Bohemians hosted Dukla Prague in what many would label as a lesser known capital city derby on a freezing cold Friday at the beginning of March. I had landed in Prague that morning, having (just) escaped “The Beast From The East” late winter adverse weather which had hit the UK hard.
Visiting fellow thefootballblether.com author, @velvetsoccer we headed to the Ďolíček Stadium in the trendy Vršovice district of Prague. Sited in the midst of tall apartment blocks, the stadium is relatively ramshackle boasting one large (roofed) main stand, an open air “Curva” housing the Ultras at the northern end with a couple of rows of seats opposite the main stand and a closed off area to the south. Tickets were easy to find and purchase (albeit with a little local knowledge). Seats in the main stand were purchased from the communal (many clubs use) ticketportal.cz website and then printed at home, for a cost of roughly £8 – good value for a top level match, albeit between 2 lesser known sides sitting in mid-table (Bohemians 7th at kick off, Dukla 11th).
Prior to the match, we wandered down the hill towards the ground in search of a pre-match pint. Just off the main road down we spotted a little bar named “U Bohemky”. This represented an obvious choice pre-match and we headed in. Upon opening the door and entering, we were first met by a thick fug of cigarette smoke (notwithstanding a smoking ban in Prague bars, apparently). The smoke hit us so hard that we almost needed to use spoons to breath. The walls of the bar were adorned by the Bohemians crest and memorabilia and the resident patrons crowded around 3 tables, slouched behind pints of lager and small glasses of stronger spirits, plus of course ashtrays. Without asking we were handed pints of Pilsner by the barman, which we drank a little quicker than usual given the lack of fresh air within the bar. At roughly 80p a pint though, this represented a decent and interesting pre-match experience.
A modest crowd of 1905 were in attendance (although there is a suspicion this figure has been manufactured a little to try and celebrate the fact that 1905 fans watched the team founded in 1905, some coincidence if not). A bitterly cold evening, plus Bohemians competing with the far larger Slavia Prague (located along the road) and Sparta Prague (historically one of the most successful teams in the Czech Republic) for fans means that a high crowd was never really on the cards. Dukla, as a former army team did not take many supporters with them given that much of their success came through relatively “unnatural” means, without any real organic routes and thus without a wide fan base.
After the obligatory search and frisking by security guards at the gate, we entered and proceeded to purchase our matchtime sustenance – the klobasa. Served with a slice of bread this type of sausage is essential at most Czech grounds (much as a pie is in the UK). Washed down with a pint – given the freezing temperatures this was actually served a little warm (by design or not, a good thing to stop it freezing which had been an issue in preceding weeks).
Bohemians started the game brightly as the home side, while Dukla were happy to sit in and soak up pressure. The quality on show was good, with technically proficient players and lots of very neat and tidy touches from players on both sides. Bohemians started with Jakub Necas up front with Dominik Masek and Martin Hasek supporting. All 3 however are creative style attacking midfielders and so it was evident from early in the game that a real focal point up front was missing. Necas in particular showed some great touches and squirreled his way into the box behind the Dukla rearguard on a number of occasions, only to fail to capitalise through a combination of lack of ruthless finishing or the lack of a teammate in a decent position to pull back to. Bohemians continued to press however and the right winger, Reiter was brought down in the box for a penalty. Masek stepped up to slot this home in front of the ultras to make it 1-0.
Notwithstanding the presence of numerous creative midfielders on the pitch for Bohemians, the lack of quality from set pieces was palpable. Time after time corners were cleared by the first man, or collected by the goalkeeper. Most frustratingly, Hasek stepped up to a couple of free kicks in great positions, just off centre and seemingly perfect for a creative left sided player to test the keeper. However this was wishful thinking as he stepped up each time to essentially melt the ball straight at the wall and waste the opportunity.
Dukla didn’t offer too much going forward. They applied a bit of pressure after the break but if truth be told they never really troubled the Bohemians rearguard. The game looked to be fizzling out when Bohemians introduced Benjamin Tetteh, a tall Ghanaian striker, up front. Almost immediately Bohemians then looked more threatening as Tetteh offered a pronounced focal point for the creative players to buzz around and play off. Time and again he held the ball up and laid it off, or took the ball in before turning his marker and sending a teammate away.
Tetteh’s introduction also seemed to inspire his teammates as the previously quiet and reserved right back Martin Dostal raced – or ran as fast as he could up the right, but at all times appeared as though despite pushing hard he was tied to a bungee rope or running through treacle, to take the ball towards the by-line before pulling back for that man Tetteh to score, rounding off the victory.
A decent game of football, despite the cold, was made more of an experience (not just due to the smoky bar and the delicious klobasa) by an article within the match programme. This recalled a game between Bohemians and Dukla back in 1975. A 2-1 win by Bohemians on that night was not the main focus of the article however – the first goal for Bohemians was the main talking point. The protaganist back in 1975 was one Antonin Panenka. On stepping up to take a penalty kick, Panenka first tried out his now world famous penalty technique whereby he ran up to the ball, watched the goalkeeper dive and chipped the ball down the middle of the goal. This first instance of this technique was just a few months before his most famous rendition of this at the 1976 European Championships – but due to the lack of any global televised football coverage back then this technique remained relatively unknown.
While it is unlikely that the 2018 match up between Bohemians and Dukla will end up being as famous as the 1975 game, it was nonetheless an excellent experience.