Lions kicking off American football season

The opening game will be broadcast live from Prague’s Viktoria Žižkov stadium

American football fans can look forward to the start of the 26th season of play in the Paddock League. The Prague Lions will meet the Ostrava Steelers at 2 pm on Sunday, March 31, at FK Viktoria Žižkov stadium.

The Fan Zone will open at noon, and people can measure the speed of their toss or try other competitions before the game starts. For those who can’t make it to the stadium, the match will also be broadcast live on ČT sport.

Established in 1991, the Prague Lions are the oldest American football club in the Czech Republic. They will be going after the league title, which they last held in 2006. The season opener promises to be exciting, as both the teams are top ranked.

“This season opener is special because it's played in Žižkov, in a bigger stadium, and it will be broadcast on national TV. Beyond that, it is a game between the two teams that on paper are the favorites to win the Paddock League Championship this year,” Prague Lions head coach Zach Harrod said.

“The Ostrava Steelers are always a tough competitor. They are big and physical, which always is a challenge. This year they have a new quarterback, and that means a new system on offense. There are lots of details about this game that make it intriguing. On our side too! We have had many, many changes from last year, including player changes but also coaching changes,” he added.

The Lions have had bad luck at Viktoria Žižkov stadium, and will try to break the trend. They have already played there four times, and each time they left as losers. In the regular season, the Lions play at a stadium in Prague’s Hostivař district.

Harrod is optimistic for this year, but sees a lot of work ahead. “As a coach, if I would say our expectations weren’t to win, I would have a problem. The league is wide open this year, and while people can have things on paper, the game isn't played on paper but the field. But we go out to win, that's our goal. Those are our expectations,” he said.

The Paddock League has eight registered teams, divided into two divisions of four teams each. The Prague Lions are in the West division, along with the Ústí nad Labem Blades, Pilsen Patriots and Pardubice Stallions.

The East division includes Vysočina Gladiators, Aquaponik Ostrava Steelers, Brno Sígrs and Brno Alligators.

The regular season for the Prague Lions will last for 10 matches, ending June 22 with a match against Ústí nad Labem Blades at Hostivař. Each team plays twice against teams from their own division and once against teams from the opposing division.

American football is slowly catching on in the Czech Republic. “There are close to 30 teams in the country, divided into four leagues of play. The Czech Association of American Football (ČAAF) has done a really good job with the media to increase our exposure and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” Harrod said. The Paddock League is the top level competition of the four leagues.

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