Sparta Prague were caught with their pants down earlier this week fielding three players for a friendly after having withdrawn the trio from international duty due to injury.
In order to conceal their identities, Tomas Pekhart, Vaclav Kadlec and Croatian defender Manuel Pamic were omitted from the team sheet for the mid-winter friendly vs Zenit St Petersburg, and took the field wearing the named shirts of other squad members.
Suspicions were raised after Czech journalists covering the game noticed that holding midfielder Martin Abena had been shunted up top to play in an incongruous target-man role. Sparta’s intricate subterfuge was ultimately foiled upon the realisation that Cameroonian Abena had morphed into a 6’4” tall, caucasian youth, baring a striking resemblance to the Czech international striker, Tomas Pekhart.
Funny But Bad
While I am certain that almost all leading European clubs deceive national associations into believing players have succumbed to injury, fatigue, and rare tropical diseases in the days leading up to meaningless international fixtures, Sparta have somewhat unreasonably ramped up the trickery with this latest ruse.
My deep love for Czech football largely stems from the country’s propensity for comedy scandals, however Sparta Prague’s latest action only highlights their curt regard for the Czech FA, which harbours pernicious undercurrents for the Czech game. This is not the kind of behaviour the Czech football authorities want to see from the most influential club in the country, and as such I think (and hope) they will come down hard on the club. Sparta’s less-than-watertight justification that all three players recovered ahead of time, and that the club did not have the relevant shirts in preparation for the match, only amplifies Sparta’s contempt for the CMFS.
Interestingly, the Croatian FA took an insouciant stance on the incident, noting only that they were pleased for Pamic that he made such a swift recovery.
However, Vladimir Smicer, the Czech National Team Sports Manager, was less pleased. The former Liverpool and Slavia Prague legend is looking for a large fine for Sparta and a domestic ban for the three incognitos (leaving Pekhart and Kadlec available for Sparta’s huge Europa League encounter with Liverpool).
Sparta will face the Czech FA disciplinary committee in the coming days. Here is a taster of the event starring Captain Heartbreaker as Sparta’s representatives.