Trnava Theatre Play Looks Back at Fateful Football Match

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Spartak Trnava striker Jaroslav Timko (right) being chased by two 1. FC Kosice players: Ruslan Lyubarsky (left) and Vladislav Zvara in 1998. (Photo by TASR)

Trnava, November 23 (TASR) – An unusual theatre play titled ‘Football or White Angel in Hell’ will be premiered in Trnava on December 4, broaching the subject of a controversial football match between Spartak Trnava and Rimavska Sobota in the final round of the 1996-97 season.

In the match, premier league leaders Spartak were defeated under strange circumstances by the underdogs from Rimavska Sobota, meaning that the league title went instead to 1. FC Kosice, by far the wealthiest club in Slovak football at the time.

Following the most inspirational season for Spartak fans for decades, many of them were so disappointed that they gave up attending league football matches for good. According to director of Jan Palarik Theatre in Trnava Juraj Bielik, many Spartak fans still believe that it wasn’t Rimavska Sobota but big money from Kosice that defeated their team, who had thrashed their arch-rivals Slovan Bratislava 4-0 only a week before.

With the match in Rimavska Sobota in extra time at 1-1, the referee awarded a penalty to Spartak for a foul in Rimavska Sobota’s box. It seemed that Spartak were on the verge of becoming champions for the first time in 24 years, but an assistant referee told the head official that the attacking Trnava player was offside at the time. The match resumed, only for an attempted clearance by Spartak centre back Jaroslav Hrabal to rebound off an unsuspecting Rimavska Sobota player into the net. Spartak then wasted three opportunities to draw level and so lost the championship.

The play ‘Football or White Angel in Hell, alluding to Spartak’s nickname ‘the White Angels’, was created from interviews with players both on the pitch and on the bench on that fateful day. The documentary materials collected by Trnava actor Michal Janos were converted into a play by Slovak National Theatre script writer Daniel Majling and director by Jan Luteran. The music was inspired by football chants and includes Spartak’s anthem Il Silenzio.