during the Premier League match between XXX and XXX at Old Trafford on May 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.

How AquaCity moves mountains for Manchester United hopefuls

Heroes of British soccer have revealed one of the best-kept secrets of Slovakia  … for the last eight years Manchester United has been sending its young hopefuls there to a specialist mountainside training camp.

Every October Manchester United’s Youth Team spends time in the city of Poprad training at one of the world’s most exciting stadiums, playing ‘friendlies’ against locals and recuperating in the world’s greenest hotel.

Poprad is an extraordinary place, tacked to the foot of the High Tatras mountains and near to the Polish border.

Thirty years ago though it had daunting metaphorical mountains to climb having been abandoned to the remnants of the Velvet Revolution politics.

But people of vision were already making things happen and now Poprad is one of the most important cities in Slovakia. It has become the administrative, economic, cultural and tourism centre for the whole Tatras region.

And at its heart stands AquaCity, once voted the world’s greenest hotel … and this is where Manchester United hopefuls stay while they undergo training regimes against one of the most powerful natural backdrops in Europe.

Former Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs said this: “It is vital in a young players development that they get to gain as many different types of football experience as possible. Because of the training in Poprad they can relate to playing against different opposition, experience new cultures and food, travelling and adapting to new surroundings. The training camp in Poprad allows all this to happen.”

And last week it all paid off in a big way – youth team  players who trained in Poprad were chosen to play against Crystal Palace  when Jose Mourinho   rotated his squad ahead of the Europa League final.. Manchester United won the game 2-0, with Josh Harrop and Paul Pogba scoring the goals.

The story really begins with former car worker  Dr Jan Telensky, his geo-thermal lake 2,000 metres inside the earth – and his belief in cryogenics.  Three little minutes   that can change your life.

He said:  “When I first came to Poprad, I saw a pipe coming up out of the ground. It had breath hot enough to melt your soul. So, I looked into the history of it and pretty soon I realised there was a natural miracle two miles below the earth. An eternal source of power, warmth and health. It’s been there for millions of years and it’ll be there for millions more.

“I decided to harness it, that’s all. The government and the town of Poprad worked with me on it.”

Next door to AquaCity  is a magnificent new football stadium, designated as a Slovak National Training Centre (NTC). It is the only ground in the world to be heated by an underground lake and have an all-weather pitch.

The NTC is where you can watch the Manchester United football’s stars of tomorrow train and play some of Slovakia’s Premier League and other overseas teams for a fraction of the price it would cost at Old Trafford.   There is a Hall of Fame board inside AquaCity with a list of the stars who have played there.

 David Moyes, a former manager at MU who was involved in the training experiment: “This the ideal place for a sports training camp, the fourteen swimming pools and the leisure facililities are enormously popular with our young players.”

And AquaCity  offers all sorts of fitness and enjoyment, not only for professional sportsmen but for families too with pools, massage jets, children’s pools  and water slides,  laser lights to change the color of the water, outdoor thermal pools, blue Sapphire pools, blue diamond pools, and a 50 metre swimming pool.

In the wellness and spa suites there is Vital World, the K-Vital Beauty Centre, the Massage Centre, and the Thai Massage Centre with edible massage treatments such as chocolate, honey and green apples.

Then there is the controversial cryogenics chamber which has been helping sports people and visitors with injuries and ailments.

It is the Big Chill, an oversized deep-freeze which makes you feel wonderful. It works  wonders for the skin and muscles, can boost your immune response, ease chronic pain, heal nerve damage, and improve sporting performance.

And Poprad too  really is a beautiful place to be, sitting as it does on a vast plain leading to the foothills of the perpetually snow-capped Tatras Mountains.

It came into being in the 13th century, when the king of Hungary persuaded German colonists to move to what was nothing more than isolated arable land. Way back then Poprad was just one of more than 20 farming communities dotted across the plains.  It soon garnered importance however, as a main stopping-off point on the trade route between Poland and Hungary.

Another ‘revolution’ took place in 1938 when a military airfield with grass for a runway was built  west of Velko village as World War II loomed. The first real runway wasn’t actually built until 1970.

Poprad Tatry Airport finally came into its own in the early 21st century when it was classed as of International standards.

The 13th century Early Gothic church of St. Egidius in the town square still retains pieces of  wall paintings  dating from the Middle Ages. And then of course there is the Renaissance bell tower built in 1592 with its three original bells. 

On the attack… the Manchester United of tomorrow?

Spectator Sports in Slovakia: Poprad & the Manchester United Connection

Slovakia is better known for its ice hockey than football when it comes to spectator sports. Whilst the national ice hockey side have, for many years, vied with the world’s best, the football achievements are less well known. The Slovak national football team is one of the youngest national football teams in the world, having split from the Czechoslovakia national football team after the dissolution of the unified state in 1993. Slovakia now maintains its own national side that has completed in all major professional tournaments since dissolution. Slovakia has now qualified for two major international tournaments, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2016.

Every October half term for the last six years, Manchester United’s Youth Team (MUYT) has travelled to the High Tatras city of Poprad to train and play against local opposition. And it’s very easy to see why.

Besides the AquaCity resort complex is a magnificent new football stadium, designated as a Slovak National Training Centre (NTC) and undoubtedly one of the best places to play football in Europe.

The development is a continual process and within the next 12 months an additional grass and an artificially surfaced, all weather training pitch will be added. The NTC is where you can watch the Manchester United football’s stars of tomorrow train and play some of Slovakia’s Premier League and other overseas teams for a fraction of the price it would cost at Old Trafford. Since they first visited Poprad in 2010, 19 MUYT players have progressed to the first team and many more, despite not making it with Manchester United, have played for other English premier league teams. Players like Marcus Rashford, now one of soccer’s most talked-about young strikers (especially since his selection for this summer’s Uefa Euro 2016, have been former participants in the AquaCity training programme (there is a Hall of Fame board inside AquaCity with a list of the stars who have played here).

So there’s no longer any denying Slovakia’s link with high-profile football, nor that catching it up here in the Slovak mountains must be one of the sport’s best bargains: Standard tickets cost €1 whilst VIP seats set you back a mere €3 ! (the jagged mountain backdrop is a darned sight more spectacular than the Manchester skyline too!).

The stadium...

The stadium…

But it’s not just the players. The stadium, too, beautifully styled on Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge, is the only one of its kind in the world, as the pitch is geothermally heated – and in a really neat way. The waters that heat AquaCity originate in a huge subterranean lake where the natural water temperature is 50 degrees centigrade. However, before the stadium’s construction, the spa complex had a problem: to cool the waters sufficiently for returning into the earth at the correct temperature so as not to damage ecosystems. Running the water around the stadium (by now it’s cooled to an average 15 degrees) reduces the temperature to exactly the right amount to return it to Mother Nature whilst ensuring one of the planet’s lushest playing surfaces. At least, that was Manchester United’s opinion…

AquaCity, as well as offering annually some of football’s best “been there and seen it first” moments, also – it should be noted – has one of Slovakia’s very best spas, and this in a country very well known for them! More on this HERE

A Quick Guide to the Other Content We Have on Poprad

Places to Go: Poprad’s funky contemporary art gallery in an old power station

Places to Go: Poprad’s lavish Aqua Park

Places to Go: Nine reasons to linger in Poprad

Places to Go/Getting Around: Taking the Mountain Railway into the High Tatras from Poprad

Places to Stay: A cool travel-friendly B&B in Spišská Sobota, Poprad

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s trendy burger joint

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s dignified Café La Fée

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s Coolest Wine Bar

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s gourmet chocolatier

Arts & Culture: Dedicated traditional Czech & Slovak music radio station now based in Poprad

Getting Around: London to Poprad Flights

Getting Around: The Poprad to Ždiar to Zakopane (Poland) bus

Top Ten Medieval Towns in Slovakia

 

Poprad has undeniably one of the best backdrops of any city in Eastern Europe.

Poprad has undeniably one of the best backdrops of any city in Eastern Europe.