On Sunday 16th October, after celebrating the Eucharist at St. Clement’s Church and chairing a meeting of the Church Council, I went with eight of the guys I play cricket with, to watch a local derby football match – Bohemians 1905 versus FK Dukla Praha. The game was part of the tenth round of matches in the 2011-2012 season of the Gambrinus liga, the top division of Czech football. For the benefit of my American and Australian readers, the sport I am talking about is what you call ‘soccer’ but everybody else in the world calls ‘football’ or fotbal in Czech.
Bohemians’ emblem & mascot is a kangaroo. This apparently dates from a tour the club did to Australia in 1927 when they were given two live kangaroos which they donated to Prague Zoo. One of the nicknames for the club is Klokani which is ‘kangaroos’ in Czech. Not surprisingly, Australians living in Prague tend to support Bohemians 1905 & Terry, who organised our group, is an Aussie from Brisbane and a very keen supporter.
On the other hand, Dukla are really my local club as their home ground lies directly behind the Residence Podbaba estate where I live. This is their first season for many years back in the top flight of Czech football after they gained promotion as champions of Division Two at the end of last season.
The match was played at the Synot Tip Arena which is the home ground of the more well-known SK Slavia Praha. Bohemians’ proper home ground is the Dolícek Stadium which is only one kilometre away. However, it needs to be upgraded to Gambrinus liga standards which includes having under soil heating & there is currently a dispute both about ownership of the ground & who will pay for the work. Apparently, the really loyal Bohemians 1905 fans gather at Dolícek before every home match & then march the 1 km to the Synot Tip Arena.
The Synot Tip Arena will hold 21,000 spectators so, with only 3100 in the crowd, we did rather rattle. As you can see in the photograph above, the whole seating area on the north side of the ground was unused, with just a couple of stewards in bright yellow high-visibility jackets, guarding the stairways.
Over in the north-eastern corner of the ground were the visiting Dukla fans – surprisingly few in view of the relatively short distance they needed to travel. We all sat in the south stand with the somewhat vocal Bohemians’ supporters, all decked out in their club colours of green and white.
I couldn’t help but contrast numerous differences between attending this match and attending a game in the English Premiership. My ticket cost 150 kc, a little more than £5.00 which is about 10 -15% of what it would cost in the UK. And for 35 Kc (about £1.25), you could buy a 0.5 litre of beer and take it with you and drink it whilst watching the match! Admittedly, the league is sponsored by Gambrinus, an extremely drinkable Czech beer! Whilst there was a police presence outside the ground, they were mainly concerned with manually controlling nearby traffic lights to try and ensure the smooth flow of traffic on the streets surrounding the ground. I didn’t see any police presence inside the stadium.
Sadly we saw no goals as the match ended in a 0 – 0 draw. Even some of my Bohemians supporting friends agreed with me that Dukla were overall the better team. On at least three occasions, Dukla should have scored, but unfortunately, they wanted one touch too many in the penalty area. So it was one point each meaning that Bohemians 1905 drop from second to fifth in the league, whilst Dukla remain seventh.