CCTV. An intrusion of your human rights or a necessary method of patrolling social disruption. Having a camera on the corner of your street is one thing, in football stadia is another, especially in Slovakia. James Baxter and Dan Richardson look at big problems for two clubs.
Football really should be giving cause for celebration in Slovakia at the moment. The national team has followed its first ever World Cup appearance with two fine results in Euro 2012 qualifying and Corgon Liga title-holders MSK Žilina are still in the Champions League. Even Slovak football’s normally accident-prone governing body, the SFZ, has recently given cause for cautious optimism, by electing a bright, articulate new president.
Yet problems continue to face Slovak football and, for most sensible fans at least, Žilina’s failure to provide either Chelsea or Spartak Moscow with genuine opposition in European competition is among the least of them. Probably the most pressing issue concerns stadia and that has been brought into sharper focus this week by the news that two of the Corgon Liga’s twelve clubs, DAC Dunajská Streda and MFK Košice are almost certain to have their grounds closed from October 2nd. The reason is their failure to meet two deadlines, set by the Union of League Clubs (ULK), to install closed-circuit TV systems.
Other clubs might have managed to secure extensions even to the latest deadline but Dunajská Streda and Košice have been especially troubled by hooligan-related incidents over the past two years or so. A 2008/2009 match between DAC and Slovan Bratislava saw particularly disturbing violence when the home side’s largely ethnic Hungarian following, backed up (according to many accounts) by thugs from Budapest, clashed with Slovan fans, a group of whom are noted for their Slovak nationalist sentiments, and a heavy-handed police force. Over 30 injuries requiring hospital treatment resulted; it was only by good fortune that there were no deaths. With Slovakia’s treatment of its Hungarian minority population an important political issue generally, the episode was, lamentably, seen by populist governments in both Bratislava and Budapest as good reason to spout more unpleasant nationalist rhetoric
Then, earlier this season, a group of Košice fans armed with flagpoles attacked stewards at a match with Spartak Trnava, following which MFK were ordered to play their next home game behind closed doors. Offending fans in this incident were clearly identifiable from TV pictures but the trouble did give added urgency to the ULK’s insistence on CCTV at all top division Slovak grounds.
The closures imposed on DAC and Košice are due to come into effect before their respective home matches this weekend. The clubs have three possible courses of action ; look for suitably equipped neutral venues, stage the games in their own grounds with no fans present, or appeal to whatever sympathetic instincts the ULK possess and ask for a later deadline. The first option is out in Košice’s case, since Prešov and Michalovce, their nearest Eastern Slovak neighbours with CCTV, are also at home. They will probably take their punishment and face Zilina behind closed doors. But DAC have arguably the bigger nightmare. Their weekend opponents are none other than Slovan. Again, there is no obvious neutral venue nearby. But the prospect of fans of both these clubs in town but unable to watch the game is worse than that of having them in the stadium. Unsurprisingly then, DAC continue to hope for a further extension to the ULK deadline.
James Baxter is a season ticket holder at MSK Zilina and freelance writer who contributes regularly to When Saturday Comes. You can read more from Dan at his thoroughly excellent blog, Britski Belasi, here.