Czech Republic

Capital: Prague
Population: 10.2 million
Currency: Czech Koruna
Official Language: Czech
Borders: Poland (North), Slovakia (East), Austria (South) and Germany (West)
GNP per Capita: $5,240 (48th in world)
Main Airport: Ruzyne Prague – Prague

Landlocked in eastern Europe, the Czech Republic comprises Bohemia and Moravia, and was formerly part of Czechoslovakia.  In 1989 the “velvet revolution” led to the fall of the communist regime and the split of the country.  Tourism is the biggest industry still with over 17million visitors annually.  Winters are bitterly cold.

The Gambrinus Liga

For a better view on where the clubs play in the Czech Republic, go to Footiemap.com to access their comprehensive map of the country.  At the winter break in the 2008/09 season Slavia had turned their new stadium into a fortress and were 6 points clear at the top, with Boleslav in 2nd.  Sparta trailed by 10 points in fourth.  They did close the gap towards the end of the season, finishing in second place.

Gambrinus liga is the official name of the Czech football premier league. “Gambrinus” is the name of the best selling beer in the Czech Republic produced by the main sponsor – Plzeňský Prazdroj, a. s.
Left: Teplice’s Na Stínadlech

The league has 16 teams. At the end of each season the top teams in the League qualify for the European cups. Currently, two top teams enter the UEFA Champions League, the team placed third (together with the winner of the Czech Cup) enters the UEFA Cup qualifying; the fourth team plays Intertoto Cup. The two lowest placed teams are relegated into the 2nd Czech League.

The history of the Czech Premier League began at the end of 19th century. It was reorganized for the 1993/1994 season, after the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia and therefore of the Czechoslovak League. The most famous clubs are Bohemians 1905, Sparta Prague, Slavia Prague, Slovan Liberec (left:Stadion U Nisy) , Baník Ostrava, 1.FC Brno (Below: Stadion Srbská) and FK Teplice.

Gambrinus liga winners

Year Team
1994 AC Sparta Praha
1995 AC Sparta Praha
1996 SK Slavia Praha
1997 AC Sparta Praha
1998 AC Sparta Praha
1999 AC Sparta Praha
2000 AC Sparta Praha
2001 AC Sparta Praha
2002 FC Slovan Liberec
2003 AC Sparta Praha
2004 FC Baník Ostrava
2005 AC Sparta Praha
2006 FC Slovan Liberec
2007 AC Sparta Praha
2008 SK Slavia Praha
2009 SK Slavia Praha

The teams playing in the 2009/10 season are:-

AC Sparta Praha – Prague – Generali Arena – capacity:  20,374 (see below section for more details)
SK Slavia Praha – Prague – Stadion Eden – capacity: 21,000 (see below section for more details)
FC Bohemians Praha – Prague – Stadion Evžena Rošického – capacity: 19,032 (see below section for more details)
FK Teplice – Teplice – Na Stínadlech – capacity: 18,221
FC Baník Ostrava – Ostrava – Bazaly – capacity: 17,372
1. FC Brn0 Městsk – Brno – Stadion Srbská – capacity: 12,550 (see below section for more details)
SK Sigma Olomouc – Olumouc – Andrův stadion – capacity: 12,014
FC Slovan Liberec – Liberec – Stadion U Nisy- capacity: 9,900
1.FK Příbram – Příbram – Na Litavce – capacity: 12,000
FC Viktoria Plzeň Struncovy –  Plzeň – Sady Stadion – capacity:       7,842
1. FC Slovácko – Uherské Hradiště – Městský stadion – capacity: 8,121
FC Bohemians 1905 – Prague – Ďolíček Stadion – capacity: 6,836  (see below section for more details)
SK D České Budějovice – České Budějovice – E-On Stadion – capacity: 6,746
FK Jablonec 97 – Jablonec – Stadion Střelnice – capacity: 6,280
FK Mladá Boleslav – Boleslav – Městský Stadion – capacity: 5,000
SK Kladno – Kladno – Stadion Františka Kloze – capacity: 4,000

FOOTBALL IN BRNO

BRNO – NA SRBSKA STADION – CAPACITY: 12,550 ALL SEATER

About the Na Srbska Stadion
The basic Na Srbska almost seems to have been left behind as money is poured into Czech football.  It is an open air affair, with terracing behind the goal curving away from the pitch.  When the rain starts, it is not one of the best places to be as there is no cover to be had.  Plans are under foot to build a brand new stadium next to the current one, but much will depend on finding the finance required.  For now the club have to be content with their modest home.

Who plays there?
1. FC Brno are one of the most successful teams in Czech Republic outside Prague.  They won the Czechoslovakian League in 1978, and followed it up by top three finishes in the next two seasons as well.  Since the creation of the Czech Republic league they have failed to break the almost monopoly of Sparta and Slavia, with one single top three finish in 1995.  Their European pedigree is not too impressive – their best ever campaign was in the UEFA Cup in 1979/80 when they reached the quarter finals, beating Standard Liege before losing in an exciting 6-4 aggregate defeat to eventual winners Eintract Frankfurt.  Last season they finished in 5th place, one spot off a UEFA Cup place.

How to get there
The stadium is located in the north of the city, almost touching the main ring road, and close to the University of Technology.  Whilst the surroundings are very pleasant, the stadium is a good 4km outside the city centre and not really walk able.  The easiest way to reach the stadium is to catch trolleybus 32 which runs from Ceska in the centre of the city right to the stadium stop at Srbska.  Close by lines 12, 13 and 53 terminate just south of the stadium at Červinkova.  For more information on how to get to the stadium go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent map on Czech football.

Getting a ticket
With average attendances failing to break the 5,000 mark even for the games versus the team from the capital fail to get into five figures so you will have little problem in getting a ticket on the gate.  A place in the main stand starts from 150Kc, and behind the goal in the curve from 100Kc.

Getting around
Public transport in Brno consists of Trams, trolleybuses and normal buses.  The city centre is very congested, and traffic jams at peak periods are not uncommon.  There are plans to alleviate this by building a metro system, but nothing has got off the drawing board yet.  Tickets for all forms of transport cost 13Kc (approx €0.40) for two zones – remember to stamp the tickets in the machines otherwise you can be fined up to 1,000Kc.  A one day pass costs €1.75 or 50Kc.

Nearest Airport – Brno-Turany Airport (BRQ)
Telephone:              +420 545 521 309
Website:                  http://www.airport-brno.cz

The old military airport located close to the city centre of Brno and is currently served byRyanair from London Stansted. You can easily get to Brno Airport from the city centre using the direct bus line No. 76 which departs from the Brno Main train station from 04:30 AM to 11:00 PM every half hour. After arrival, and before departure of the Ryanair plane to London, the bus goes every 20 minutes. For one journey you need a 2-zone ticket valid for 40 minutes. These cost 13 CZK for adults and 6 CZK for children younger than 6 years.

FOOTBALL IN PRAGUE

Prague – The Generali Arena – Capacity –      20,565 All Seater

The Stadium – The Generali  Arena
The Generali Arena is a perfect example of the Czech attitude to football.  Functional but with little thought of ambition.  It is amazing to think that the modest arena is also the home to the Czech Republic team, as this is the biggest football stadium in the country – a country that is currently ranked by FIFA in the top 5 in the world!  The stadium is a complete box style stadium, made up of two tiers of seating.  The pitch has perimeter fencing and a small moat around to deter pitch invaders.  One of the strange aspects of it is that on the main stand (west) upper tier, the concourse runs along the front of the seats, meaning that if you are unlucky enough to be sitting in the first few rows, your view will be constantly obstructed by people walking to and from refreshment stands and toilets.

Who Plays There?
It is hard to believe nowadays that a team like Sparta Prague have played more Champions League matches than Chelsea and Liverpool put together.  Sparta are one of the perennial clubs that always seem to make the group stages draw, before putting up a plucky fight before finishing bottom of their group.  Last season has been no exception.  Drawn in a group with Arsenal, Ajax and FC Thun, Sparta managed to throw away an opportunity of at least a UEFA Cup spot by drawing their final home match with the Swiss unknown team.  This season the best they could offer was a place in the UEFA Cup.

It is also amazing to think that 90% of the best Czech players playing in Europe today have at some point in the past pulled on the famous maroon shirt of Sparta.  Players such as Paved Nedved, Thomas Repka, Petre Cech, Karol Poborsky (Currently at the club in a second spell), Thomas Rosisky and Vladimir Smicer have all won honours with Sparta before going on to ply their trade in the bigger European leagues.

The club were originally formed in 1893 as the Athletic Club Kralovske Vinohrady, although they soon adopted the name Sparta.  They adopted the dark red colours after the then club president travelled to London and saw Arsenal play in the coloured kit they wore during the 2005/06 season.  The club took their place in the first Czechoslovakian league in the 1922 and won the inaugural title as well as six more before the outbreak of World War Two.

When football returned to Central Europe in earnest in the early in 1950’s, Sparta again became one of the power houses.  They took the title again in 1952, 1954, 1965 and 1967 along with a few Czech Cup wins in that period.  As the Cold War was at its peak during the 1970’s and 1980’s, the clubs fortunes suffered dramatically, and they even suffered their only ever relegation in 1975.  However, success soon returned to the Letna stadium when the club captured their first title in 17 years in 1984.  From that point onwards the club were virtually unbeatable domestically, capturing the Czech Title every year from 1984 to 1993 with just one exception.  When Czechoslovakia split to form two new countries, Sparta continued their dominance in a smaller league.

Apart from a blip in 1996 and 2004 (when they won the Cup instead) they won every title.  Unfortunately Europe provided a road too far.  They had their most successful campaign in 1992/93 when they finished 2nd in the final qualifying group.  This was the last season that the format was like this and the following season this position would have seen them compete in the Semi-Finals. The great teams during this period included such stars as Pavel Nedvĕd, Petr Čech, Jan Koller, Tomas Repka and Tomas Sukhravy.  Today the club are in a transitional period.  Repka has returned to his spiritual home with his cult-status from his five years at West Ham intact and under the leadership of Michal Bilek they hope to regain the title.

How to get to the Generali Arena
The stadium sits to the north of the river, high above the city centre.  By far the easiest way to reach the stadium is to get the Green Metro line A in the direction of Dejuikă to Hradcany.  From there you can either get any eastbound tram or walk 5 minutes or so down Milady Horakove for the stadium.  A taxi from the city centre will cost around 400Kr (£9) and take less than 10 minutes.  For a more detailed view of where the stadium is in the city centre, click here to access Footiemap.com’s excellent overview of football in Prague.

How to get a ticket for the Generali Arena
The only time the arena sells out are when the national team are in town playing a big country, and when Sparta host one of Europe’s big guns such as Arsenal or Manchester United, as they have in recent Champions League campaigns.  In fact the game in October 2005 against Arsenal was memorable for the fact that the home capacity was significantly reduced due to racial chanting during the previous home match versus Ajax.

Around the Generali Arena
The ground is located at the top of a hill to the north of the city centre, and opposite the entrance to the huge Letna Park.  Next to the stadium is a big McDonalds, which is split on two levels.  The lower floor is open to the public from the outside of the stadium, whilst the upper floor doubles up as a concession stand for ticket holders on a match day, linked to the stadium concourse by a walkway.  There is very little else around the stadium apart from a couple of car dealerships, so it’s best to stick to the city centre for your pre match enjoyment before heading up to the stadium.

The Evzena Rosickeho (Strahov) Stadion – Capacity: 19,032 All Seater

The stadium is very much in the traditional of many grounds in Europe with a running track separating the stands from the pitch, which means that the view from behind the goals tends to be a bit of a strain – especially low down in the stands. All of the stands are covered, although the stadium does suffer from having a real lack of character.  Their previous stadium, known as the Eden in Vrsovic has now been demolished.  This old stadium has a capacity of 16,000 but had a wooden grandstand that had to be closed due to fire safety in the mid 1980’s.

In the early 1990’s when the club were taken over by Investment Company ENIC, Daniel Levy (he of Tottenham Hotspur fame) promised to move the club to a new stadium by the end of the millennium.  Unfortunately, delays in finding a suitable site meant that the Strahov wasn’t opened until 3 years later in December 2000.

Originally, Slavia started off in the Letna Stadium alongside city rivals Sparta.  In 1953, the communist regime decided that Slavia had to move out and found their home in the Eden stadium in the Vrsovice area of the city.  The plan was always to build a new stadium for the club, specifically on the lines of FC Basel’s St Jakob Park’s stadium back around the Eden region.

The Strahov is actually located next to site of one of the world’s biggest ever stadiums.  The Old Strahov was completed in 1948 and occupied more that 15 acres with a capacity of over 220,000.  It was used predominantly for Communist rallies and concerts but it was also used occasionally for Slavia games.  Nowadays, the land is in a constant state of flux, with plans seeming to be submitted on a weekly basis to change this land into something more useful.

The new Eden stadium finally opened in May 2008 with an exhibition match with Oxford University (the club’s first ever opponents) that finished 5-0 to the Czechs.  It will hold 21,000 when the league recommences in August 2008 with the home team being defending champions for the first time in over a decade.

Who Plays There?
Prague’s forgotten relation in terms of football is Slavia.  They have always played second fiddle to Sparta up the road in terms of history, status and tradition, but things may be about to change.  The club can at least point to a longer European campaign that Sparta in 2005/06, after Slavia made it to the last 32 of the UEFA Cup, whilst Sparta crashed out a full two months earlier in the group stages of the Champions League.

The roots of the team can be traced back to the end of the 19th century when they were founded by a group of Czech students in 1892.  The club was regularly the leading team in the country during the first part of the 20th century, and this was reflected in the 1934 World Cup Final when the club supplied 8 members of the national team that lost the 2nd World Cup Final to Italy.  The hero of the time was undoubtedly Josef Bican who scored 643 goals at an average of 1.75 goals per game in an amazing career that spanned over two decades.

After the soviet regime in the early 1960’s lead to relegation of the team, Slavia bounced back in to the top division in 1965 finishing third in the league.  However, the title was to elude them until 1996 – a wait of over 49 years.  Since then the club has not been able to repeat the feat, but has won the Czech cup on three occasions in 1997, 1999 and 2002.  The club’s European pedigree stretches back to the 1960’s but it wasn’t until the campaigns of 1995/96 that they made a mark in European club competition.  A run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup saw them beat RC Lens and AS Roma before finally losing 2-0 to Bordeaux.  The following season the club made its debut in the Champions League, losing 5-1 to Grasshoppers of Zurich in the qualifying rounds.  In fact the club have yet to make it past the qualifying stages of the Champions League.

This season fortunes have been mixed as the title race has become much more open and Slavia are one of half a dozen teams competing for top spot.  Unfortunately they could not overcome Tottenham Hotspurs in the UEFA Cup 1st round, losing 2-0 on aggregate.

How to get to the Evzena Rosickeho Stadion
The stadium can easily be reached from the city centre by taking underground line B to Andel and then take bus 217 from the station stop (Na Knizeci) right to the stadium.  Alternatively, Bus number 176 runs from Karlovo Namsky which runs direct to the stadium.

If you are in the area of the castle then take tram 22 or 23 from Malostranska underground station in the direction of the castle.  Alight at the Malovanka stop, cross the road and walk up the hill until you reach the stadium.  The walk should take no more than 10 minutes.

For a more detailed view of where the stadium is in the city centre, click here to access Footiemap.com’s excellent overview of football in Prague.

How to get a ticket for the Evzena Rosickeho Stadion
Tickets may be bought from the ticket office at the Strahov stadium during the week, from 9am to 12pm and then 1pm to 4pm.  On match days the tickets are sold at the office close to the Entrance A3 as well as from the ticket booths around the outside of the stadium from 2 hours before kick off.  There is also a ticket booth in the Calcio Cz Fan Shop in Myslikova in the centre of Prague.

The only games that sell out at Slavia are unsurprisingly the derby games versus Sparta Prague.  So if you plan to catch this game it is advisable to buy your tickets in advance.  You can also email the club to reserve a ticket at vstupenky@slavia.cz or by ringing +420 25721 3290.  At the moment the club do not have the facility to buy tickets online.

Around the Evzena Rosickeho Stadion
The stadium is located out to the west of the city on top of the Hradcany hill.  Around the stadium there is little else apart from trees and greenery.  The stadium is located next to the site of the original Strahov stadium, the massive 220,000 spectator capacity stadium that is now being converted into something more useful.

Getting Around
Public transport, if you need to use it, it is cheap and plentiful.  Tickets for any form start from just 14Kc with a 24 hour pass 80Kc.  The network consists of a three line metro system that delivers you into the heart of the action, as well as trams and buses that run into the early mornings.

Nearest Airport –  Ruzyne Airport (PRG)
Telephone:              +420 220 11 1188
Website:                  http://www.csl.cz

Ruzyne Airport lies around 10 miles north-west of the city centre.  The airport has recently opened a brand new terminal which will double the capacity of the airport.  There are a number of options on how to reach the city centre.  Taxi’s are plentiful outside the arrivals halls, but be warned – the stories of the Czech cab rip off’s are not the stuff from fantasies.  When the Czech Republic one day adopts the Euro then the unsuspecting tourist will be much safer from the common practice of playing on uneducated new arrivals in getting their head around the Czech Krona.  The average taxi journey into the city centre should be around CZK 600.

The easiest way is to catch the regular 112 bus that runs from outside the terminal building to Dejuikă metro line where you can change onto the green line for services to Musik and Museum in the city centre.  A single ticket costs CSK 20 and covers the journey both by bus and by metro.  There are a number of hotels that run a minibus service into the city as well from the airport.  Check before you travel to see if your hotel is one of these.

The main budget airlines that currently fly into Prague are Easyjet from London Stansted, Bristol, Gatwick, Newcastle and East Midlands, Bmibaby from Birmingham International, Cardiff International, East Midlands and Manchester, Thomsonfly from Doncaster Sheffield, and finally Jet2 from Leeds Bradford.  Traditional flag carriers BA and Czech Airlines also fly from London and Birmingham.

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