FK Viktoria Zizkov 0-1 FC Zenit Caslav (10:10:10)
If you've had your fill of mod£rn football then a trip to Viktoria Zizkov in Prague may well be just the ticket for you. Booking fees? Service charges? Ticketmaster? €40 to sit in the top tier of a soulless stadium suffering from vertigo? Not in Zizkov my friends.
I am a silly goose. I call myself the editor of European Football Weekends, and yet this was my first visit to Prague - the European capital of beer. A city where a single raising of the thumb gets you another pot of amber nectar plonked on your table. And one which boasts a vast array of football clubs to suit every taste all located within a gnats crotchet of each other.
The suburb of Zizkov is slightly run down, but it's off the main drag, which means cheaper prices coupled with a lack of Japanese tourists and chaps with open toe sandals and white socks asking for the nearest bathroom.
Just like every club on planet earth, Viktoria Zizkov have flirted with financial insecurity in the past decade. That situation was exasperated by a corruption scandal, which along with a series of poor results in 2004 meant the club lost their foothold in the top tier of Czech football, and subsequently started bobbing up and down the leagues. Games against Chelsea in the Cup Winners Cup and a victory over Glasgow Rangers in the UEFA Cup have long since past.
I'd heard that football in Prague can be done on the cheap. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock to the system when a quick gander at their website revealed that match tickets ranged from 450-750CKC (£16-£25). I don't mind telling you I pulled a face like Kermit the Frog with my upper lip curling inwards towards my gritted teeth. Don't mention this to anyone, but those prices were for a season ticket. I'd goosed up. And relax.
Nobody told me that the national dress code of Czechs was a fancy skirt arrangement. Thousands of people in the city were wearing them. They weren't Czechs though were they. Scotland had played a European Championships qualifier in town the previous night, and their fans had stuck around in huge numbers; boosting the local economy, making new friends, and - despite downing enough ale to sink several viking ships - they were (as usual) impeccably well behaved.
The usual EFW insomnia the night before a game wasn't an issue here. Traditionally Viktoria Zizkov have always kicked off at 10:15 on a Sunday morning. There's no need for taxis in Prague as the public transport system is an absolute joy. The No.9 tram drops you right outside the ground. Arriving to a match by tram is one of life's little pleasures, especially at this hour when the mist still rolls along the Vltava River, and so I felt quite smug when I turned up an hour before kick off.
Trams o'clock outside the Zizkov Stadion.
Red sauce, brown sauce or no sauce at all?
The laughing policemen.
What's not to like?
I paid 50CKR (under £2) for my match ticket, and then joined the queue (queue!) for a beer. There is something fairly bonkers about seeing chaps queuing for half litres of beer before 10am, but here at the Zizkov Stadion, it's the most normal thing in the world. And, at 75p for half a litre, well, why not? The pubs don't open locally until midday, so word has it that the early kick off time suits those who fancy a pre-pub pint. How very civilised.
So, after adding several half litres of beer, a sausage and four tablespoons of atmosphere to my morning, I felt I was beginning to discover some of Viktoria's secrets. I had a Sunday morning worthy of worship. It was like walking around Poundland, but with goodies on every shelf.
Under the watchful eye of some scary looking babies crawling up the nearby TV Tower, the two teams trotted out onto the pitch. That tower is Prague's tallest landmark, and the giant babies are the work of artist David Cerney who has a few other surreal bits of work knocking around the city. See, it's not just about football and beer here at European Football Weekends. Anyway, back to the football. And beer.
It's my belief that the home side are missing a trick by not strolling onto the pitch with Victoria by The Fall blasting out on the PA. I'm going to write them a letter.
The ultras behind the Zizkov goal were in full voice, in fact they'd been singing since 9am. At the other end, 6 (six) Zenit fans bounced around the away section and launched some streamers onto the pitch just like Argentina '78 - almost.
I couldn't help but notice that the home gaffer [Martin Pulpit] had raised himself from the bench and was preaching to the team whilst sporting a pair of stonewashed jeans. I'm not overly familiar with the rules of the Czech FA, but I'm pretty sure these jeans are banned in Division 2. The threat of a points deduction is surely winging its way through the post as I type.
After a couple more range finders, I plucked up the courage to join the local Zizkov ultras for a bit of a sing-song behind the goal. They were having a love in with the Scottish fans - many of whom hadn't been to sleep. The ultras welcomed me with a bag full of memorabilia which will find its way onto the walls of the Lewes FC clubhouse next week.
A bag full of Viktoria Zizkov fun. Cheers lads!
O Flower of Zizkov, when will we see, your likes again.
Sunday morning worship for EFW.
The Scots are probably still there now running bars in the local area. Mind you, I can hardly talk having just put in a bid for one of the flats overlooking the stadium. Imagine that.
The game was rubbish. A scrappy goal just after half time won if for Zenit and their six fans who'd travelled 90km North by Northwest went properly bonkers. It was bedlam in the away as the dirty half dozen partied like it was 19999 with more streamers, star-jumps the lot.
The home fans - with a little help from their new Scottish cousins and I - never gave up singing, but there was the odd shout of 'Ty vole' (you donkey) for good measure. Everyone laughed.
So I'd finally unlocked the treasure chest that is Czech football, and furthermore, I'd loved every single minute. Thanks a million to those Zizkov fans who made me feel so welcome, and to the Scots who - if they're honest with themselves - looked to be enjoying this match more than their own game on the Friday night. Football, beer, sausages, songs and giggles all for under £10. I wish everyday was like Sunday in Prague. Na Zdravi!
The dirty half dozen.
A perfect little corner of Prague.
Flat out Zizkov attack.
For lots more photos of the match-day experience CLICK ME.
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