Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) – July 10, 2015

Footballing Unites Czech Friend and Fans

By Quiye Huang

PRAGUE — “Almost 98% young guys in my school love football.” said Luke Suto, a student in Prague. According to the statistics from CZ Football Association, the Czech Republic, a country with almost 10,540,000 people, owns 637,655 registered numbers, coaches and referees. That means generally, in this Central European country, 0.7% people work in the football industry directly. By sharp contrast, there are no more than 8,000 registered football players in China, a fast developing country, with a population of over 1.3 billion people.

Prague has 4 big football stadium and dozens of playgrounds. Letna Park is one such playground for playing football, and is located on the opposite of the stadium called Generali Arena, which is the home court of AC Sparta Prague, one of the most famous professional football clubs in the Czech Republic. “You can play football everywhere here,” a jogger said, “You see the lawn with small goal on both sides – it’s perfect.”

Everyday in Letna Park, people of different ages, vocations, and even different countries gather here to play football. Jacob Stokes, a university student from England, spending his holiday in Prague says, “My friend invites me here. Maybe we don’t match all the time, sometimes it’s just shooting [but] it’s still fun.” After the game, he may have a couple of beers with some of the new friends he made in Letna Park. “We guys all love football and it’s a nice place,” Stokes remarks.

“Football isn’t the only reason we come here, some of us play football because afterwards we can unwind with a beer with our friends.” said Luke Suto. In Plzen, Doosan Arena stadium, a lot of fans drink beer while they watch the games. There’s also one of the most attractive beer factories next to the stadium called Pilsener Urquell.

On Facebook, a group within 500 numbers called Letna Park football players introduce themselves as such: We are a bunch of football players from all ages and from different countries, as well as Czech girls and boys. We play for fun, to stay in shape, to sweat, none competitive, none violent, to stay healthy, to get that smoke out of our lungs, to run away from the doctor. Make new friends, have a beer after the game, chat and have more fun. 

Sometimes there are problems when different countries and races play against each other, but there are laws and organizations designed to prevent this. For example, there are several institutions under UEFA (Union of European Football Association) that have devoted themselves to this mission, such as FARE(Football Against Racism in Europe), Israel Football Association, Cross Culture Project Association, etc. “ We follow the motto that football is a game for people,” written on the local professional club FC victoria Plzen official website.

In the Norwegians City club, young players gather together regardless of their nationality. Giovanni Da Costa said: “They choose the best guys all around the Europe even world, I’m from Portugal, he’s Czech and that guy is English.”

A sunny afternoon in July, the environment temperature has risen to over 30 degrees. P.I.G, an amateur club built up in 1980, is playing a football match on the lawn at Letna Park. The players share the same characteristic: they are all elderly people in their age of fifties or sixties, even seventies. The oldest player in the game is a 79 year old man, Pavel Sulek, who just completed 700-km bicycle ride.

On the lawn, the elder men cheer for each goal and sigh for each missed one. “Some of them have been playing football together for more than 35 years. Jan Trojan and I are new members of P.I.G,” Vlado Drabek said. “Jan is 65 years old and have been on this team for only 25 years.” During this long period, they have insisted on playing together two or three times a week. “We even play in the winter,” said from Jan. “We play in Letna Park, on the snowfield.” When Drabek was a young man, he at times changed his work calendar in order to catch the time spending with his friends in P.I.G club. “Maybe it won’t burn my boss up, because I am the boss of myself.” he laughs and says.

However, not everybody is as lucky as Drabek. “I’m a fan of football and used to played it with my friends. But now I have to work hard and I eventually lost touch with my friends. I’m afraid I don’t plat very often nowadays. ” Zdenek Mzourek said.

“As for the younger generation in the Czech Republic, they tend to not let work occupy their life and health,” Jan Rybar said. People in Letna Park come here not only for football. They come here after their day job to jog, bike, and play basketball.

The UEFA is also trying to promote a healthy lifestyle with sports: “Football, and sport in general, goes hand in hand with healthy lifestyles.” The sentence above is shown in the official report titled UEFA EURP 2016: Social Responsibility & Sustainability -One-year-to-go report, 2015.

“Usually, we play football in Letna Park once at the lawn and twice on the playground.” The standard playground paid by local government and EU fund the park so it is free for all people and schools in this neighborhood.

“The government, Football Association of the Czech Republic, as well as the UEFA spend a lot of money every year to promote recreational football. They build up the stadium and support the clubs and games.” the owner of the FC Victoria Plzen, a successful club who just became the champion of Czech Supercup in 2015, Toma’s Paclik said.

According to the UEFA Football and Social Association budget allocation by theme 2013/14, more than 310,000€ are spent in Health. Healthy Stadia activities support sports clubs, stadium operators and sports governing bodies to develop health promoting policies and practices at stadiums that contribute to improved levels of public health among fans, stadium work forces and local communities. And in 2016 France, the UEFA European Football Championship will progressively implementing Tobacco-free policy.

Although Drabek has played football for more than 50 years – he started when he was just 5 years old – he never thought about becoming a professional football player. “ Actually, I am not necessarily a big fan of a certain professional football clubs, I just enjoy playing football for myself,” he said, “I think it’s much more better to play for your entire life than just playing only 20 years.”