The Prague Raptors: A family club with a high press

We know things are going to be tougher further down the line

The commute across Prague to Zličín usually involves a trip to Ikea and a plate of Swedish meatballs. But that’s not on the menu tonight, instead, I spent an evening watching the Prague Raptors train and discuss how Prague’s newest amateur football team are finding life in the 9th tier of Czech football.

Daz and Petra Moss make up part of the management team for the newly formed club and it is clear from the outset they are surprised as to how quickly the club has grown. “We advertised on Facebook that we were holding trials for the club in February and had 72 guys turn up! We were surprised with the amount of people interested.”

“Initially, we wanted to start with a men’s team and grow the club and set up a women’s team further down the line. But the demand was there for both teams so we decided to go ahead with both from the beginning.” Daz said.

The Raptors have an impressive setup in place when it comes to the management team and social media presence – there is a director of football and a range of coaches, which paints a picture of a club that is already years ahead of where they are currently.

You can buy replica shirts and join the fan club, despite only playing a handful of competitive games. Although Daz and Petra are quick to dismiss any suggestions of over-ambition.

“We know things are going to be tougher further down the line, so we need to be ready now and start building the club in the correct way. We don’t want to do things halfway otherwise it’s not going to work.” Daz said.

While there is a serious and professional side to their approach, Petra wanted to emphasie the social aspect of the club “We want to create a family atmosphere, we want the players to feel happy and enjoy being at the club. Maybe it is too idealistic! But we want all of our players to be friends on and off the pitch.”

There is a definite family feel about the club already and there are plans afoot to develop a youth team for kids from the age of six. The Raptors plan to work closely with the League 5 academy that is run by one of their French midfielders, Andrew Argent, so the potential of a children’s team should dovetail perfectly with the rest of the club.

“We want the kids to love it, the same as the big ones!” added Petra, who pointed out of the window in the direction of men’s team that were beginning their training. “The League 5 Academy football is focused on fun and we know Andrew does a great job there so we will look to follow the same idea with a Raptors youth team.”

The facilities at FC Zličín are as welcoming as they are modern. There are two pitches and an indoor arena too. Not to mention a newly refurbished bar and restaurant a stones throw from the pitches. There is even a small children’s play area, which adds to the family feel around the club and their temporary home.

“We do have an ambition to find a home closer to the centre of the park, but we are in no rush to leave Zličín. The club has been great and been welcoming – the support we have has been fantastic. The facilities are great, the players feel welcome and we feel lucky to play our home matches here.” said Daz.

On the pitch, fortunes have been mixed for the Raptors. The men have excelled and won all four matches with the latest match being a 28-1 victory over Football Club Prosex that raised a few eyebrows, while the women have struggled to make an impact on the pitch and yet to win a league game.

“It’s been difficult for the girls as we have had many problems with injuries, holidays and registrations - we don't have the same quality in-depth as the Men do right now so it becomes a much bigger issue,” reflected Daz on the women’s team

“It would be nice if we get to the end of the season with a stable side that finish in the top half of the league.”

The training sessions for the men’s and women’s team start at the same time as they share one of the floodlit pitches at Zličín. It feels very organized and a million miles away from the images you would expect of a 9th tier Czech team having a kick about on a Wednesday evening.

Head coach Jon Davies is watching on from the sidelines but joins the session and stresses the importance of taking two touches and moving the ball on.

Jon is a coach at the Slavia Praha academy so what motivates him to spend his own time and energy working with the Prague Raptors outside of his day job. “It’s a dream ticket really. I have a blank canvas here to create something and put my ideas across,” said Jon on this role at the club.

“It makes my life easier when the team are a great bunch to work with, to be honest it is a miracle really to be where we are at this stage. We have guys from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Romania, France and even further afield but they mix really well and have been really receptive to what we are coaching them.”

Football is a simple game, you can draw many parallels between the professional game, and lower reaches of non-league football.

“We want to play a pressing style of football,” Jon told me at Zličín.

Which seems to be a common theme among the elite of modern football, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are keen advocates of the high press and winning the ball back in the opposition half. However, is it really relevant or feasible at this level of football in the Czech Republic?

“I believe it’s even more relevant for amateur football” Jon was quick to point out “If one of our players wins the ball in his own half, there is even less chance of creating a scoring opportunity if we need to make six or seven passes to create a chance. If our guy wins it in their half, one or two passes and we have a chance to score and that is crucial for us.”

This kind of high-energy style of play requires a lot of fitness, it’s clear from the sidelines that this team is in physically great shape, and could probably run home after training without losing breath.

There is a photo from their recent win that illustrated the gap between the Raptors and their opposition. After scoring their sixth goal on 53 minutes, the opposition players had hands on hips and shoulders slumped at the prospect of another 40 minutes to play - like an out of shape boxer picking themselves up off the canvas to face more punishment from a heavyweight champion.

“We can’t do anything about the league we are in; we need to play every game at 100% to keep improving ourselves and guarding against complacency,” Jon told me with a shrug of the shoulders “We know there are tougher games to come and only the top place are promoted, so we need to make sure we fight for every point.”

The Prague Raptors play their next match on Sunday 30th September against SK Čechie Smíchov "B" at Zlicin at 15:00 while the women’s side hope to get their first win of the season away to ČFK Brňany.

For more information on the Prague Raptors you can visit their website here

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