Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Slovan and Spartak (Trnava) exemplified the decline of Slovak football, but it was not sudden collapse – the shift of power was slowly developing, it was not definite at all. Banik (Ostrava), the first Czech club to win the championship after ten years of Slovak champions, also slipped in 1976-77 – the champions of 1975-76 finished 7th. Apparently, they were not strong enough team to stay permanently on top, although they were consistently among the better Czechoslovakian clubs during the 1970s. Sparta (Prague) were still weak – they won the Cup in 1976, still playing in the Second Division, which they won as well, but back in First, Sparta only struggled to escape relegation, finishing 13th, only 2 points ahead of Spartak (Trnava). Neither the champion, not the Cup winner of 1976 suggested Czech domination and Slovak football still had some teeth left. Lokomotiva (Kosice) was 5th in the championship and did better in the Cup.

Inter (Bratislava) was second – two more lost games were the whole difference between them and the new champions. But both strong Slovak clubs this season only showed the relative decline: Lokomotiva were bizarre club: one season among the best, the next barely escaping relegation, going from one extreme to the opposite, and no strangers to Second Division either. Inter (Bratislava) were strong and consistent during the 1970s, having nice squad, led by fine national team players – Petras and Jurkemik, both European champions in 1976 – but let's face it: with Slovan across town as neighbour and rival, Inter never stand a chance of becoming really great team. Yes, they were strong and good, but even during weak years of Slovan the best players preferred its sky-blue kit to the yellow-black one of Inter. Inter, at best, were able to stay among the top five clubs in the league, getting silver or bronze now and then, but championship title was beyond their reach.

Inter in a way showed the secondary position Slovak football was slowly taking. ZVL Zilina was more representative club of the Slovak case – old (founded 1908), but never strong team, their best was midtable position. They finished 10th this year, nothing surprising.

ZVL Zilina: sitting, from left: Tomanek, Sulgan, Beles, Knapec, Rusnak, Chobot.

Middle row: Kral, Ilavsky, Sepesi (?), Staskovan, Fric, Murarik.

Third row: Smehil (?), Dubek (?), Vojtek (?), Mintal, Galvanek.

It was not their final place in the table surprising, but the fact that some Zilina players were included in the Czechoslvoak B-national team. On the surface, it looked like Slovak football was still carrying the torch of the future, especially when the low place of the club was taken into account. Yet, B-national teams rarely supply real national teams with players and such teams play sporadically, never attracting much attention. Often they provide a brake for A-team players, partly trying promising candidates, but also in part providing some pseudo-international chance to veterans and good, but second-rate guys. As it turned out, no one of this Zilina squad made it to the A-national team and abroad the names mean nothing. In Czechoslovakia these boys meant nothing too, I am afraid. The Slovaks were not the future of Czechoslovak football.