Saturday, April 08, 2006

Prague Football - The SS Derby

Today’s cultural outing was to the stadium formerly known as Sparta, which now brandishes a sign marking it as “Toyota Arena”. The event was the SS Derby – a meeting of the two biggest Prague football (soccer) clubs, famous rivals Slavia and Sparta. It was the warmest day of the year thus far, with the temperature reaching 15ºC (59ºF), and our seats were facing the sun.

7 of us had met at a pub beforehand and a few more joined us at the stadium. We reached our seats behind one of the goals just as the match was starting. I won’t keep you in suspense – our team Slavia lost 2-1, and it was a sloppy game. Two of our group who hold Slavia season tickets were so disgusted that they walked out before the end of the match.

I learned today that most Czech football referees are corrupt, and it certainly appeared this afternoon that the referee was being paid to make sure that Sparta won. I had never before seen so many fouls and such poor calls.

I sat quietly in my seat and listened to the banter around me. The profanity was astounding. Here is a partial list of words I heard in English: dick, dickhead, prick, knob, knobber, knobhead, twat, wanker, tosser, cunt, as well as ‘fucking’ in front of any of those. And that was just the people I was with. I heard a similar variety of words in Czech.

There was a lot of chanting, as is typical at European football matches. At one point a voice came over the loudspeaker to tell the Sparta fans not to make racial slurs, that the club would not tolerate racism. I missed what that may have been in response to, but the only non Czech on the field was a Brazilian Slavia player known as “Gaucho”, so I would guess that anything racialist had been directed at him.

There was a huge police presence, hundreds of cops dressed in riot gear in and around the stadium, but as far as I saw, they had nothing to do aside from appear menacing. Our tickets for the match had cost CZK 70, which is about USD 3 – not bad at all for what should have been world class soccer.

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