Playing For The Love Of The Game

In May 2012, I took a tram up to Lisen for an afternoon of groundhopping. The game had caught my attention weeks in advance as it brought together two former Boby Brno players, Richard Dostalek and Milan Pacanda. The reason for the added interest was that in the staggering, cash-soaked grandeur of top flight football back home and I am pretty sure a lot of players have very little time for grassroots level football.

At this point, I should add that I have nothing against a footballer earning a tad more than me, seemingly having it easy and then retiring and falling into a career of either coaching or working in media. However, I used to love reading stories or seeing former professionals drop into non-league to play for peanuts, simply because they loved football. In fact, two of my heroes growing up, Robbie James and Alan Curtis, both played for clubs in the Welsh league. Well below the standard they were used to after careers at the very top.

Being a groundhopper here in Czech Republic, the opportunities to see former international footballers strutting their stuff at weekends is still very much a thing and here are a few playing just for the love of the game.

  1. David Rozenhal

After a career playing for the likes of Club Brugge, Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United and Lazio, David Rozenhal retired from the professional game at the end of last season to join his brother, Marek, at TJ Sokol Kožušany. The club are currently mid-table in the 7th tier of Czech football, playing in the Olomouc Region.

International Caps 60 goals 1

2. Pavel Nedvěd

Pavel Nedvěd needs no introduction. One of Czech Republic’s greatest ever players , he won European Footballer of the year in 2003. Currently he is on the books of FK Skalná, who play 7th tier of Czech football in the Karlovy Vary Region. It’s unlikely Pavel will be able to make the regular commute from Turin to Czech Republic, but there might still be an opportunity to see him play for his village side.

International caps 91 caps 18 goals.

3. David Lafata.

One of the greatest strikers to play Czech football in the last 20 years, Lafata is still scoring regularly for his boyhood club in Olešník . The 37 year old played for a host of clubs and is best known for his goals at FK Jablonec and Sparta Prague.

He played 41 times for Czech Republic scoring 9 goals.. Unfortunately two of them were against Wales in Teplice in 2005.

4. David Jarolím

Son of former Czechoslovak international and current national team manager Karel Jarolim, I remember reading about David Jarolím’s talent when he was a youngster at Bayern Munich. He only managed one appearance for the German giants before playing almost 300 times for Hamburg in the Bundesliga and now captains 5th Tier Čechie Vykáň, where he plays with his brother Lukáš.

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International Caps 29 goals Goals 1

5. Jan Rajnoch

A product of the Sparta Prague academy, Jan Rajnoch spent much of his time in Czech Republic and Turkey. After finishing his career with Sigma Olomouc in 2016 he signed for 4th tier Motorlet Prague.

International caps 15 no goals

6 and 7. Vladimír Šmicer and Patrik Berger.

Both players started their careers at Slavia Prague and later played together for Liverpool. Berger and Smicer were part of the golden generation which took Czech Republic to the final of Euro 96. Smicer also won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. Steven Gerrard one said of Berger “he was the best left-footed striker of a ball I have ever seen”. They now sometimes run the midfield for Dolni Chabry in the 6th tier.

Smicer 80 caps 27 goals

Berger 42 caps 18 goals

8. Jiří Štajner

In my eyes Štajner is a like a character from Roy of the Rovers. As a teenager he was picked up by Slavia Prague, playing a handful of games for them before dropping down the leagues to play for Slavia Lounovice,. After scoring for fun (and drinking in equal measures) he was picked up 2nd league Banik Most where he caught the eye of Slovan Liberec.. It was at Slovan where he continued to develop helping his team to European success and a league title. Scoring goals wherever he has been, Štajner now plays for FK Jiskra Mšeno – Jablonec nad Nisou in the 4th tier.. and yes, he’s still scoring.

Caps 37 Goals 4

9. Martin Jiránek

Another member of the successful Czech team at Euro 2004, Jiránek enjoyed a fairly successful career at home, Italy, Russia and a brief spell in England with Birmingham City where he won the League Cup in 2010. Afte further spells in Russia he finally hung up his professional boots with Dukla Prague. Now you can find captaining his first club, SC Olympia Radotín, in the 3rd tier.

Caps 31 goals 0

10. Richard Dostálek

Dostálek is probably my favourite ever Boby Brno footballer. When I first moved over here, he was a swashbuckling midfielder who took Brno back to near top of Czech football. After 6 years at the Luzanky he moved to Slavia Prague where he continued to impress for both club and country. Currently, when he’s not coaching Zbrojovka Brno’s stars of tomorrow, he’s playing 5th tier football for SK Bosonohy, a district of Brno.

Caps 5 Goals 0

11. Petr Švancara.

Now, Petr Švancara is a bit of a legend round these parts. If it hadn’t been for his love for nocturnal activity, I am sure he would have made the step up from U21 football to the full national squad – Once the most expensive player in Czech football after moving from Brno to Slavia Prague, “Mercedes” was a wizard on the ball. He spent a successful season with our FK Blansko taking us up to the 3rd tier and can now be seen at 5th tier Tatran Bohunice with a few other ex-Blansko players.

No caps no goals.

There are probably many more ex-professional footballer playing amateur football here in Czech Republic, so feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading the post.

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