Tag Archives: sigma olomouc

Cup tie abandoned after Slavia Praha violence

A pitch invasion by disgruntled Slavia fans caused the abandonment of the first leg of their cup semi-final against Sigma Olomouc on Thursday (5/5/11). The exasperated mob invaded the corporate areas of their own ground, ransacking the executive boxes in an attempt to find some answers regarding the club’s arcane ownership structure and precarious future.

Slavia Praha violence

The Czech FA have not yet granted Slavia a license for the Gambrinus Liga next season as a result of their ugly balance sheet. The prospect of being ignominiously dumped in the 3rd tier next season was seemingly too much for the unruly assemblage yesterday, who underlined their displeasure by breaking stuff and loitering on the field of play.

Michal Petrák has a more detailed account of the Slavia Praha fiasco on the new and rather splendid Slavic Football Union site.

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Kick-Off For Czech Football’s Spring Season

This coming weekend Czech football finally emerges from its frustrating three month hibernation with a Friday evening kick-off between Slavia Prague and Brno. For once, I thought I’d attempt to dissect the Gambrinus League table as it stands in order to provide some kind of platform for the fun and games we can look forward from now until May.

I should admit that my football predilection is rooted in club legacy and socio-political history rather than as score speculator or transfer rumour-mongerer, but the peculiar patterns in Czech football during the autumn has drawn me to attempt some examination. A quick glance at the Czech league table will reveal some obvious incongruities, with the unfamiliar Viktoria Plzeň looking down from the top, and Gambrinus league ever-presents Brno and Slavia Prague dancing with the down-and-outs, desperate to evade a descent into the void.

How the spring season pans out is anybody’s guess. Czech football’s November to February hiatus and inferior purchasing power means that the clubs’ squads have a vastly different look to those that competed during the autumn. As such, it is not easy to predict who will continue or halt their previous form.

Of the title challengers, all three of Plzeň, Sparta Prague, and Sigma Olomouc have sold their best players over the winter, so it seems likely that the club that will prevail will be the one that can adequately procure talent and plug the gaps. Already that rules out Olomouc, ten points behind leaders Plzeň, who only last week cashed in on the Gambrinus League’s leading scorer Michal Hubník, as he jigged his merry way to Poland’s Ekstraklasa with Legia Warsaw.

This leaves an absorbing two-horse race between title holders Sparta and free-scoring, 2009/10 Czech Cup Champions, Viktoria Plzeň. Of course, it could have been done and dusted by now, with Plzeň ceding a one time 12-point advantage, now only a buffer of four. Nonetheless, the spring season is a real dash to the finish with only 13 rounds of games remaining. Plzeň have already travelled and won at Sparta’s Letná, and so they have more than a good chance of clinging on for their first ever league title.

Sparta 0 - 1 Plzeň

The winter break has seen Plzeň lose their central defensive partnership of Tomáš Rada and Jakub Navrátil to Turkish side Sivasspor, but the club’s revered coach Pavel Vrba has replaced them with the useful Aleš Neuwirth and Petr Trapp from Baník Ostrava and Slavia Prague respectively. In addition, the talented international Martin Fillo has returned from Norway in pursuit of glory with his hometown club.

Sparta Prague, meanwhile, will be determined to retain their crown in the hope of clinching a Champions League place following this season’s successful run in the Europa League. The task has been made all the harder by the sale of their best player and midfield general Juraj Kucka to Genoa, and leading scorer Bony Wilfried to Vitesse Arnhem. Sparta’s reinforcements include the talented young striker Tomáš Pekhart from Jablonec, and centre-back Tomáš Zapotočný, who led Slovan Liberec to league glory in 2005. While Sparta have the talent and the cash to overhaul Plzeň, they have been dealt a blow with the suspension of star strikers Kadlec and Pekhart following the farcical shirt deception episode. Depending on your view of cup-runs as a distraction or facilitator, Sparta also have a crunch Europe League tie with Liverpool to contend.

Down at the bottom, we’ve an ugly scrap to look forward to amongst a number of clubs. Ustí nad Labem look as though the step up to the Gambrinus League has been a bit too great and I would expect them to drop back. Relegation for Slavia Prague would be unthinkable, and a disaster for the league, but it remains a real danger given their fiduciary predicament, however they still possess the talent to pull away from danger. After that you can take your pick from the relegation contenders all the way up to Bohemians 1905. It would be a shame to lose second-bottom Zbrojovka Brno, but their pitiful showing during the autumn does not justify their inclusion at the top table.

The title will fall in the hands of the team that can hold it together over the final few weeks of the season. It should prove to be a thrilling finale to a surprising season in Czech football, and one that might shape the league for a number of seasons to come. Many would like to see the talented Plzeň coach Vrba rewarded for his bold, attractive style that won him plaudits in the Corgon Liga with MSK Žilina, and would see a new, provincial champion crowned in a Prague-dominated Gambrinus League. As you can see from the picture below, Vrba has the look of a man who has had it all planned out from the very beginning, so I’m siding with Plzeň on this one.

Pavel Vrba Plzen Coach

Sigma Olomouc

SK Sigma Olomouc is one of the big six of Czech football never to have played outside of the Gambrinus Liga. Despite this lofty status Olomouc’s trophy cupboard would bring shame to Old Mother Hubbard herself. They’ve come close, reaching the quarters of the UEFA Cup in 91/92 only to be humbled by Real Madrid, and finishing runners-up in the Gambrinus Liga in 95/96. This is about as good as it gets, although you may or may not remember the thorough dismantling of Aberdeen in Europa League qualifying in 2009.

The club is a late bloomer. Despite being founded by a sixteen-year-old in 1919, Olomouc only punctured Czech football’s top tier in 1982. A green, yet evidently talented Karel Bruckner established the club in Czech football’s elite with eight very successful seasons during the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Sigma Olomouc Kit vs Sparta (from ceskenoviny.cz)

This progress undoubtedly corresponded with the club’s association with the Sigma Group (a disappointingly unglamorous pump manufacturing firm), which started its alliance with the club in the 70’s and oversaw the switch to the club’s blue and white colourway. The five-pointed black star on the crest is a nod to the clubs’ original moniker SK Hejčín Olomouc.

This old city is part of Moravia, and a smaller ethnic region known as Haná, from which the club’s other nickname Hanací is derived. Olomouc’s strong regional identity is illustrated by a terrific local colloquialism, ‘Hanák velké panák’, which literally translates to ‘a Haná man is a big man’.

Beautiful Olomouc

As the sixth largest city in the Czech Republic it is no backwater, and unlike many provincial footballing cities it boasts a number of surprising delights including a central square protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. One can only assume the cronies at UNESCO missed the Andrův stadium during their visit, as how this beauty never made it onto the list is truly mystifying:

I couldn’t find an aviation connection with the club despite the jet-engine floodlights and this gem of a bar I discovered just beyond the stadium’s perimeter. If anybody has enjoyed a pre or post match pivo in this place, please get in touch to divulge its interior. The anticipation is too much.

You can find the full club overview page, complete with Excel wizardry, at Sigma Olomouc.