On Thursday, I was fulfilling my duties in the youth league. I was in the goal, focused on the game, ready to bounce should any player or ball come my way. Then suddenly I hear a shout from the bench: “Čechíno, come on, you’re subbed!”
What on Earth was going on?
Why me? There’s nothing wrong with me.
I couldn’t understand the substitution. “It must be some kind of mistake,” I was telling myself, walking dumbfounded towards the middle of the pitch.
I wanted to whine and complain to everyone: “But I want to play!” Soon I got the answer. They explained to me that this was no mistake, this was a deliberate decision by coach Beránek. He wanted me out so that I wouldn’t injure myself in the remaining time. Just to make sure.
“You’re going to start against Sparta,” they told me.
I was taken aback. “Seriously? Sparta?”
It wasn’t sure yet, but the youth team coaches insinuated that it was very probable. Aleš Chvalovský bruised his hip pretty badly that weekend, he couldn’t dive to make saves, and the coaches needed a replacement. And they chose me. Awesome!
I couldn’t hide my excitement when I came home: “Mom, dad,” I shouted as soon as I opened the door, “I’m going to start against Sparta!”
“Oh my God,” Mom replied, horrified.
“What? What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
My parents were scared and looking back, I’m not surprised. The last club to play at Letná was České Budějovice and they conceded seven goals. Nobody would be surprised if we suffered the same fate. Sparta was the strongest side back then, playing in Champions League regularly, with a squad full of national team players. No other club in the Czech league could compare. Everybody who played against Sparta got a thrashing, nobody doubted the league title was theirs. So it figured they would thrash Blšany as well. And that was to be my premiere in the league.
Not a great outlook, eh? I felt proud and scared at the same time. It was a huge responsibility. “Once you get in, you need to show everybody what you’ve got.” That was the mantra I repeated to myself the night before the game.
I got tickets for my whole family, even my older sister Markéta came, and she wasn’t even into football that much. To be honest, it threw me off a little bit to see the whole Čech family there in the stands. I just felt like running away.
I was very nervous, yes. But they were probably even more nervous than me. They couldn’t speak, or even breathe for that matter. They were ashen with fear, pacing the stands even during the warm-up, and it got worse when the match started. They were losing their minds every time Sparta attacked. My dad especially. To this day, he’s often unable to even watch me on the telly. When I start in an important match, you won’t find him anywhere near a television set.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
Quality prevails. …
Sometimes, talent isn’t everything. …