Straight away I knew this was different than anything I’ve experienced before. If I tried to compare it to Plzeň youth team, I wouldn’t find the right words. The quality of football, of the facilities. The number of fans. The professionality. And this was only the beginning! The beginning of what was to become a million times bigger and better.
I close my eyes and immediately I can remember hearing the sceptics: “No chance, little boy. What are you doing here? You should have stayed at Plzeň. You’ll never get your shot here as long as Chvalovský is in the goal.”
I wasn’t trying to force my way in, I knew there was such a thing as precedence in the squad. I didn’t mind just going to training sessions and playing for the Blšany youth team. At least I was getting plenty of practice.
However, when the first match of the season came, it was like a cold shower for me. We played in Ostrava and I was looking forward to starting on the bench – but that was not to be. Chvalovský was the first-choice keeper, Obermajer the reserve keeper, and I was only the third – the one who doesn’t travel with the team. I played for the youth team and instead of going to Ostrava, I went to see a league match in Plzeň. My friends had so many questions – how’s it going in Blšany, how are you, how’s life? It was the 1st of August of 1999, we were in the stands, probably a bit bored at that point, when suddenly the announcer’s voice came over the loudspeakers: “We have the results of the other matches, twenty minutes in, Ostrava leads over Blšany three nil.”
I was stupefied. Such a debacle. My friends started teasing me: “What did you get yourself into, dummy?”
During the interval, the announcer said the score in Ostrava was 4-1. Many thoughts went through my head. All I wanted to do was run away, which wasn’t really possible or even appropriate, given that I was at the stadium, with my friends. Suddenly, the voice from the loudspeakers boomed again: “Ten minutes to full time, the score in Ostrava is Ostrava 6, Blšany 1.”
It was embarrassing, everybody was making fun of me. But I would never have gone to Blšany if I’d been scared. My motto was: “Don’t worry, quality always shows.”
I believed I could make it.
And I did.
On Saturday October 30th, 1999, I got my start in the league. Twelfth round. Against Sparta Prague!
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
Sometimes, talent isn’t everything. …
Dude, you need to speak up! …