Football in Prague

Prague TV's guide to the city's top soccer teams, updated for the 2010/11 season

Forget any ideas you might have of fiery passions or rampant hooliganism: football in the Czech Republic is usually a low-key affair.

If it's spectacle you're after, you'd be well advised to seek out big national team games, European club competition or certain key local games, such as the Sparta-Slavia derby.

For the connoisseur, however, the domestic league still offers silky skills at very reasonable prices.

The season usually runs from late July/early August until June, with a winter break from late November until late February.

The best tickets for the biggest Gambrinus liga games will cost no more than 550 CZK this season (at Slavia Praha) while the cheapest topflight tickets will set you back only 150 CZK (Bohemians 1905).

Below, we give you the lowdown on the Prague teams currently playing in the Czech Republic's top two divisions -- Sparta Praha, Slavia Praha and Bohemians 1905 in the topflight Gambrinus liga and Viktoria Žižkov, Dukla Praha and Sparta Praha's B-team in the second-tier Druhá liga.


GAMBRINUS LIGA (FIRST DIVISION)

Sparta Praha

AC Sparta Praha
Generali Arena (Letná), Milady Horákové 98, Prague 7
Website: http://www.sparta.cz
Colors: Dark red jerseys, white shorts
Ticket Prices: 130-435 CZK

Sparta currently play home games at the 20,374-capacity Generali Arena stadium -- formerly known as Toyota Arena and AXA Arena -- which also hosts many Czech national team games.

Popularly known as Letná, the stadium is rarely full for league games, and only European competitions, the derbies against Slavia Praha and Bohemians 1905 (see below), and the grudge match against Baník Ostrava usually draw big crowds.

The faint-of-heart should avoid sectors D3, D4 and D5, where Sparta's more unpleasant followers tend to congregate. Serious trouble is rare but games against Slavia and Ostrava can spark violence, and racism has also been a problem.

Historically the Czech Republic's strongest club, Sparta had a couple of lean years before winning their 34th league championship last season, reinvigorated by former national team coach Jozef Chovanec.

Along with a successful defense of their title, "Železná Sparta" ("Iron Sparta") will be targeting a place in the Champions League's lucrative group phase this season.




Slavia Praha

SK Slavia Praha
Synot Tip Aréna (Eden), Vladivostocká 1460, Prague 10
Website: http://www.slavia.cz/
Colors: Red-and-white-halved jerseys, white shorts
Ticket Prices: 150-550 CZK

Slavia was originally established as a debating society and is traditionally associated with the middle classes.

Among Slavia fans today, you'd struggle to make this distinction, though their supporters would argue that the team plays a more refined style of football than the ruffians at Sparta (see above).

For most of their 118-year history, the "Sešívání" ("Sewn-Togethereds") have played second fiddle to their arch-rivals, but back-to-back championships in 2008 and 2009 raised hopes of a dynasty.

Instead, Slavia slumped to a dismal seventh-place finish last season, missing out on Europe for the first time in 19 years, but can at least boast of having the country's most modern stadium.

After eight long years in exile in Strahov, Slavia returned to their traditional Prague 10-Vršovice home in 2008, to play in the brand new 21,000-capacity Eden stadium.

Since April 2009, Eden has been officially known as Synot Tip Aréna in a sponsorship deal involving a Czech bookmakers.




Bohemians 1905

Bohemians 1905
Synot Tip Aréna (Eden), Vladivostocká 1460, Prague 10
Website: http://www.fc-bohemians.cz
Colors: Green-and-white striped jerseys, white shorts
Ticket Prices: 150-300 CZK

This much-loved Prague team owes its name and the kangaroo on its badge to a 1920s tour of Australia. (The team, representing Bohemia, called themselves the Bohemians for the trip; their hosts gave them a live kangaroo as a gift.)

Bohemians were one of Czechoslovakia's best teams in the 1970s and 1980s, and won their only league title in 1983.

The Klokani's (Kangaroos') recent history has been turbulent, though, and the club declared bankruptcy in January 2005.

Fans rallied round to save them, however, and relaunched the team, in the third division, in time for the 2005/06 season.

Their efforts have been complicated by two other club claiming the "Bohemians Praha" name -- "FK Bohemians Praha" (originally FC Střížkov Praha 9), who bought the rights to the famous moniker from the TJ Bohemians Praha sports club; and "FC Bohemians Praha," an attempt by former director Michal Vejsada to re-establish the original club in Prague's regional leagues.

Because of this dispute, the fan-led club calls itself Bohemians 1905 (the year the club was founded).

In addition to the name dispute, the Kangaroos also face a fan boycott of this season's home games, in protest at the club's decision to leave their traditional Ďoliček home and share Slavia's Synot Tip Aréna stadium.

Being a Bohemians fan is a complicated business...




DRUHÁ LIGA (SECOND DIVISION)

Viktoria Žižkov

FK Viktoria Žižkov
Stadion FK Viktoria Žižkov, Seifertova 130, Prague 3
Website: http://www.fkviktoriazizkov.cz
Colors: Red-and-white striped jerseys, white shorts
Ticket Prices: 50-80 CZK

Žižkov's modest stadium has undergone substantial improvements in recent years but the 5,600-capacity all-seater hasn't lost its old charm.

Adding to the quaintness of the Viktoria matchday experience, the club typically plays home games at 10:15 on a Sunday morning.

Besides winning the league in 1928 and the cup in 1994 and 2001, Žižkov's greatest moment was probably their UEFA Cup win over Scottish giants Rangers in 2002.

Less happily, the club was involved in a notorious match-fixing scandal in 2004, the police wiretaps from which later formed the basis of the cult play Ivánku, kamaráde, můžeš mluvit?

Viktoria were relegated to the second division in 2009 but failed to bounce back last season, their disappointing fifth-place finish costing coach Vlastimil Petržela his job.

This season, Martin Pulpit is the man charged with getting "Viktorka" back into the topflight.




Dukla Praha

FK Dukla Praha
Sportovní areál Juliska, Na Julisce, Prague 6
Website: http://www.duklapraha.cz
Colors: Red jerseys, red shorts
Ticket Prices: To Be Confirmed

As well as having one of Czech football's most (in)famous names, Dukla Praha have one of its most complicated recent histories.

Established by the Czechoslovak army in 1947, Dukla flourished under Communism, winning 11 league titles and reaching the European Champions Cup semifinals in 1967.

After 1989's Velvet Revolution, however, the military stopped funding the team and Dukla's association with the old regime made it difficult to attract sponsorship.

Because of financial problems the club dropped into the third division in 1994, but returned to the topflight after merging with fellow strugglers FC Příbram.

After a disagreement with the army over the rental of the Juliska stadium, the club moved to Příbram, around 80 kilometers southwest of Prague, in 1997 and is now known as 1.FK Příbram.

Separately, an amateur team called Dukla Dejvice continued to play at Juliska, in the lower reaches of the Prague leagues.

In 2001, Dukla Dejvice joined forces with Dukla Praha's old youth teams, which had broken away from the Příbram-based club after the merger

In 2006, by taking over the second-division club Jakubčovice, Dukla took its place in the professional leagues for the first time in nearly a decade.

Coached by former Czech international Luboš Kozel, Dukla finished sixth last season but will be employing some unconventional tactics in their latest push for promotion.

In an attempt to liven up the atmosphere at their Communist-era stadium, Dukla are offering free admission to fans with vuvuzelas (or any other musical instrument) and to residents of Prague 6.




Sparta Praha

AC Sparta Praha B
Tréninkové centrum Horní Počernice, Božanovská 2098, 193 00 Prague 9
Website: http://www.sparta.cz
Colors: Dark red jerseys, white shorts
Ticket Prices: 50 CZK

Mainly made up of younger players, Sparta's reserve team will play their home games in Horní Počernice this season, providing dedicated fans with a glimpse of some of the stars of tomorrow.

Coached by Zdeněk Svoboda, the "Junioři" ("Juniors") narrowly avoided relegation to the third tier last season only because they had a better head-to-head record than relegated Opava.

In the unlikely event that Sparta Praha B finish in the top two this season, league regulations would prevent them being promoted to the same division as the Sparta Praha A-team.





RELATED LINKS

Fotbal.cz -- Official ČMFS (Czech football association) website
2009/10 Gambrinus Liga Fixtures -- First-division schedule
2009/10 Druhá Liga Fixtures -- Second-division schedule
Czech Football Daily -- Prague TV's soccer weblog

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