Men’s Football Club Tour, Bratislava 2011

During the summer months, the hard work doesn’t stop for the University sports clubs, with many jetting overseas for a change of scenery. The Saint will be providing reports of all the club tours, starting with the football clubs voyage to Bratislava, written by the ‘impartial’ and modest captain James Fazackerley.

In the early hours of the morning on Saturday 28th May. eighteen bleary-eyed footballers, donned in club ties and kilts of various patterns and value, gathered inside Edinburgh Airport to embark on their tour of Bratislava. Anticipation and enthusiasm was high amongst the youngsters of the group, whereas a few of the seasoned club veterans shuffled softly through the check-in queue, having crawled out of the Bop just three hours earlier!

Arriving at roughly 14:00 hours on a bright and sunny Slovakian afternoon, the boys made their way to their place of residence, the highly-rated ‘Haestel Blues’. Upon arrival, the team received a warm welcome and news that the hostel was also a 24 hour bar; which resulted in a few promptly setting aside suitcases and parking themselves on bar stools. A few hours later the team headed to a busy sports bar in the center of town, with an area booked for the Champions League final courtesy of our industrious tour representative, Gary ‘Diego’ Reilly. A few pints were consumed and consequently some loose bets were flying around the table ending with Gregor Smith leaving the bar significantly out of pocket after a rash call regarding United’s assist.

Sunday was ‘rest day’ in Bratislava for the St. Andrews students so a few of the boys, pretending to be cultured and intellectual, made the 37 mile trip across the Slovak-Austro border to Vienna. The rest slouched on the hostel bean bags with a fresh beer in hand, before venturing into town. Monday would bring the team’s toughest fixture, 90 minutes of exercise against the students of the University of Comenius, Bratislava, who are famed for their trickery and horse-like stamina. The boys naturally used Sunday evening to prepare well for the forthcoming match, starting at the haestel bar and proceeding into town to passionately discuss match tactics and analyse opposition tapes.

As the light of the Bratislava morning began to creep through the hostel windows, several fresh-faced individuals emerged from their rooms several hours later, armed with boots, shin pads, and a steadfast determination to defeat their opposition. The team hopped onto one of the many trams that snake through the Bratislava streets and made their way to the University ground. Upon arrival the boys were shown into the away team’s changing room, re-appearing 10 minutes later in brand new white kits sporting the logo of USAMFC’s sponsor The Blue Stane. They were led by Kieran McGrath who, having been devastatingly injured prior to the tour, now spearheaded the management team, with Duncan ‘The Stalwart’ Monteith assuming the role of El Capitan for the graduate’s last USAMFC tour.

The warm up consisted of players scattered about the St Andrews half; some on the floor, a few sheltered in the dug-out, and debutant Luke Betham repeatedly kicking the ball over the fence. Niceties were exchanged with the opposition before both teams lined up for photographs and took up their positions on the field. The match kicked off in temperatures reaching the early 30s, heat the players hadn’t previously experienced in the chilly East of Scotland, which caused a few of the big names to struggle off the bat including Saints’ mascot Peter Gilfillan. The heat was simply too much for the Edinburgh-born playmaker, who proceeded to nonchalantly polish off 2/3 of the team’s water reserves. The Saints battled on, but went 2 goals down due to some unorthodox defending by debutant Betham and gas-merchant Willis Slade, before the visiting team netted twice with a fine finish from the great Dane Andreas Andersen and a lucky scrape from the young Spaniard Guillermo Royo-Villanova, who had been given a token start by the management team to help boost his confidence.

Unfortunately the Saints’ continental attack force couldn’t improve the scoreline and the second half saw the visitors concede a further 4 goals in the unrelenting heat; fresher Leo Shlidson missed a penalty for Saints, but a consolation goal did come, from Dundee transfer Jamie Whitelaw. The match ended 7-3 to the home team, with the hosts providing post-match refreshments and Slovakian women in exchange for the Saints’ drinking games and songs.

Many of the team spent Tuesday morning sweating in their bunk beds or sprawled across the hostel common room before travelling to a welcomed late kick-off against the Slovakian 5th division amateur outfit FK BCT. In pleasant surroundings and on a satisfactory playing surface, the Saints lined up in the cool evening air ready for battle. Mascot Gilfillan was left on the bench as a precaution, as he deemed the temperature still “a wee bit too hot”. The Saints took an early lead in the first half through Finn Thomson converting a pin-point Fazackerley corner, and ended the half 4-3 ahead of the Barbarians, despite some handbags been thrown by Saints’ athlete John More.

The attacking football was tamed in the second half, but at the final whistle Andersen had a hat-trick to his name and the complacent Royo-Villanova the miss of the century making it a 6-all draw. The match was won on penalties after Luke Betham poked his into the roof of the net, and young American Julian Crowther picked up man of the match after a robust display chopping down Slovakians from left back.

The following morning, amid the aftermath of a night out with the students of the University of Comenius and several ejections from various Bratislavan venues, the team travelled to face stiffer opposition in the shape of 4th Division title contenders FK Vrakuna. A torrential downpour threatened to cancel the encounter, but the teams proceeded to line up in front of a 50-strong Slovakian crowd. McGrath had made the questionable decision to leave talisman Fazackerley on the bench, but then hastily reversed it as the hit man was brought on early in the first half to swing the game in favour of the Saints. The first half ended goalless, and the team pushed on in the second half with some fantastic attacking football from Andersen, Ross, Royo-Villanova and Fazackerley. Having sold the referee with a typical dive, Royo-Villanova opted wisely to hand the free-kick over to dead ball expert Fazackerley, who promptly dispatched the ball into the top corner from 30 yards to put Saints 1-0 up.

The team held off the Slovakians’ attack with some gutsy defending, with Saints warrior Fazackerley experiencing the pain of battle, retiring from the field after bravely entering into a 40/60 challenge in favour of his opposite number. The Saints conceded towards the end of the game, after the Vrakuna striker strolled past the passenger Peter Gilfillan on the left wing and, despite Monteith’s best efforts to tap-tackle him to the muddied turf, placed the ball past a weak-handed Alistair ‘Cumdog’ Cummings. A second penalty shootout was to ensue. This time the Saints weren’t so fortunate, with a trademark miss from Andersen the final nail in the Saints’ coffin. A valiant display from both teams, but an enjoyable final fixture ended in a loss for the travelling team.

After a final night in the Eastern European city, a band of broken men showed up in the early afternoon sun to fly back to their homeland. Although physically and mentally exhausted, Bratislava had witnessed the boys of USAMFC play some good football, form strong bonds and make new memories. The tour of 2011 will not be soon forgotten.

2 thoughts on “Men’s Football Club Tour, Bratislava 2011

  • August 21, 2011 at 1:19 am

    *scored a penalty

  • August 29, 2011 at 1:20 am

    no mention of George Best Award winner John Stoobs More’s late night heroics?


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