Slovakia’s most successful club was also the only side from former Czechoslovakia to win a European trophy back in the day. Slovak champions five times since 2009, including a cakewalk to the league title in 2019, Slovan Bratislava have emerged from a homeless decade with an impressive rebuilt stadium on the same site as the old one.
Opened in early 2019, the Tehelné pole ushers in a new era for Slovak football, playing post-Communism catch-up for so long now. It also comes a century after Slovan’s earliest beginnings.
1.ČsŠK Bratislava, formed in the flush of Czechoslovak independence in 1919, were regular champions of the inaugural Slovak league in the 1920s. They became ŠK Bratislava when Nazi-backed Slovakia broke away from the Czechs in 1940s. That was when that the Tehelné pole was built, during the war-time régime.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, the club enjoyed their first success in the reunified Czechoslovak league, winning four titles in relatively quick succession – but the real glory days came in the 1960s. Now called Slovan Bratislava, the Sky Blues included players of the quality of defender Jan Popluhár and goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf, both who represented Czechoslovakia at the 1962 World Cup Final. Both had gone, though, by the time Slovan were surprise finalists in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1969. In Basel, the side managed by Michal Vičan, part of Slovan’s consecutive title-winners of the early 1950s, took a shock lead against Barcelona and ran out winners, 3-2.
Players such as Jozef Čapkovič and Alexander Vencel then went on to play for Czechoslovakia at the 1976 European Championship, when they created one of the greatest upsets in the modern game by beating world champions West Germany. In all, six Slovan players were in the winning squad, whose assistant coach was their club boss, Jozef Vengloš. Wide player Marián Masny and stalwart defender Anton Ondruš were key to the shock triumph in Belgrade.
Slovan, and Slovak football, then took a back seat for a decade or so, before the rise of Peter Dubovsky. Goals from this teenage prodigy allowed Slovan to capture one last Czechoslovak title, in 1992, before he left for Real Madrid and Slovakia gained their own independent league.
Initially dominated by Slovan, who won the first three championships, the Slovak league saw the rise of the city’s other two clubs, Inter and Petržalka, as hooliganism overshadowed the domestic game. Centre-back Stanislav Varga, later of Sunderland and Celtic, and goalkeeper Miroslav König, later of Basel and FC Zürich, were the lynchpins of the Slovan side who won the title again in 1999.
Turfed out of the Champions League qualifying round by Anorthosis Famagusta, Slovan began to struggle financially. Key players left, Slovan were relegated in 2004, staying down for two seasons. The Sky Blues clawed their way back to the top, goals from Pavol Masaryk helping them gain an unexpected title in 2009.
Vacating the crumbling Tehelné pole that same year, Slovan still managed to claim three further titles when based across the road at Inter’s old ground, the Pasienky. Former Inter youth players Filip Šebo and Juraj Halenár notched the goals that won consecutive league crowns, assists invariably coming from Serb Marko Milinković.
With the exception of a Europa League play-off win over Roma in 2011, Slovan’s success failed to turn domestic success into a return to the European glory days.
The return of much-travelled Slovak international Róbert Vittek, a former Slovan youth player, helped bring the title to Bratislava in 2014 but his late equaliser against BATE wasn’t enough to push the club into the group stage of the Champions League that summer. Heavy defeats – not least to Sparta Prague – in the group stage of the Europa League was a sorry sign of Slovan’s international standing.
The long-awaited homecoming back to Tehelné pole came in early 2019. Already in the box seat for a first title win in five years, Slovenian international Andraž Šporar going on to score an unprecedented 29 goals, Slovan fittingly beat 2018 champions Spartak Trnava in the first league fixture at the new, still incomplete, stadium in March.
It has taken ten years and €75 million to get here – but the future currently looks as bright as the sky blue shirts Slovan stride out in.
After ten years remain at the Štadión Pasienky, Slovan returned to the Tehelné Pole in the late winter of 2019. Completely rebuilt, it stands on the same site as the original ground built by Slovakia’s Nazi régime between 1939 and 1940. It was here, in fact, that the war-time German international XI played its last game, as late as November 1942, against Slovakia.
The Tehelné pole (‘Brick Field’) also witnessed Slovan’s run to the final Cup-Winners’ Cup of 1968-69 – including the 1-0 victory over Dunfermline in the semi-final – and the Czechoslovak title-winning campaigns of the early 1970s. It also shared international duties with Prague when Czechoslovakia were at home.
By the time Slovan were winning Slovak titles, the stadium was already a relic and only essential reconstruction allowed its use for European fixtures. It was here that Andrea Pirlo scored Italy’s two goals to win the European Under-21 championship in 2000, and Artmedia Petržalka beat Celtic 5-0 in 2005.
Closed four years later, the Tehelné pole wasn’t actually demolished until 2013. Finance was gathered between Slovan owner Ivan Kmotrík and the Slovak government – the new ground will also operate as a de facto national stadium. Unveiled with a friendly against Olomouc in January 2019, the new Tehelné pole has a capacity of 22,500 – it was a full house for the first official match here, Slovan’s 2-0 win over Spartak Trnava that March.
Two tiers of blue seating, each stand with a narrow translucent roof, are ranged close to the pitch. Home end, blue stand C, is accessed through gates C1-C3, closest to the main road, Trnavská cesta. The most raucous sectors, C101-C104, comprise the so-called kotol or boiler. Visiting supporters occupy half the other end, ie lower red D101-103 and upper sectors D201-205, via gates D1-D3, the other side of the ground, via Viktora Tegelhoffa, off Bajkalská. The VIP/press areas are in the orange A stand, with decent seats along the sideline in the green B stand opposite. The main club shop and ticket office are behind Stand A/home stand C, where a concourse is dotted with busy pre-match beer tents.
The stadium is by the Bajkalská stop on the No.61 trolleybus line that links the airport to the train station in town. If you’re coming in directly from the airport, it’s 12 stops and 15min journey time. In the opposite direction, from the main train station, Hlavná Stanica, the No.61 needs 8min to reach Bajkalská, four stops away. As you walk out of the station, head straight for the middle row of transport stops, nástupište 2. The No.61 runs every 20min.
If you are coming from one of the main streets in town, tram Nos.2 and 4 run to Nová doba, a short walk from the ground on the north side, closer to the away section. A taxi from town shouldn’t cost more than €5-€6.
Admission is available on the day – ticket offices in the main concourse nearest Bajkalská open 1.5hrs before kick-off. Note that, like everything else around the ground, purchase is by cashless cards and have ID with you, just in case. It may be easier to buy online. Alternatively, advance tickets are sold from GGT Tabak Press outlets at malls and major stores around the city, such on the busy central square of Hodžovo námestie (Mon-Fri 6am-8pm, Sat 6am-6pm).
The cheapest seats, €10-€12, are in C and D stands behind each goal, the home end alongside Vajnorská ulica. Tickets on the sidelines in the B sectors facing the main stand are €14. Seats towards the corners in the A stand are €14, A101-A103, B201-B203. If you’re happy to fork out €20, you’ll get the best non-VIP seats in the main stand, sectors A104-A108.
Currently seniors and youths under-15 receive a 30% discount but only if purchased in person from the ticket offices in the main concourse. Under-6s are admitted free.
Sky-blue Slovan souvenirs are sold in tents and kiosks in the main concourse nearest Bajkalská or on the other side of the ground – again, by cashless cards.
If you’re looking for something a bit more alternative, then you can pick up a snazzy Slovan Bratislava ice-hockey top at the Slovan Shop For Fans at the Zimny Štadión on Trnavská cesta, the main road into town.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the stadium, particularly on Trnavská cesta around the Zimny Štadión, These are sport-oriented and focused on Slovan’s football and ice-hockey team.
If you’re coming from town and the Nová doba stop, then the Bistro Štadión on the main road of Bajkalská, provides plenty of Corgon beer. Look out for the red sign and fans congregated on the terrace.
On main Trnavská cesta, there are plenty of sport-oriented bars and restaurants around the Zimny Štadión, home of Bratislava’s ice-hockey team. These include the late-opening Piváren BUDÍK, with Czech Budweiser and cheap meals, and with the Cafe Polar alongside. Round the corner, Ceco offers top-notch pre-match burgers, their popularity with ice-hockey fans from across Eastern Europe evident from the scarves.
Away from town, the other side of the Doubletree by Hilton hotel, Brick is a tasteful sports pub, with screens over the bar counter and open kitchen, where pints of Staropramen and quality burgers are served.
Behind Bajkalská, on the street that leads to the stadium from there, Junácka, Sport Pub U Belasych is much more like it. Sky blue is the colour here, football the sport. A mural of Slovan history celebrates the European Cup-Winners’ Cup win of 1969 while unfiltered draught Staropramen can be enjoyed on the long terrace.
At kiosks around the ground, Staropramen is served in half-litre measures (€2), again by cashless card.