I didn’t think what I’d done was so outrageous. I didn’t do anything wrong, not on purpose. I wanted to play, to direct my teammates. But suddenly, head referee Mr Hábl came running to me, reaching into the back pocket of his shorts. And he took out a red card.
“Why me?” I asked. “What for?”
He didn’t respond. And what’s more, he awarded our opponent another penalty kick.
This was also Jan Říčka’s first match as head coach. After the final whistle, he came to the dressing room, crestfallen. “Well, thanks a lot, gentlemen,” he said dejectedly.
Coach Beránek was in Australia, at the Olympics with the U-21 national team, so Jan Říčka was covering for him. When he told Mr Beránek how we played, Mr Beránek’s voice came through the phone from the other side of the planet: “What the hell did you do, you morons?”
Reserve keeper Tomáš Obermajer had to substitute me in the goal, and he conceded straight away from the penalty kick. Poor guy, he didn’t deserve that.
But neither did I. I did kick Tomáš Freisler in the ribs, but that was because I wanted to wrench myself free. He committed a foul on me, I just wanted to play. Why did he have to put up such a damn act? They were winning! And the referees, why did they punish me? They hadn’t seen what happened! The play continued, it took them a while to blow the whistle. Even TV replays didn’t show any wrong-doing on my part.
Well, I thought, at least I will have a chance to defend myself in front of the disciplinary committee. I had been advised that it was better to go and face them in person. But when I went to the Czech FA headquarters at Strahov, I felt like an idiot. Like a fool who only came to hear the verdict. “Three-match ban, Mr Čech,” they announced, after only reviewing the referee’s and the delegate’s records.
But first they sat me down in front of the committee, with Mr Károlyi, the president, directly opposite me, and his colleagues on his right and left. They didn’t want to hear about the conflict that resulted in me being sent off with a red card; they just asked me to describe how and why Bohemians fans doused me in beer.
“You know, Mr Čech, if some bullshit like that goes down, you need to tell the captain and leave it to him to complain to the referee,” and old man from the right side of the long table said. As soon as he said it, I had to fight an urge to just get up and leave without a word. Was he serious? I sent three messages to the referee regarding the fans’ behaviour, urging him to tell the organisers, to take action. But the disciplinary committee didn’t care. Here’s your three-match ban, done.
I was so angry, I should never have gone to Strahov. The Czech News Agency later issued a brief notice: “Petr Čech, goalkeeper for first league club Chmel Blšany, gets three-match ban for foul play resulting in red card in Blšany match against Bohemians.”
That was the end of the worst game of my life.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
Conceding some stupid goals and getting an even stupider red card. …
The road is open. …