The Czech Football association has had its main office in Prague since 1922. The governing body organizes games for the top two leagues in Czech football: the Gambrinus Liga & Czech 2. Liga. The Gambrinus Liga (taking its name from one of the country’s bestselling beers) operates as the professional division for Czech football clubs and is home to 16 teams of varying skill and talent. The Czech Football season runs from August to May, with each team in the league playing 30 games. There are currently five Prague-based teams playing in the Gambrinus Liga: FK Dukla Prague, FK Viktoria Žižkov, Bohemians 1905, AC Sparta Prague and SK Slavia Prague.
Being a footy fan, I have made an effort to attend as many Czech Gambrinus Liga games as time allows. Bohemians 1905’s old Ďolíček stadium was the closest stadium to my home, so they became my team of choice within the first league. The Bohemians 1905 team has had no shortage of turmoil and turbulence over its 100-year plus history, with relegation due to financial insolvency (2004/5), eviction from their Ďolíček ground in 2010/11 due to failure to comply with the association’s rules on stadium requirements, and massive debt which was significantly reduced by the fans making personal contributions. Their original Ďolíček stadium is located in the Vršovice district of Prague. The club enjoys extremely dedicated fans, peaking in the 70s and 80s as many people preferred to patronise the Ďolíček than traditional ‘communist’ clubs of that time.
Occasionally, I travel to neighbouring cities to watch away games. I have always enjoyed the great atmosphere at the games and the on-pitch drama. It would be easy as a foreigner to concentrate on the negative aspects of the sport, as the Czech press often focuses on its shady business and sometimes equally shady fans, often writing about the teams’ right-wing supporters and organized hooliganism. But, in my experience, I have had nothing but good times while attending. Games are often heavily policed outside the ground, which makes the chance of any trouble or violence very low. Cheap beer prices (25 CZK) within the Ďolíček ground often made for an upbeat and jovial 90 minutes, regardless of the team’s performance. Fellow footy fans are often intrigued to see a non-Czech attending games so regularly, and this often sparks drunken conversations as to my reasons for choosing the Czech Republic as home and more importantly why Bohemians 1905 are my team of choice! As with any football game, language from the terraces is usually ‘colourful’ and you’re likely to see plastic cups of beer hurled towards the pitch from the stands in protest of ‘bad’ decisions made by the referee. Drum beating, whole-hearted singing of chants, flairs and home-made confetti all make for a real carnival atmosphere at games. Often dressed like punks or Ska rude boys, I have always found the distinctive ‘Bohemka’ fans friendly and warm.
These days, Bohemians 1905 play their home games in the ground of rival team Slavia. Since the team has made the move to Slavia’s 1 billion CZK Synot Tip Arena (also known as Eden), attendance figures have dropped. I visited the Eden ground to watch the Bohemians play a few times last season, and found that the upbeat atmosphere remains intact. Ticket prices are usually reasonable (from just 90-100 CZK) but can increase depending on the opponent and importance of the game. The bigger teams (Sparta or Slavia) charge up to 1000 CZK for the best seats in the house. It’s best to check the team’s official website before-hand for prices and availability.
Take the short trip to Letna to find the home of Prague’s most famous team, Sparta. They are the most successful team in the Czech Republic and also the most successful in central Europe. Sparta play in a burgundy and white kit when playing at their home ground: the Generali Arena (Capacity: 20,854). Over the years, Sparta has enjoyed a number of achievements including a good Champions League performance in 1991-92. Sparta defeated Rangers, then Marseille, and managed to reach the semi-final round of the group, eventually finishing second in their group.
Traditionally, Sparta & Slavia have always been the source of players for the Czech national team. Sparta also makes the biggest contribution to the national Czech youth team. Slavia Prague (founded in 1892) play in a red and white strip and (as mentioned above) currently share their ground (Synot Tip Arena, Vršovice) with Bohemians 1905. Slavia have won 17 titles in their club history. They’ve recently suffered financial issues, however, and confusing ownership battles which seem to haunt many Czech teams. Money aside, Slavia is best known for having the most famous and prolific striker in football history: Josef Bican, who scored a staggering 800 goals in all of his competitive matches (excluding goals scored in friendly matches).
There’s also the more recent example of the Rosický brothers (Tomáš & Jiri). Jiri found success playing Czech football for Sparta, Jablonec. Then, deciding to travel abroad for SC Bregenz (Austria) and Atlético Madrid. Jiri’s younger brother; Tomáš currently plays for Premier League team Arsenal and also captains the Czech national team. Tomáš has the nickname ‘Little Mozart’ for his play-making ability and quick ball skills. Despite being benched last season for ‘niggling injuries’, Rosický joined Arsenal’s starting line-up against Sunderland last October and was instrumental in the build-up play, which resulted in a goal for his team after only 28 seconds into the match! Fellow Premier Leaguer Petr Čech has played for Chelsea football club since 2004, after playing at Viktoria Plzeň, Chmel Blšany and (Iron) Sparta Prague. Čech is quite the record holder. In the UK, he holds the record for the fewest appearances required to reach 100 clean sheets, while in the Czech Republic he holds the Czech professional league record for not conceding a goal in 855 competitive minutes, resulting in him being recognized by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics as one of the world’s 5 best goalkeepers in 2010. Pretty impressive to say the least!
The Czech football world seems to be constantly plagued by widely publicized stories of match fixing, corruption and club financial difficulties. The most recent example of possible foul play involved Olomouc’s goalkeeper and three representatives of Bohemians (Prague). Olomouc goalkeeper Petr Drobisz was accused of offering 300,000 CZK to guarantee an Olomouc win in a league match two years ago. After a lengthy process, the court found no evidence to support the charges and the case was acquitted. It was later stated that all objective evidence had been erased, resulting in lack of substantial evidence. Corruption aside, the Gambrinus Liga games (and a few lower league games I’ve seen) hold potentially good players who seem keen and dedicated to their respective teams. Granted, the quality of the games isn’t always great. But they are always entertaining! Often the best players get plucked from the CZ league for the bright lights of the Premier League or Spanish La Liga. But the real dedication lies with the fans, who can be seen encouraging and whole heartedly supporting their respective teams come rain or shine. I would suggest attending a game to see for yourself. Al fresco beer consumption, Czech swear words, and plenty of on pitch drama awaits!
Vstávejte rytíři, nespěte (Arise knights, do not linger)
Vzhůru do boje se chystejte (Prepare now for the battle)
Železná košile – rudý dres (An iron shirt – a red jersey)
Vstávejte rytíři, ještě dnes (Arise knights, today no later)
Vstávejte rytíři, vyražte (Arise knights, march on)
Soupeře na hlavu poražte (Beat the enemy to the ground)
SPARTA je věčná, je železná (SPARTA is eternal, iron too)
Vás čeká jen bitva vítězná (A battle victory awaits you)
Sví, jsme sví (We are true to ourselves,)
A koně máme rudý!!! (And our horses are red!!!)
Sví, jsme sví, (We are true to ourselves,)
a srdce sparťanský!!! (And our Spartan heart!!!!)
Bohemians 1905 Chants:
(2)Gól klokan gól, (Score, Kangaroo, score,)
Bohemians dáme gól, (Bohemians let’s score,)
Potom dáme ještě jeden, (And then one more time,)
a zboříme stadion! (let’s destroy the stadium!)
A lé a léeee,
Bohemians lé a léeee,
Bohemains lé a léoooo,
Boheminas lé aóóóo.
(3) Olé olé olé, olé olé olé oleolé..
Klokani z Ďolíčku (Kangaroos from Ďolíčku)
Olé olé olé, olé olé olé oleolé
TEAMS AND THEIR GROUNDS
Synot Tip Arena, Prague
Capacity: 21,000 (all seated)
AC Sparta Prague
Generali Arena, Prague
FC Hradec Králové
FC Slovan Liberec
Stadion u Nisy, Liberec
FC Viktoria Plzeň
Štruncovy Sady Stadion
Synot Tip Arena, Prague
FK Dukla Prague
Prague 6 – Dejvice
FK Baumit Jablonec
FK Mladá Boleslav
FK Viktoria Žižkov
FK Viktoria Stadion, Prague
SK Sigma Olomouc
Andrův stadion, Olomouc
SK Dynamo České Budějovice
Stadion Střelecký ostrov,
Synot Tip Arena,