Milan Pacanda – Lost and Found

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It’s 8.30 on a Sunday morning, I am on a train and my groundhop today is to see Vicemilice in the 8th tier of the Czech Football League. It’s been on my bucket list for a while. In addition to this I am going to watch a 38 year factory worker, by the name of Milan Pacanda play football. I am not even sure you even care.

 The chances are that most of you have never heard of Milan Pacanda, he could have been a name in European football, up there with the Nedveds, Poborskys and Bergers of Czech Football fame – he once played at Old Trafford in a Champions League game, oh and in a successful Intertoto Cup run for Brno, but that is about as big as it got for Pacanda. It could have been so, so different.

In 1999, two years after making his debut for ‘hometown club’ Boby Brno, Pacanda was riding on the crest of the wave. He’d started the season extremely well, playing just behind the striker in an improving Brno team and scoring for fun. Scouts would turn up wherever ‘Paci’ (pronounced Patsy) played.

Such was his reputation in the game that Bologna had agreed terms with the young striker, then disaster struck.

After putting his side in front  away at Zizkov, he went for a ball with Viktoria defender Jan Zakopal, a player he’d played with at junior level for Czech national team, it was a ball that only one man could win and Zakopal knew that, so knowing he would come off second best made a decision which would change the course of Pacanda’s career – he went for the striker’s knee  destroying the ligaments and putting a bright career on hold. To this day, Zakopal (English translation ‘to bury’) insists he went for the ball, but those of us there see it completely differently. It was a horrendous challenge.

The following winter after five months of treatment, Paci made his first attempt to comeback only to damage his knee in his very first training session, putting him out of action for a further year. It was at this time he sank into despair, possibly depression,  finding solace in the casinos and bars of Brno and with it an addiction to fruit machines and alcohol. In addition to this he purchased an expensive car on credit and promptly crashed it while drunk, damaging his shoulder.

With a huge debt hanging over him he was pulled from the mire by his mentor and football father Karel Jarusek, who invited the footballer to move into his family home. I believe, but it is still unclear to me, that his agent cleared Pacanda’s debt. It was also at this moment they asked him if he wanted a second chance. Apparently, the footballer without saying a word just nodded. Jarusek brought in a strict regime and  with it a curfew. He trained hard and was allowed just one night out a week, on a Friday, but had return to Jarusek’s home by 10pm.

A year and a half at that disastrous afternoon at Zizkov, Paci returned to the pitch with two pins in his knee and a slight limp as he ran. The coach at the time, Pavel Tobias, brought him back slowly and it wasn’t until the following season that he began to make the starting eleven.

He stayed at Brno for a further 3 seasons, forming a fantastic partnership with Libor Dosek. The goals returned and helping his team to rise up the league and reach the semi-finals of the now defunct Intertoto Cup. Off the pitch things were also a little better, although not without incident. I particularly remember an incident after one home match – Pacanda and teammates, drinking after a draw with Sigma Olomouc, celebrated by smashing up a billboard outside a restaurant causing 20,000kc worth of damage. While his teammates faced the music, Milan disappeared for a couple of days, missing training. He was dropped for the next match.

Although there were times off the pitch where we saw the old demons returning, 2004 was a great year for the footballer. He married his childhood sweetheart Denisa and in the summer of that year secured 650,00o Euro move to Czech giants Sparta Praha.

His start at Letna was a good one. Under the leadership of Frantisek Straka, he bagged 6 goals in his first 7 games, forming a prolific partnership with Tomas Jun. But the wheels fell off when the coach was sacked and replaced with Jaroslav Hrebik who demanded discipline and order from all his players. Pacanda only ever really listened to two people and Hrebik was not one of them. He soon found himself out of the team and back on the fruit machines and his life began to turn sour. In 2005, he was sent on loan to to Tirol Innsbruck, where he continued to score and rescued the team from what seemed like a certain relegation. Even though he was a popular player with the Austrian side, he found himself back in Czech Republic. For Pacanda, it was the beginning of the end.

He returned to Brno for the start of the 2006 season, however in 3 seasons was to make only 30 appearances for the club,spending part of the time at Zlin and half a season in Kazakhstan. But even during his time abroad, rumours of his growing debt continued to do the rounds.

Pacanda, now becoming a footballing nomad, he signed for Znojmo ,in the MSFL, and things started to look up, he employed a personal coach, shed a few pounds and began the season in fine form. Sadly, another injury, followed by missed training sessions, forced the hand of the club’s management… One rumour was that he would only turn up at the club when he needed money…

“At the beginning of the season he helped us immensely, he looked like a great promise. But gradually his attitude ceased to fulfill our expectations. I am afraid that in the spring he probably will not be with us,” said coach Bohumil Smrček.

“We could only keep  Pacanda if he managed to put his personal life in order and we were at the time willing to help. Unfortunately he does not appreciate the efforts of the club management. Therefore, we have to let him go” said President 1. SC Znojmo Ota Withers.

In an attempt to clear his mounting debt and with collectors regularly calling round for a chat, he moved to East Slovakian team, FK Bodva Moldova, newly promoted to the second tier. Again, the season began promisingly and he was even made captain, but at the end of 2010/11 Pacanda was again without a team.

Surprisingly, his agent managed to persuade newly promoted Znojmo to give him another  chance in the second league. He once again got himself fit and started to impress, notably scoring a brace against Sparta’s reserve team. But the return was again shortlived and the old ‘Paci” appeared and then Milan Pacanda disappeared again, before finding a home at Slovan Rosice and back in the arms of Karel Jarusek.

It was during his time at Rosice, that rumours started to circle about his mental state. I read an article where he bravely admitted suffering from depression and even more worryingly about suicidal thoughts.

In an interview with Czech football magazine Hattrick, Pacanda recalled the moment he was at his lowest.

“I was standing on the tracks and wondering if I should lie down and wait for the next train”

“I was fucked,” he said openly. “But now I take it as a lesson for future life and I feel I am over the worst of it”.

As somebody who loved watching Milan Pacanda play football, I was saddened to hear of him talk about mental health issues that have affected him, but at the same time I’m so pleased he’s been brave enough to talk about it. Not enough of us are able to do that.

I arrived at the Vicemilice pitch  about 15 minutes before kick off (I am not too sure I could call it a stadium) and the first person I was to bump into was Milan, who was chatting away to one of the local fans, while enjoying a prematch cigarette. He eyed me with suspicion (everyone does) as I am sure he knows all the regular faces. I am not too sure why, but I avoided making eye-contact as not to arouse any further interest and made my way to the bar.

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A few minutes later, I heard one of the supporters say that Vicemilice were in trouble, Paci didn’t want to play, he was complaining of a bad back. Naturally, it was just prematch talk and  Pacanda took to the field after the shortest warm up in the history of warm ups. A couple of stretches,  an individual crossbar challenge, which he managed at the first attempt and then another cigarette before lining up with his teammates.

I won’t bore you too much longer with details of the game, only to tell you of two Milan Pacanda moments which sum up the talent of the man.. In the first half, he picked up the ball just inside the away team’s half. Heavily marked, he dragged the ball away from two opponents and played a stunning through ball for the opening goal.  You never lose it, do you?

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In the second half, he scored his only goal of the game, latching on to a pass from midfield he lobbed the goalkeeper from 25yards, another piece of skill, which would further show the quality he has.

Somebody once said of the player that if Pele belongs in a museum then Pacanda belongs on football pitch.  And with Paci breaking into a huge smile after his goal, you would find it difficult with that.

Welcome back, Paci.

 

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Half-season round up

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Wingy modelling the new Blansko shirt

Following the storming success of the 2015 – 2016 season, which ended with FK Blansko as league champions, adjustment to the competitive MSFL has inevitably not been easy. Blansko have shown some moments of on the field brilliance, but the step up has been a steep one to climb. Off the field too there have been some highs (new shirts for the fans) and lows (where’s Pavel?) around the club. As for the Klobasa? Well, we sat down to discuss all things Klobasa, and here is our assessment of this year so far…

What is your assessment of the season so far…?

Ralph: Well, we knew it was going to be hard this season as there are some excellent teams in the MSFL. As we are playing against teams like Unicov, Vyskov and Hlucin who may have greater ambition, I think we have equipped ourselves well..Many of our defeats have been by the odd goal, which means we are competing at this level.
Craggy: It’s been pretty tough at times but it was always going to be. The question at the beginning of the season was really whether we could compete at this level, and the tightness of the games have shown we can.
Wingy: Agreed. We’ve done about as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Haven’t been a whole lot of highs so far, but lets see what the second half of the season brings.

Favourite game?

Ralph: Either Zlin B at home or Mohelnice away, comprehensive wins and excellent performances. The 4-0 win over Zlin B definitely showed that we belong at this level.
Craggy: Kroměříž – it wasn’t really the best game but it was my first away game of the MSFL season. We showed that we could compete, and it was exciting to see us travel to Kromeriz, which is a great stadium in a lovely town.
Wingy: Wasn’t at Mohelnice, so will also go for Zlin B. Very convincing win against a team whose ‘A’ team was top of the Czech league at that point.

Player of the season?

Ralph: Anybody who keeps David Juran out of the team has to be a good player, so I am going for Jirka Floder. I though he was excellent throughout the season and I am sure he will make the grade at Zbrojovka Brno. All of our players have given their all in the first half of the season, but Jirka gets my vote.
Craggy: Gromsky – at the beginning of the season he obviously needed to step up his game in order to keep his place, which he has managed to do well.
Wingy: Again, would have to agree with Jirka Floder. For a player so young, he shows huge potential, and bigger clubs will surely come calling soon

Best trip

Ralph: I enjoyed the Kroměříž trip, but Mohelnice wins it for me.. Found a great bar with friendly locals and we won 3-0.
Craggy: Kroměříž. Beautiful city for which we had fantastic weather.
Wingy: Was only on two, so Kroměříž. Terrific day, good beer, lovely place etc

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Best side we have played against.

Ralph: There’s a reason why Sigma Olomouc keep producing good players and they were outstanding against us away. We were lucky to get nil that day. Also enjoyed watching Unicov, they played some great football.
Craggy: Yep, the Olomouc B side. Thrashed us a good 4-0 and their fans have the best mullets in the league.
Wingy: again easy – Olomouc B were way above us. Everything about them spoke professionalism. Vyškov second

Season low

Ralph: The disappearance of Pavel the drummer..He’s a big part of FK Blansko and it is always good when we see him at games.. Hopefully, our “Hunt for Pavel the Drummer” in the pubs of Blansko will help us track in down. Also I didn’t really enjoy the meeting with Michal Kugler and the way he talked about the club…I was disappointed to lose him last year, but now I believe it might be for the best.
Craggy: Not playing the game against Olomouc B in the stadium. We were very much looking forward to being lost in the away end. Also, as Ralph said, where is Pavel the Drummer?
Wingy: Too many single goal defeats, sometimes after taking the lead. Honza T’s continuing injury problems (ironically, his best game was probably at Olomouc when he played CD), Koudelka’s erratic form. That Blansko fan having a pop at us for singing in English. Not playing in Olomouc’s stadium. Everything Ralph said in his comments (not everything Ralph said)

Season Surprise

Ralph: The players buying us the shirts and just the general love between the fans and the players.. Whatever happens during the rest of the season, we know that the players love Blansko as much as we do.
Craggy: The American that never arrived?
Wingy: Agreed. The club and fans seem to genuinely appreciate us, and the gesture of buying us the shirts was excellent. Although suddenly changing the shirts was a big surprise too. How Michal has become a Klobasa. That ‘Mullet Porn’ is actually a thing!

Best Away Ground

Ralph: It has to be Slavia Kroměříž as they have floodlights, but my favourite trip has been to Slovan Podebrady, I know it’s not Blansko related, but their wooden stand is so beautiful, it should be under UNESCO.
Craggy: I’d say Olomouc but we only got the training ground, so it has to go to Kroměříž.
Wingy: Easy, as only Kroměříž and Olomouc training ground apply. The former obviously

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Best Away Pub

Ralph: The beer in Cerny Orel in Kromeriz was very, very good, but I am going to give it to the pub by the Vel Mez ground… I know it’s a bit of a ‘pajzl’, but it’s has a bit of character and for it’s always open at 9.30 on a Sunday morning…
Craggy: It has to be Restaurace Sklep in Tisnov. Although disappointed with losing to Tisnov in the cup, we found solace under an octopus-like lamp in one of the best pubs in Tisnov with its own great beer.
Wingy: Again, as Ralph.

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Kvetnice beer in Restaurace Sklep, Tisnov

Hope for the spring season.

Ralph: Survival. We are just above relegation at the moment, but if we make a couple of signings, we could stay up. I wouldn’t mind seeing Floder,Kucera and Kouldelka return and in addition to those three, we need a defender and someone who can score goals.
Craggy: Climbing the table. On the evidence of some of the performances we’ve put in this year, it’s reasonable to hope that some of those narrow defeats can be turned in to points.
Wingy: Some decent signings, especially up front. (Ronaldo would be nice. Except we would get the fat Brazilian one.) At least a couple more good days out. Survival

Best goal

Ralph:  Honza’s header in the first game – not because of the quality, but just because our first goal back was in the USSR (MSFL) scored by a local boy.
Craggy: I really can’t remember.
Wingy: Koudelka v Lisen

Best own goal

Ralph, Craggy, Wingy:  – Standa’s header v Vyskov  ( It would have been goal of the season it was in the Vyskov goal.)

Funniest moment.

Ralph: Did anybody knock over a pint?
Craggy: Wingy’s favourite mullet…
Wingy: …the Olomouc mullet
Ralph: Yes – Wingy’s obsession with mullet porn was both funny and worrying.

So now we look forward to kicking off the second half of the season with optimism… and a new unhealthy search for 1980s hairstyles.

20 highlights from 2016

As the end of the year draws near, here’s a collection of highlights from the Klobasa’s 2016

Olomouc and the Lipnik Beer Dog

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Pivni Pes

There’s nothing like a 10.15 kick-off on a Saturday morning to the blood racing. We didn’t mind though because we were going to be watching the game from the away end of Sigma Olomouc’s impressive Andruv Stadium… or not.

We had been carrying the hope that our league 3 game between FK Blansko and Olomouc B would be held in the main stadium, so that we could delight in being a full four fans stranded in the away end full of joy and song. Unfortunately, the game was actually being played on the training pitch which sits in the shadows of the stadium.

We arrived around 10.20 to a freezing field clouded in mist and threw our Blansko flag on to a bush. Luckily, the newest member of the Klobasa team, Michal, had brought some of Tisnov’s finest local brews with him and we were on our way to happiness before we had even arrived. It was hard to get the vocal chords warmed up that early in the morning, and although we managed a couple of fine songs the atmosphere was decidedly flat, not helped by Klobasa favourite Standa Pisek being relegated to the bench for the full 90 minutes. In the second half Olomouc B started to show their quality with a scoreline increasing in their favour. I was prompted to remark that Blansko had played well for the first 60 minutes, when Ralph said “Erm… they’ve only played 56”. It was going to be one of those days…

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We left the field with a 4-0 defeat and the revelation that Wingy has a fascination with mullets (Bundesliga to some, Jagr to others). It was true that we had just seen a fan with the most impressive mullet since Pat Sharp presented Fun House, and you could see the longing in Wingy’s eyes for a bygone era of hair.

Our next stop was Lipník nad Bečvou, a little way down the tracks from Olomouc. The train was leaving soon so we sprinted after a tram, a little like gazelles, and grabbed it just in time with Wingy clutching at his heart. Luckily for him, Ralph had the train times wrong by about an hour so we swung in to the station restaurant and had a beer to sooth him.

On these trips we always find someone who is mad enough to want to talk to us- someone who Ralph can give a Wales badge to. Today it was the waiter, who to be honest didn’t  seem to know what was going on but I guess he was happy. At this point we lost Wingy to a trip to Bauhaus and the rest of us rolled on to Lipník nad Bečvou.

Lipník is a small town of around 8,000 people and judging by the reactions of my Czech friends, not often visited. However, it turns out, it does have some real charm. And a brewery or two. If you can find them. After Ralph and Michael had a short war of map applications, we managed to walk around in circles and find ourselves at the Svatovar brewery where we just had to try the first thing we saw on the menu – pivni pes (beer dog). Despite its mad name, it was actually the commonly sought tvarusky cheese (a local speciality cheese) on bread, with some onion and a touch a praprika. It was bloody good though, as was all the food we had there. We washed it down with a fairly decent a beer or two and then moved on in search of more Lipník delights.

We didn’t make the ground in time for the football but the beer window was still open so we were in luck. The ground sits snugly in a green basin with a great old stand leaning over the side of it, complimented by a wonderful old clock. The ground was so pleasant that it felt a shame we had missed the game there. It was bloody cold though, and so after a swift beer sought the comfort of the warmth. Again, Lipník is a place with some charm, as a walk through the walled gardens of the renaissance palace demonstrated. The remains of old city walls are dotted around the old town, and the renaissance houses of the centre surround the picturesque fountains of the Masaryk Square. We jumped inside a pub to find a wedding reception was in full swing, and we only had room at the bar – our favourite spot in any pub.

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From there we made our way back to the train, and with a can of beer in hand, made the journey back to Brno for a nightcap before returning to our respective dwellings