Abingdon Atoms like to go on tour in the summer and as well as the local tournaments we try and find somewhere fun a bit further afield. The Atoms recently returned from a tournament in Nitra, Slovakia, where we managed to field not just one but two whole teams. It was a double tournament with regular games played on grass on the Saturday followed by beach korfball games on the Sunday which, as Slovakia is landlocked, were played on beach volleyball courts at a lido.
Day 1 – Thunder & Lightning
Coordinating 17 Atoms turned out not to be too difficult due to the amount of preparatory planning done and we all made it to our student dormitory accommodation (even Frances) in time to get a few hours’ sleep before the korfball started. Rich had even found his way down out of the mountains to arrive before us. Some of the other teams that hadn’t been stuck on a plane as it repeatedly circled Bratislava in the lightning had been out enjoying themselves and did their best to keep us awake, but somehow we still managed to get just enough sleep.
Day 2 – Goulash
The tournament was attended by teams from the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Sweden, as well as three clubs from the UK. We decided that organising divisions before the tournament would be too easy so the two Atoms teams were hurriedly thrown together seconds before the first matches, with each team having a range of experience levels. The teams included a couple of guest appearances as Shirlaine persuaded Tom V to join us and Karl from Bearsted was sent out on loan. A bit of cloud and the fact that it had been a billion degrees back home for the previous couple of weeks meant that the heat wasn’t quite as bad as we thought it might be. Still, we took the precaution of taking over one of the dugouts for some shade so that we wouldn’t melt (apart from Nirosha who put on a second jumper).
There were games, goals, penalties and other korfball-related antics before lunchtime arrived and we were treated to some Slovakian goulash, sausages and cheese. No sooner had we eaten we were back on the field trying to run around in the sun. Having played various foreigners in the morning, our results unsurprisingly meant that we were matched up against a few of the other teams from the UK in the afternoon. It also meant that, as had been the plan all along, we would finish in time to watch the England vs Sweden World Cup football match. We asked if the Swedes were interested in watching it but it turned out that only one of them was actually Swedish (Dutch infiltrators everywhere…).
How did we do? Let’s just say that we finished second and third out of the five teams from the UK. GO ATOMS!
The football was watched and following the awards ceremony (the junior part of which had to be done in Slovak as the lazy local kids hadn’t yet learnt enough English to follow along), we headed back to our dorms and then off out for some nice Italian food. Next was the aloha party but the lack of Euro-pop meant that after a few rounds of ping-pong-pang we followed Kate, the pied-piper of cocktails, to find some stronger drinks.
Day 3 – Legs on the Beach
Miraculously nobody appeared to be hung over the next day and we all headed over to the local lido for some beach korfball. We quickly realised that after a full day’s tournament, running around on sand is hard work on the legs. Luckily, even though Shirlaine had given everything the day before and was nursing an injury, we had loads of subs as beach korfball is only 4 a side. Our kit for the day was tie-dye which lead to us being christened by one of the referees ‘Team LSD’. To make things even brighter, Alex girl had brought along some face paints and, using her artistic talents, allowed Nirosha to channel her inner elephant and Frances her inner watermelon.
A particular highlight of the day was winning a game against one of the top Dutch teams from the day before (and this without having to deploy our new special move, the ‘love train’). This was second only to seeing Alex boy’s explosive burst of pace which saw him outrun both boy defenders who then crashed into each other and Jess scoring her first goal with the look of someone who thought it would soon be overturned following a VAR referral. Talking of disallowed goals, have some sympathy for Rich who saw three of his goals disallowed as the referee had blown his whistle just before the ball left his hands.
I’m not sure where we finished but I suspect it was just outside the top three as we didn’t get a medal.
Following the games we had a quick dip in the pool before heading off to Bratislava where we would be staying in a botel (boat hotel). That evening, after some big plates of meat (where Kostas proved that he could eat more than Matt), we searched high and low for some Euro-pop before settling on Bratislava’s top nightclub (that was open on a Sunday night) where Chrissie taught several of the group how the korfball refereeing signals can be converted into a set of dance moves, which were then practised far too late into the night.
Day 4 – Communism 101
No korfball on Monday, instead it was a lie-in followed by a post-communist tour of Bratislava in a trio of vintage vehicles where we saw some classic communist architecture and learnt some of the history of the country. Our guides dropped us off at a restaurant once we’d decided on what level of authentic Slovakian peasant food we wanted (we settled on ‘medium’ after being told that the truly authentic restaurant might be full of drunks). It was soon time to head home and once again we somehow managed to get everyone on the planes and trains they needed to be on (even Frances).
I think it was unanimous that everyone really enjoyed themselves so it looks like Europe had better watch out next summer as the Atoms will most likely be jetting off again to show them how korfball is done in the UK.