Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Changes are changes, but how definite they can be in football? Nothing is clear cut and especially in 1976-77, when changes were rather taking shape and far from obvious. Czech football was clearly not strong enough for complete domination. There was not a single club head and shoulders above the rest. Slovak football was not dead either. It was transitional time really. The Cup supports a view of transition, not a finality: a second division club won it in 1976. In 1976-77 edition the finalists were small fry so to say: Lokomotiva (Kosice) and SKLO Union (Teplice). Of course Cup tournaments escape logic or have their own logic, but it is interesting to contemplate the fact that none of the big clubs managed to reach the final. Since Czechoslovak Cup was unusual competition – separate Cup tournaments were held in Czechia and Slovakia and the winners met at a grand final contesting the federal cup – the failure of the big names was strange, particularly in Slovakia where two clubs were quite above the rest, Slovan and Inter from Bratislava. Larger pool existed in Bohemia and Moravia, yet small clubs won the local cups both in Czechia and Slovakia.

Lokomotiva (Kosice) were predictably unpredictable - this year happened to be strong one for them. They finished 5th in the championship and won the Slovak Cup. Good performance, keeping Slovak football alive and competitive, but may be they benefited from the weak season of Slovan and the limited potential of Inter, unable to compete strongly on two fronts. Anyhow, Lokomotiva were to represent Slovakia at the Czechoslovak Cup final. Their opponents were even more unlikely: SKLO Union had only one strong year since their foundation in 1945 – in 1972 they finished 3rd in the championship. Normally they occupied a place in the lower half of the table, as they did in 1976-77 as well, finishing 12th. To reach cup final was a big success indeed.

SKLO Union, aiming at the Cup: standing, from left: Vitu, Zensek, Machacek, Studenik (?), Sedlacek, Novak, Melichar, Thorovsky, Vejvoda.

Sitting: Stratil, Sourek (?), Bicovsky, Rygr – coach, Fajfert – assistant coach, Zalud, Koubek, Jirousek.

Not much of a team, otherwise they would not have been 12th, but not that bad either: Premysl Bicovsky was regular national team for some years and their biggest star, although the midfielder was not in the European champions' squad. Pavel Stratil and Zdenek Koubek were also playing for the national team now and then. These three provided class and as far as the opponents were of the kind of Lokomotiva (Kosice), perhaps Teplice even had the winning edge. Just perhaps, for it was a battle of equals and Teplice lost minimally 1-2.
Lokomotiva won their first trophy ever, a fine ending of fine season for the modest club. They were also young club – founded in 1946 – and perhaps even weaker historically than Teplice, for playing in the Second Division was like second nature to them. However, they had strong season and actually were at the beginning of their best spell in their history, although nobody knew it back then. They had even fewer well known names than SKLO Union – actually, only one name: Jozef Moder, but he kind of compensated the difference with quality. Moder not only a member of the national team, but a regular in the first eleven winning the European championship. On his wings Lokomotiva soared and won the Cup. And how wonderful it was back at home in Kosice – rubbing the nose of their younger (founded in 1952), but better known city rivals VSS, who had no trophy at all and were relegated this very season.