With their 0-0 draw with Sigma Olomouc the other week, the small-town club of Varnsdorf look set to ascend to the top tier of Czech football for the first time in their history next season so it’s time to introduce the potential Synot Liga entrants.
Who are they?
Two hours north of Prague lies Varnsdorf, a small town on the Czech-German border that was once vaguely well-known for its textile trade (the town was nicknamed ‘Little Manchester’ in the 19th Century) and association with classical music. Now, it’s more known for having one of the best independent breweries in the country, one that specialises in American-style IPAs and Stouts. Unsurprisingly, some have proclaimed that a trip to the northern town is the best away day in the Czech second tier. But even then, in a country full of amazing breweries and beer for blood, Varnsdorf gets lost in the ether. Not much happens there, least of all on a football pitch.
FK Varnsdorf were founded in 1938 as Hranicari Varnsdorf and the club spent the first few years of their existence playing second fiddle to the Kunert backed Warnsdorfer FK, who competed in the Sudetenland Gauliga with some success. But post-World War II Warnsdorfer, like many German-centric clubs, ceased to exist, leaving Hranicari as the town’s main side. A handful of name changes followed until they finally settled on Slovan Varnsdorf in 1957, roughly about the same time that they began to establish themselves away from the provincial league structure that they’d inhabited for years.
After a while in the nationalised pyramid they made it to the third tier in 1972 where they hovered just above the relegation for four years before tasting relegation. Here they would stay before falling into regional obscurity again.
However, their modern history is a lot more promising. Stalwarts of the CFL for a number of years the club benefitted from Bohemians Prague’s double demotion to leap into the FNL.
Who are the key men?
Central to their success has the FNL Player of the Season, Radim Breite. A graduate of the Teplice academy, the wide-midfielder has spent that past few years at the Kotline Stadion after short, sharp and unsuccessful stints as Ceska Lipa and Caslav. But despite initially struggling in the professional game, the twenty-five year-old has matured into an established force in the second tier who is a consistent goal threat. He’ll certainly be in the Synot Liga next season, either with or without Varnsdorf.
Like Breite, Ladislav Martan has chipped in with eight goals this season and is set to taste top-flight football again after brief spells with Slovan Liberec and Slovacko earlier on in his career. His experience and nous has been crucial.
From a defensive standpoint, right-back Petr Zieris has had a stellar season by all accounts, as too has twenty-three year-old Pavel Tvaroha. In goal Radek Porcal has kept eleven clean sheets in twenty-eight games, a record which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Who’s the boss?
At the moment, nobody!
Upon leading Varnsdorf to second in the National League Zdenko Frt’ala dropped the bombshell that he’d be leaving the club after an impressive four year stint. His work hadn’t gone unnoticed and for the past year he had been linked with nearly every Synot Liga vacancy, heavily so with the jobs at Slovan Liberec and Vysocina Jihlava. However despite those advances he remained loyal.
A former assistant at Sparta Prague (to Michal Bilek no less) and Ruzomberok in his native Slovakia, Frt’ala’s first gig was with Caslav, who he managed for a handful of games, before making the leap to Varnsdorf in 2011 where he gradually improved the team year after year despite a very rocky start.
But Frt’ala is moving south, back to Slovakia, to take charge of Podbrezova. After four years in the north of the Czech Republic he wants to return home, and not even the lure of the Synot Liga could tempt him to stay.
“We are losing our footballing Dad,” Radek Porcal said to Denik, thoughts that will likely be echoed by those at the club.
As of yet, there is no word on who his replacement will be.
Where will they play?
Despite finishing inside the promotion places, there is no guarantee that Varnsdorf will take their place amongst the Czech elite next season. Much like the situation that befell Znojmo, the club will be forced to temporarily relocate and commit to a raft of spending in order to bring their modest stadium up to Synot Liga standard. Currently the Mestsky Stadion v Kotline has an official capacity of 5,000, but only 900 of those are seated. Extensive renovation work will have to be carried out to, and agreed to.
Luckily though Miroslav Pelta is native of Varnsdorf and an advocate of the club’s ascension. There appears to be an informal agreement in place that will see Varnsdorf play sixty-minutes (and, potentially, two border crossings) away in Jablonec next season.
How will they do?
The stark reality is that they’re up against it, if they make it into the Synot Liga. There’s no denying that the loss of Frt’ala will sorely be felt and the club could run the risk of losing a handful of their most promising players the longer that negotiations with the FACR, sponsors and the local council drag on. What could be key, in a roundabout sense, is their relationship with Jablonec. If a stadium-share is agreed then why not a player-share too? A handful of fringe and youth players from Jablonec could provide useful, especially given that Pelta is likely to continue investing in his Galactico project. Unfortunately, they’ll be favourites to go straight back down.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 1st June 2015