First of all, let me warn you: this time it's going to get personal. Unlikely as it may sound, I used to be quite a footballer when I was younger. I played for Slovan Liberec, the only Czech team to claim the league title twice after 1990 except of Sparta Prague. Our famous post-2000 moments include trashing AC Milan 2:1 or wiping out the floor with Olympique Lyon 4:0.
Because I was lucky enough to play for this very elite club and be in a team with older boys, I happened to be in the wider nomination of the Czech U-14 national squad. I got to play at two tournaments, I believe. Anyway, my not-so-promising football career had to come to an abrupt end when I got a scholarship in England aged 15.
So it is with great nostalgia that I follow the fortunes of the mighty Czech team at the U-20 World Cup in Canada these days. Most of the players I remember from our encounters in the junior leagues or from the national team. Tonight is the last match in the group for Czechia; after a lucky draw with the Argentines and an unlucky draw with Asia's reigning champions, North Korea, we are bound to beat Panama and advance to last 16.
Today I was struck by an article about Polish supporters on FIFA's championship-devoted news site. The 800 000-strong Polish Canadian community rallied behind the Polish side, emboldened by the initial 1:0 victory over Brazil though somewhat disappointed after the crashing 5:1 loss to the USA. Bet FIFA coverage would disappoint them too: "Die-hard footie fan Krzysztof was born in a small village east of Krakow, close to Gdansk and Sofia." Next time ask Krzysztof's two-year old daughter, please!
Meanwhile Slovan Liberec are getting ready for their tomorrow's cup match against the opposition from Kazakshtan. Uff. The Russian airline which was supposed to organise the transfer to Kostanay brought a plane which is not up to EU standards and isn't allowed to take off. No suitable plane available. Classic. Now our team will only make it to the steppes 12 hours before the kick-off; lot of time to adjust to the time diffence. Such a pity we have to play European cup games against Asian teams...