Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bohemians Praha 1905 – FC Zbrojovka Brno (11-09-2016)

My last day in Prague I go to see the club that will forever be linked to probably the most legendary Czech player in history: Antonín Panenka of the famous Panenka penalty. It is also a club with one of the most remarkable logos, a kangaroo, the legacy of an Australian tour in 1927. Bohemians Praha 1905 is the 15th (!) name of the club. The latest renaming was a consequence of a split with FK Bohemians Praha in 2005, which led to an enormous legal mess – not uncommon in post-communist Europe. On the upside, it provided me with the opportunity for a new groundhop, as I had already seen FK Bohemians Praha in the 1990s.

I arrive at the legendary Ďolíček Stadium about half an hour before kick-off. The old stadium, opened in 1932, is situated in the Vršovice district – formerly working class and now increasingly hipster – and has its own tram stop (Bohemians). It is a scorching day in early September and the area around the stadium is buzzing. I get a ticket for the main stand (covered so I won’t melt in the sun) for CZK 230 (ca. $9).

Inside the stadium is a small courtyard that is packed with people who are lining up at the many drink and eat stands. The club has put a sprinkler in the middle to provide some much needed cooling for the fans, which is much appreciated.

The Ďolíček Stadium is old and small ground (capacity just 5,000), but it is full of atmosphere and history. It even has a small club museum and a wall of pictures of club heroes. Consequently, there is strong opposition among fans to the plans of the management to leave the ground and move to a new stadium further outside of the area.

The fans are a combination of mostly older, working class locals and hipsters and punks as well as some tourists. The stadium has only one main stand, which is almost sold out. The fanatic home fans stand behind the goal on a small stand.

The official attendance is 4,329, which seems a couple hundred too high, but the stadium is close to capacity. Only the opposite “stand” of the main stand is fairly empty, except for some 100 away fans, who made the roughly 200 km trip from Brno, the second biggest city in the country. Most of the fans are males, shirtless, and increasingly drunk.

Bohemians have their first shot at goal in the second minute; it goes well over. The next minute Brno has a good attack, which is saved by the goalie. The game flows pretty well, with both teams creating some half decent chances, forcing some decent saves by the goalies.

Overall the game is ok, not remarkable, but much better than the game I watched the evening before. The Brno goalie is quite poor on corners, often missing the ball. It is not punished though.

In the 23rd minute Bohemians have a great through ball but the goalie saves. The next minute Brno has a good counter but the final ball is weak. In the 25th minute there is a much deserved and needed water break – it must be some 30 C – and the next uncoordinated attack leads to a rebound from 18 meters, which is hidden from the goalie, and ends up in the low corner: 1-0!

In the 32nd minute the hosts have a corner, the header is saved by the goalie, but Bohemians score from a rebound from just 2 meters: 2-0. The crowd goes wild. Oddly enough, it doesn’t change the way Brno plays, devoid of any urgency, as if it is still 0-0.

In the first, and only minute of extra time in the first half Bohemians have a break, the Brno goalie comes out and slides the ball away, far from his goal. The ball end up with a defender, who shoots from roughly 40 meters, over the defenders and goalie, into the goal: 3-0! Half time.

Early in the second half the hosts have another good attack, but the ball is volleyed over the goal from 5 meter. Most attacks are pretty accidental. Brno continues to put in a pathetic performance, while Bohemians are lowering their pace in the scorching heat.

The game remain quite entertaining, with Brno at times creating some half chances, and Bohemians having more dangerous counter attacks, but it is clear to everyone that the winner is determined and nothing will fundamentally change. The final score is 3-0 and everyone leaves happily, looking for shade and refreshments.

Bohemians Praha 1905 is only the third team of the city, behind powerhouses Sparta and Slavia, but should be on the list of any groundhopper. While the crowd is getting a bit too hipster – reminded me a bit of St. Pauli – do go see them asap, before they leave Ďolíček and move to some soulless new stadium in a soulless suburb of Prague.

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