attack, but the ball is volleyed over the goal from 5 meter. Most attacks are pretty accidental. Brno continues to put in a pathetic performance, while Bohemians are lowering their pace in the scorching heat.


The game remain quite entertaining, with Brno at times creating some half chances, and Bohemians having more dangerous counter attacks, but it is clear to everyone that the winner is determined and nothing will fundamentally change. The final score is 3-0 and everyone leaves happily, looking for shade and refreshments.



Bohemians Praha 1905 is only the third team of the city, behind powerhouses Sparta and Slavia, but should be on the list of any groundhopper. While the crowd is getting a bit too hipster – reminded me a bit of St. Pauli – do go see them asap, before they leave Ďolíček and move to some soulless new stadium in a soulless suburb of Prague.

FC Slovan Liberec –FC Viktoria Plzeň (10-09-2016)

 
After seeing Slavoj Vyšehrad in the morning I meet up with my friend P. and his son T. and we drive the roughly 110 km north to Liberec, a town in North Bohemia, pretty close to the Polish border. We first go accidentally into the VIP entrance, which does give a beautiful look at the stadium below.

 
After a 20 minute walk around the stadium, we fall in with the pretty decent crowd, who are enjoying a later summer evening in September by eating and drinking in the many stands outside of the stadium.

 
The Stadion u Nisy is an old and small stadium with a capacity of just 9,900. We buy tickets for CZK 120 (ca $5) for one of the two stands on the long side of the pitch.

 
As we enter the stadium we face quite serious security. Just off our entrance the local tifosi are working on their big banners for the game. They have a nice little nook where they can drink and paint.

 
FC Slovan Liberece was founded in 1958. It was a small team in communist Czechoslovakia but has become one of the most successful teams in the post-communist Czech Republic. Today’s game is against Viktoria Plzen, another well-established team in the Czech First League (currently named ePojisteni.cz liga). The official attendance is 5,600, which seems a bit (too) high. Some 150 fans have made the 210 km trip from Pilsen (Plzen), not that bad for the Czech Republic.

 
Before kick-off the group of tifosi that we saw earlier unveil a remarkable banner, or better book of banners. They have two banners for each of the last ten seasons and they display them as if it was a book. Very cool!

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During the game the group will mainly sing against a smaller group of Slovan fans on the other side of the stadium. At times they will stop their inner-Slovan rivalry to silence the singing of the away supporters, who sing for most of the game too.

 
There are a few current Czech national team players on the pitch, although that doesn’t say too much, as the Czech national team has almost imploded as much as the Dutch national team. The only player I know is Milan Baroš, possibly one of the most successful Czech players of the last decades, having played for clubs like Liverpool, Lyon, and Galatasaray. I’ve always found him overrated, but now at the ripe age of 35, he is even lazier and slower than ever. In fact, even within a game defined by very poor passing and play, he stands out negatively.

 
It takes 12 minutes before we have the first shot of Slovan in the direction of the goal, which is slow and roughly 2 meters wide. Ten minutes later Plzeň gets a corner, which is headed out, and rebounded with a beautiful strike from 16 meters that goes into the top left corner with no one to stop him: 0-1. Stunning!

 
In the 22nd minute they get a free kick, which leads to a soft header at the goalkeeper. Slovan only excels in making extremely stupid fouls all over the pitch. There is roughly one foul a minute. I seldom have seen such bad football at the top level. In the second minute of extra time Slovak gets a hard ball into the penalty box, Baroš is fouled, but gets no penalty. Half time: 0-1.

 
In the second half Slovak puts a bit more pressure on Viktoria, but there are still many, many (dumb) fouls. In the 54th minute Baroš shoots a free kick just over the goal and almost 15 minutes later another Slovak free kick is headed “just” wide (by the horrifically low standards of this game).

 
Not that surprisingly, it is Viktoria that scores (again), in the 75th minute, although the way they do it is. After a long attack a hard pass is volleyed with the outside of foot, beautiful! 0-2. The home fans take it relatively easily. I start to think they might have seen worse, although I don’t dare to imagine what that would look like.


The next fifteen minutes the visitors create several more easy chances, but fail to score. As the game has moved into extra time, Slovan finally remembers that it is here to play football. A good through ball is met with a hard finish: 1-2. Too little, too late.



FC Slovan Liberec is an excellent example of a regional team in the top flight, small and cozy stadium with a decent and almost exclusively local crowd, which is involved but not too demanding. It is definitely worth a visit, although the quality of football could be amazingly low.