Excellent football player, business school graduate, and politician. All of the above is joined within one single person named Dušan Tittel. And because sports have essentially been the theme of his whole life, his tenure in politics notwithstanding, our talk was peppered throughout with sports allusions.
Last year in May, you transferred from the SNS to the HLAS-SD Party where you were immediately included in the "starting lineup" – you were co-opted into the board. What made you go through with the transfer? And could we say that it was your second major transfer following your 1997 switch from Slovan Bratislava to Spartak Trnava?
I'm not one to blindly follow the crowd without heed for my surroundings. I have a strong opinion on many things, and when I see that something isn't working, I let people know and try to look for a sensible, logical solution. But when I see the other party not reacting in any way or glossing over the issues, I'm perfectly happy to stand up and say that I'm not interested in taking part in something like that. That's how it went in Slovan and that's how it went in politics.
There will be a qualifier for the championship called the Slovak National Council in September. Will you be there, are you taking part in the election?
Yes, I'll be running in the September election; my jersey – meaning ticket – number will be 18. And on a side note – it's a shame that, after the fall of the government in December 2022, Madam President wasn't more proactive and assertive in helping Slovakia find a suitable date for the snap election in the first half of the year following the decadence displayed by "Matovič's Government". I feel that the end of June was the ideal date for Slovakia.
What actually made you get into politics?
We athletes like to compete in arenas, but nobody fights for us when it comes to getting good conditions for sports. Looking at the way the national budget is structured and how much money goes into other areas compared to sports and sports infrastructure, which gets essentially the least amount of funding, it's clear that the entire sports community needs to do something about that. If we wait for people from areas such as culture or the environment to fight for sports, then we'll be waiting for a long time...
In the early 2000s, you played in the lower league – serving as a representative of the Bratislava region for four years. Starting in 2016, you played in the big leagues for the same amount of time as a member of the Slovak NC. Does it also apply in this field that the experience from the lower league comes in handy when playing in the big leagues?
Every bit of experience is always valuable, and all the experience gained from sports as well as politics, be it municipal or parliamentary, is extremely valuable to help us understand society from multiple angles and viewpoints. I have two children aged 14 and 13 who do sports, so I care deeply about improving conditions for juvenile sports in every part of Slovakia. Not every place has the right conditions for a skating rink or a sports arena with a large spectator capacity, but creating modern sports facilities for every school is our duty to future generations.
Quite a few parallels could be drawn between football and politics – plenty of matches, transfers, fouls... What about fair play? Isn't politics primarily about compromise, behind-the-scenes deals, and so on? And how does it feel to take a loss in a vote on a bill you've sponsored?
Sports and politics do have things in common, even though I think things are much simpler in sports. Politics is much more difficult and you never know what can come about the next day. Naturally, I was sad when some of my previous bills didn't pass, even though I was convinced that it would be just the thing to help our sport. But nowadays, looking back, I take a bird's-eye view and think about ways to convince the people who don't understand sports but still voted against my proposals. And that's the craft of politics: being able to convince people who might be coming from a different political party or another end of the spectrum.
In Parliament, you wore the SNS jersey together with your former teammate, also an excellent football player, Tibor Jančula. Are you still friends even after your transfer to HLAS? And how about him – is he still in politics?
Tibor is no longer active in politics but we still remain in contact. We run a team of former Slovan players, and so we often talk not just about the upcoming matches scheduled for the summer but also about the political situation in Slovakia.
While you played football full-time, you graduated from a business school in 1989. That's not usual for top professional athletes...
Even when I transferred from the grammar school in Dolný Kubín to Bratislava, I had the idea of studying university in my head. And while my dad was busy overseeing my sports performance, my mom was checking my index and my grades at school. I feel that a solid education and upbringing are crucial, and I was very lucky in having parents who made sure that I had good grades at school as well as excellent attendance at football training sessions.
I hear you're a "devourer" of books and a lover of paintings and sculptures. What genres, styles, and authors do you like the best?
I've always enjoyed being around people from the art world, be they musicians, actors, or directors. I was even a member of the Hviezdoslav theatrical troupe in Dolný Kubín when I was younger. Naturally, those two worlds – culture and sports – were different in some ways, but they were the same in that I always felt I was part of a team. I had a great art teacher who taught about paintings and sculptures, so I've always found the Galanda Group to be very much to my taste; I'm always happy to see some of their work. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them over a glass of wine, and I found their views, observations, and sentiments about society very different and interesting as a former athlete. I read books every day. I will admit that I like to fall asleep with a book, and I prefer ones that help me relax at that point rather than reading about some difficult topics before going to bed...
When we spoke, you said that you were heading out for a vacation. Where are you taking it?
All of my vacations start out at home, at my cabin in Orava, where I have the opportunity to get better at my new passion – baking. It always makes me happy when my family or friends eat everything right away, which signals that they really liked it.
A football player and politician with a passion for baking is a rather unusual combination... What do you like baking the most?
I like to bake pies, primarily sourdough ones. And so, my specialties include Moravian pies, Frgál pies, and poppy seed rolls. I look for recipes on social media and I like trying new things. And naturally, I have my favorite recipes, which I am always happy to share with people who enjoy baking and want to try them out.
Dušan Tittel (born December 27, 1966, in Námestové) is the vice-chair of the HLAS-SD party and a former national football team player.
Between 1985 and 1989, he studied at, and earned a degree in finance from, the Faculty of Economics and Finance at the University of Economics in Bratislava.
As for his professional career in sports, he played for Slovan Bratislava and Spartak Trnava. Abroad, he was on the roster of the French club Nîmes Olympique and AC Omonia from Cyprus. He played 55 matches for the Czechoslovak and Slovak national teams.
Starting in 2002, he spent four years as the secretary general of the Slovak Football Association. Subsequently, he was Slovan Bratislava's general manager, president of the League Club Union, and sports and marketing director at MFK Ružomberok, where he started in 2015 and remains to this day.
He was a representative of the Bratislava region and has also spent one election term as a member of the Slovak National Council starting in 2016. He was a member of the SNS, and currently he's the vice-chair of the HLAS-SD party.
Tittel is married. He and his wife Ivana have two children – daughter Karolína (14) and son Timotej (13)..
He still plays for the team comprised of former Slovan players
With his famil