Sunday, 26 June 2011

Stadion Miejski im. Henryka Reymana (Wisła Kraków v Polonia Warszawa)

LinkOn Sunday 29th May, after already having taken pictures of the grounds of Garbarnia and Cracovia I made my way to the newly renovated home of Cracovia's bitter rivals Wisła Kraków. Stadion Miejski im. Henryka Reymana is a very short walk from the Cracovia stadium. Henryka Reymana was the Polish top scorer twice and made a large contribution to Wisła's first two league wins in 1927 and 1928. Wisła have been crowned Polish champions thirteen times in total. Since 1999 they have won the Ekstraklasa eight times including last season.

I arrived at the ground at around 1pm. Wisła were scheduled to play Polonia Warszawa at 5pm. After this match, the final league game of the season, the team would be handed the championship trophy. This led to a lot of interest from the Wisła supporters and I understood from the Wisła website, with a little help from Google Translate, that the game was a sell-out. Although I was disappointed about that, I wanted to take a few pictures of the stadium nevertheless even though I did not expect to see the stadium from inside today.

Even though it was four hours before kick-off there was already a large presence of riot police at the stadium. Polish football still has a lot of problems with a hooliganism and you would expect the police to turn up in large numbers at such a high-profile game. When I arrived near the stadium a bus transporting members of the riot police had collided with one of the Kraków trams. From what I could see there were no major injuries.

I then walked to the stadium and I noticed that the ticket office was very busy. I asked a member of staff in English if there were still tickets available but he did not speak English. Then I asked another two guys outside but again they did not know what I was talking about. I tried it in German but they did not speak German either. When I asked another guy he indicated me to wait. He walked away and came back with someone who apparently spoke English. He told me that there were still tickets available but I needed a form of ID, such as a passport which I had luckily brought with me. The ticket office had a large number of windows and when it was my turn I was hoping that the guy would be able to understand me but it turned out he spoke perfect English. The only tickets available were in the C stand behind the goal but I was more than happy with that. Amazingly, a ticket was only 25 złoty, which is slightly less than six pounds.

After having bought the ticket I walked back to my hotel to freshen up and I returned to Stadion Miejski im. Henryka Reymana a few hours later. Upon entering the ground I was searched, as is the norm in the Netherlands as well, but I was also asked for my passport and my name and passport number were checked with the name and number on my ticket. This was all done in a very friendly manner. I then made my way to my seat. I believe that this was the first time this part of the stand was used and that that was why there were still tickets available. Everything looked very new. The stadium is still not complete and the largest stand was not in use, even though it looks like it is almost complete. When finished the new ground will have a capacity of just over 33,000. Amazingly, there will not be any Euro 2012 games played at this new stadium, despite it being the home of the league champions in the second largest city of Poland.

The atmosphere at the game was brilliant and exceeded all my expectations. The fans in the opposite end of the ground were the most vocal but the supporters in 'my' end were certainly not quiet either. After a few incidents with supporters in recent months the Polish FA had decided there would not be any away fans allowed at games in the top three divisions and therefore there were no Polonia supporters in sight. The fans in my stand seemed all very civilised and there were loads of women and children as well. The football on display was of a lesser quality. It fact it was a terrible game and Wisła deservedly lost by two goals. Although the fans were clearly not happy with their team's performance on the night they had come here for only one reason: to celebrate the 13th league title. After the game the trophy was presented to the team and shown to the fans but the whole built-up took ages. No-one seemed to mind however and the party atmosphere continued.

After the game almost all Wisła fans walked to the main square in the city centre where the players would once again show the trophy. I walked to square as well but it had been a very long day for me, I had got up at 4am that day, flown from Scotland to Poland and walked around Kraków all day and I was not really in the mood to wait for another hour or so for the Wisła squad to turn up. Also I had to work the next day so I did not want to go to my bed too late so I made my way back to the hotel at around 9pm. I regretted that decision when I saw these images the next day but all in all it had been another great groundhopping day.

The bus-tram collision outside the stadium. You can see some policemen with some minor injuries.

Luckily there did not seem to be any severe injuries.

When I took this picture all bystanders were given the Polish version of: 'Move along folks, there's nothing to see here,' or something similar.

Approaching the stadium from the south in the afternoon: this is the Trybuna G.

Wisła fans outside the stadium before kick-off.

Approaching 'my' stand, the Trybuna C, from the north.

The Trybuna E, which is the family stand.

The Trybuna C.

The Trybuna G housed the most fanatical fans.

The main stand was not open yet but looks as good as completed.

A Wisła corner-kick. If you look closely you can see a few Wisła fans on an elevated platform who acted as 'conductors', showing the fans in the Trybuna C how and when to clap etc.

The Wisła squad were presented with the league trophy after the game.

Dutch coach Robert Maaskant received a bicycle as a gift from the squad.

A lap of honour after the presentation.

Wisła fans on their way to the main square after the game...

...with again a large police presence but no trouble.

Sunday 29th May 2011
Wisla Kraków 0 Polonia Warszawa 2
Goals: Smolarek 22, Baluster 39.
Att: 24,000

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Stadion Cracovii im. Józefa Piłsudskiego (Cracovia)

I took these pictures of Stadion Cracovii, home of Cracovia, on Sunday 29th May. As I explained in my previous post I was in Kraków for six days for my work. After having taken some pictures at the ground of one-time Polish champions Garbarnia I walked to the ground of Kraków's second club, which took me about 30 minutes.

Founded in 1906, Cracovia is the oldest Polish football club still in existence. They have been Polish champions five times although the last time they won the league was in 1948. Nowadays it is all about making sure they stay in the top flight, the Ekstraklasa, and Cracovia managed to avoid relegation once more last season. Their main rivals are the far more successful Wisła Kraków, whose stadium is only half a mile away from Cracovia's.

Cracovia have been playing football at this location since 1912 however the current stadium only opened its doors in September last year. Unfortunately, I was unable to enter the modern ground, which has a capacity of about 15,000. Therefore only exterior shots but who knows, I may come back here one day.

Approaching the ground from the east.

The stadium evacuation plan.

The North Stand is occupied by several retail outlets.

A glimpse of the pitch.

The West Stand.

The South Stand, which is the main stand.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Stadion Garbarni (Garbarnia Kraków)

The fixture I had originally pencilled in for Sunday 29th May was the Scottish Junior Cup Final at Rugby Park. However on Thursday 26th May it was confirmed that I would be travelling to Kraków in Poland for a week for my work. This trip had been in the pipeline for a few weeks and I had enough time to do some research on football grounds I could visit as well. I flew from Edinburgh to Kraków at 6:30am and arrived at my hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn just south of the city centre, just before 11am local time. Luckily they already had a room ready so I could check in right away. After unpacking my bag I changed into a t shirt and three-quarter length shorts as temperatures were a lot higher than in Scotland and I was ready to explore the city.

The first stop was Stadion Garbarni, only a very short walk from my hotel, probably about ten minutes. The ground lies within the city boundaries however the location of the park had a rural feel to it. The gate was open so I was able to get inside the stadium.

Garbarnia were founded in 1921 by a group of workers from the then nearby tannery. This is not really a surprise when you know that 'garbarnia' is the Polish word for 'tannery'. In the beginning the club did not have its own stadium and led a rather nomadic existence. However in 1926 they moved into the Stadion Garbarni przy ul. Barskiej. This stadium was demolished in 1973 to make way for the Forum Hotel, a hotel that was meant to be amongst the most luxurious in then-communist Poland. This monstrosity currently lies dormant and I looked right at it from my hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Garbarnia's current ground was opened in 1990. This surprised me as it looks much older than that. The club currently play in League III, the fourth tier in Polish football. They have seen much better days however, albeit quite some time ago. In 1929 Garbarnia reached second place in the top league, only eight years after they were founded. In 1931 they did one better and were crowned Polish champions. After World War II the club lost its status as one of the top sides in Poland and they have only had a few short spells in the top league in the last sixty years or so.

The Forum Hotel was built on the site of the former Garbarnia stadium. The hotel has been closed for years now but it is currently the biggest billboard in Poland thanks to the TK Maxx advertising on the other side of the building. This picture was taken from my hotel room.

The home dug-out.

Looking toward the main stand.

The away dug-out.

Old-fashioned terracing in the northern end of the ground...

...with old-fashioned fences.

Seating in the main stand. The top half of the fences was sawn off at the start of last season to provide a better view to the fans in the main stand.

A great-looking clock and scoreboard. Hard to believe this stadium is only twenty years old.

Again the main stand.

The terrace in the north end.

And looking toward the east.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Glebe Park (Brechin City v Ayr United)

LinkI am running slightly behind with my blog as I I have been quite busy at work lately and I have spent two of the last three weeks in Kraków, Poland for my work as well with not much opportunity to add any updates. However I have added all recent pictures to the My Football Travels Facebook page including pictures of the Wisla Kraków v Polononia Warszawa game.

Before I went to Poland I added another Scottish Football League ground to my list: Glebe Park, home of Brechin City. The occasion was the home team v Ayr United, the second leg of First Division play-off final. The first leg had ended in a 1-1 draw. From what I had heard the Honest Men were the stronger side in that first game but were unable to finish Brechin off. The men from Angus even managed to score the equaliser in the final five minutes of the match. As both teams were quite evenly matched throughout the season it seemed both sides had all to play for.

I had not been to Glebe Park before. The main reason for this is that I usually travel to matches by public transport and Brechin is a relatively difficult place to get to if you stay in Paisley. The easiest way is to take a train to Montrose and jump on a bus from there as Brechin does not have a railway station. This also requires a bit of planning in advance as train tickets from Glasgow to Montrose bought on the day of travel are usually quite expensive. Luckily, Tony, a friend of mine who is an Ayr United supporter, had arranged for me to travel along with him in his brother-in-law's Fiesta together with two more Ayr fans. The four of them picked me up in Glasgow city centre at around 11:45. We arrived in the village of Brechin at around 2pm. Brechin is definitely a village, with a population of about 7,000. Although it is sometimes referred to as a city, for example in the name of the football club, this is simply for historical reasons, mainly the fact that there is a cathedral.

After we had parked the car on the car park of the Cooperative supermarket, which is near the ground, we made our way to Hudson's Bar next to the Northern Hotel, which had been taken over by Ayr fans. The atmosphere was excellent, with a DJ in the car park at the rear of the pub. At about 2:45pm we walked to Glebe Park. Ayr fans were allocated the fairly modern Trinity Road Stand, which holds about 1,000 and was filled to capacity today, and about half of the Hedge Side. The famous hedge is the most typical part of Brechin's stadium but with its mixture of well maintained terraces and stands it is a very attractive ground all round. I tried to buy a programme but did not see any programme sellers inside the ground. After paying my £14 at the gate I did not see any inside the ground either. When I asked a steward about it he figured they had probably sold out by now. I know I may sound like a total anorak, and I probably am, but this really annoyed me as I have programmes of all the other 37 Scottish grounds I had visited previously. I decided I would not let it spoil my day and would try to get one on eBay the next week.

The Ayr fans were loud and boisterous today and seemingly convinced that there was only going to be one outcome today: a win for the Honest Men and promotion to the First Division. However things did not seem to go very well for the team from the west coast in the first half. Not long before half-time I decided to go for a pie. There was a massive queue at the pie hut and staff that were obviously not used to four-figure crowds. It was a long wait and I even missed the first goal: United's Jonathan Tiffoney meant to pass back to goalkeeper Alan Martin but apparently no one had told him about the notoriously strong winds in this part of country and the ball rolled into his own net. Then, to make matters worse the pies had sold out by the time it was my turn to order. The guy in front of me had bought the last one. Since I had waited for so long I did not want to leave empty-handed and went for a cheeseburger instead and so did Tony. I have to say it was one of the poorest attempts at a cheeseburger I have ever sampled.

We made our way back to the top of the Trinity Road Stand and saw a stronger and more determined Ayr United in the second half. Nevertheless they struggled to find the net. With thirteen minutes left on the clock Mark Roberts equalised, which led to joyous scenes in the Trinity Stand. However this was nothing compared to the celebrations after Michael Moffat put the men from Ayr 2-1 ahead two minutes before time. Moffat's goal even sparked a mini pitch invasion. After the referee had blown the final whistle the Ayr fans invaded the pitch en masse, and of course I decided to join them. Tony even lifted match winner Moffat on his shoulders. When I returned to the stand I could not believe my luck when I found an immaculate match programme under one of the seats. Coupled with the £20 note I had found in the stand as well I had no more reason left to complain about the trip to Angus. At around 6pm we left Brechin and we were back in Glasgow at around 8pm.

Approaching Glebe Park: the Trinity Road Stand in front of us.

Ayr United supporters in the Trinity Road Stand.

The Main Stand.

Another look at the Main Stand. Small but perfectly formed.

The Hedge Side.

Looking toward the Cemetery End.

Some naughty boy with a flare...

A mini pitch invasion after Moffat's goal minutes before the final whistle...

...and a proper one at full-time! Looking towards the Trinity Road Stand.

Ayr United players celebrating promotion with the players.

Sunday 22nd May 2011
Scottish Football League First Division play-off final (second leg)
Brechin City 1 Ayr United 2 (aggregate: 2-3)
Brechin: Tiffoney 44 og.
Ayr: Roberts 77, Moffat 88.
Att: 2,404
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