LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Ostrava

Coal hub sheds it past to host major sports events

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

In 2016, the football world turned its attention to Ostrava for the first time since the glory days of flagship club Baník in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The reason, though, was a sombre one: the funeral of Pavel Srníček, the locally born former Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday and Baník goalkeeper who had suffered a cardiac arrest while jogging in his native city. He was only 47.

Srníček had grown up when his home-town club was at its height. Czechoslovak champions three times in five years, ‘Baníček’ also made a European semi-final under legendary manager Evžen Hadamczik.

With Baník unbeaten at home for nearly five years, the Communist authorities persuaded the passionate young manager to prepare the Czech Olympic team for the Games of 1984. When the Eastern bloc countries boycotted Los Angeles, the stress proved too much. Hadamczik hanged himself shortly afterwards. He was 44. Today Ostrava hosts an annual youth tournament in his name.

Welcome to Ostrava/Michal Kvasnica

His name, in fact, and origins, reflect the patchwork history of this industrial hub in historic Moravia, tucked under the Polish border. This is Silesia, a continuation of its Polish counterpart, once part of Prussia – Hadamczik is buried in his native Kravare, still with a significant German-speaking population.

Ostrava is proud of its industrial heritage. Its biggest tourist attraction used to be a coal mine, coking works and iron foundry while its botanic garden derives a sub-tropical micro-climate from smouldering colliery waste beneath the surface. Baník, meanwhile, means ‘Miner’.

The club was, in fact, founded by miners – as SK Slezská (‘Silesian’) Ostrava in 1922. It was initially the poor relation in a local rivalry with Slovan Ostrava, struggling along in a makeshift ground in the mining suburb of Kamenec. 

Welcome to Ostrava/Michal Kvasnica

By 1934, having moved to a better venue at Stará střelnice, Slezská were able to compete for the first time as a professional club in the Moravian-Silesian division. Crowds grew – 5,400 for the derby with Slovan in 1935.

As Slovan faded, a new local rival appeared: Vítkovice. A works team for the steel factory that has shaped Ostrava’s economic destiny since the 19th century, Vítkovice represented the Moravian side of town, Slezská the Silesian. Founded as SK Slavoj in 1919, they folded and reemerged three years later as simply SK Vítkovice. With the club gaining prominence, in the late 1930s a new stadium was opened: the Městský.

As Železničáři (‘Iron workers’), Vítkovice made the top flight in 1950, enjoying the favour of the ruling Communist authorities who had star forward Josef Bican briefly transferred from the frowned-upon bourgeois team of Slavia Prague. Vítkovice duly finished fourth.

Welcome to Ostrava/Michal Kvasnica

Sokol, Baník, TJ, Vítkovice underwent similar forced name changes as their city rivals, who moved from the cinder pitch at Stará střelnice to their long-term home of Bazaly in 1959. It stands on the east bank of the narrow Ostravice river, in the Silesian part of the city. At the same time, Slezská were now called Baník Ostrava, a name that stuck then resounded around Europe.

Both local sides also enjoyed domestic success before Silesia’s industrial decline, Baník under Hadamczik, Vítkovice as title-winners shortly afterwards.

Post-Communist Ostrava has not been particularly kind to either. Baník had long underachieved, were even relegated for the first since 1966, before being rescued and revived by Czech millionaire Václav Brabec in 2016. 

Hotel Imperial Ostrava/Michal Kvasnica

The timing could not have been better, as the club had just vacated the old-school Bazaly, no longer of sufficient comfort and safety to host top-class football, or the rebuilt Městský. Since then, this international athletics arena south-west of town welcomed the Czech national side three times, and also hosted major international athletics meets. 

Ostrava, meanwhile, is slowly shedding its industrial past to become a go-to destination for major sports events – the World Ice Hockey Championship was co-hosted here in 2015.

As for Vítkovice, they were declared bankrupt in 2012 and returned as MFK. Currently the blue and whites look set to drop from the third-flight Moravian-Silesian League. Officially, they share the 15,000-capacity Městský stadion with Baník but given the club’s lowly status, games take place at the Bazaly, some even on local training pitches.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Ostrava’s Leoš Janáček Airport, 37km (23 miles) south-west of town, is currently used for Ryanair services from London Stansted and seasonal services.

Two bus lines run from the terminus to town. The 910333 (every 1-2hrs, not late morning) calls at the Městský stadion before the central transport hub of ÚAN 45mins away. The infrequent 820150 from Zlín takes a different, quicker route, 35mins, to Ostrava ÚAN. Each requires a ticket from the driver, around Kč40/€1.70.

Ostrava airport also has its own rail stop (Mošnov, Ostrava airport) by the departure hall. An infrequent train sets off for the city’s main station, Ostrava hlavní nádraží (or hl.n), 30min journey time, Kč50/€2.10. Some go on to Bohumín so make sure you alight at Ostrava.

City Taxi Ostrava (+420 737 770 155) charges about Kč650-Kč700/€27-€30 from the airport to town.

Prague Airport is 400km (250 miles) from Ostrava. Czech rail offers combined tickets for the hourly bus to Prague main station then train to Ostrava (total journey time 4hrs 20mins), overall price Kč550/€23.

Tiger Express runs buses every 2-3hrs from Katowice Airport to Ostrava bus station (2hrs 30mins, Kč450/€19), 100km (62 miles away.

Ostrava public transport consists of trams, buses and trolleybuses. Single tickets are Kč14-Kč20/€0.60-€0.85, 24hr Kč80/€3.35.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Nightlife centres on the pedestrianised, downtown street of Stodolní, crammed with bars, pubs and clubs. You should expect anything and everything: one building is shared by a strip club, a casino and perhaps the world’s most incongruous vegan restaurant.

It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago this was a wasteland on the edge of the city centre. The vision of one businessman and astute investment have transformed it a huge bar hub whose fame has spread throughout the Czech Republic and beyond. So many parties visit from nearby Poland the street has its own Polish-language website.

In all there are about 60 venues on and off Stodolní – popular options include Bernie’s, Sherlock’s Pub, the Dublin Pub and music bar E99.

There’s a fairly random mix of street food and restaurants offering anything from Portuguese to Bulgarian fare. Beers include local Ostravar and Radegast, showcased at Radegastovna on the main square, Masarykovo náměstí. 

The city also has a couple of microbreweries. One is the homely Hobit club on Příovzská. It’s part of a nationwide network of specialist beer pubs, a kind of Czech version of CAMRA, and thus favours conversation over TV sport. Next door, the Pivovarský Dům, of similar ilk.

If it’s Pilsner Urquell you’re after, with maybe some TV sport and bowling thrown in, then head to Slezska PUOR on Kolejni, parallel to Stodolní and a popular spot to catch the match. There’s plenty of room, so good for groups.  Also more restauranty in feel, the Pivnice u Rady close to the university on Poštovní has been a long-term favourite.

By the Forum Nová Karolina mall, Frankie’s fills the space where The Pub used to be, a US-style beer-and-burger bar with happy hours.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

The Ostrava Tourist Office has a Czech-only hotel database.

Right by the Městský stadion, the Clarion Congress Ostrava is a business-friendly conference hotel catering to visitors to events at the ČEZ Arena also next door. A spa, pool and two restaurants mean that many never leave its environs.

There are more affordable options nearby – the bargain-basement B&B Ubytování Karin Ostrava and Apartmány Sova on Sovova. Adjoining the ČEZ Arena, the Hotel Puls contains 72 beds in functional rooms.

The best choice this way west of town is Zámek Zábřeh, a four-star hotel a short taxi ride from the stadium. Created in a historic château, it has its own microbrewery, vaulted dining hall and wine cellar.

Apart from this, there’s little else to keep you in the Vítkovice suburbs and you’re better off with a room in the city centre.

The venerable, mid-range Hotel Brioni is right on bar-lined Stodolní, ideal after a night out but not for a quiet stay. With a history dating back over a century, it also offers apartments and airport transfers (€22). Over the street, the Ruby Blue provides contemporary lodgings on bar street, with NETFLIX in every room.

Close by but more basic, the Bonum has seven plain rooms, four of them singles. In-house restaurant Pod Klenbami is its main attraction – along with location and affordability.

The classiest place close to the main square, the Imperial Hotel Ostrava dates back to the early 1900s, and still impresses with its brasserie restaurant, cosmetician and car wash.

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