I went home from Strahov with the director of Blšany, Mr Kovář, and we were silent the whole drive. Three-match ban, this kind of punishment could have serious consequences for me. I won’t deny some dark thoughts swirled through my head: “What if you’ve just ruined your career? What if you never even get a chance to get back in the goal?”
Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened. I just couldn’t start for a while, and Tomáš Obermajer, one of Blšany’s most enthusiastic patriots, could play a couple league games in my stead.
And I got enough time to overcome a tonsillitis infection and try something completely new. Werder Bremen invited me for a try-out.
Wow. The famous Werder, the famous Bundesliga, I liked the sound of that. Back then, Frank Rost was their goalkeeper. He was one of the German goalkeeping elite, and the club were looking for someone young who could be their reserve keeper. “There’s no harm in trying. I’ll go there and see,” I said to myself when my manager told me about the offer. At least I would see for myself how things are in one of the top Bundesliga clubs, winner of the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Problem was, I was weakened by the infection, I hadn’t trained properly, I wasn’t fit. Then the plane was delayed, so we had to wait three hours at the airport. And that wasn’t all: once we finally took off, the plane dropped maybe three kilometres in one second and my heart almost gave out: “I’m going to die here!”
The last straw was when I realised my baggage hadn’t arrived so I didn’t even make first training session. I just got into the hotel and stared at the walls of my hotel room.
The next day, the goalkeepers’ coach started working with me and I was instantly panting like a dog. And then we worked together again in the afternoon. It was so hard! I thought I was going to die. On the other hand, I understood why the club were doing this. They wanted to see how much I could take, see what was in me. So I worked super hard for four days, every night I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. And I still woke up tired in the morning even after a full night’s sleep.
It wasn’t a bad experience. Dieter Burdenski, the goalkeepers’ coach and one of the most prominent personalities in Werder, really wanted to sign me even though on paper I was just an inexperienced rookie. It’s probably not a surprise that Blšany immediately raised their price, asking for over a million Deutsche Marks, which was about twenty million Czech crowns. Mr Burdenski still appealed to the club owners to buy me. And what did they tell him? “He’s got potential, sure, but he still needs to learn. Let’s wait for half a year.”
Once again, the paths of football are unfathomable…
Before flying back home I got to see a wonderful match. I was given tickets to the UEFA Cup match of Werder Bremen against Antalyaspor from Turkey. It was a second-leg game and I was watching from the glass-walled box as the sold-out Weserstadion roared, urging their players to reverse the 0-2 loss from the first leg. And they did equalize before the half time, and after that, the Brazilian footballer Aílton scored a hat-trick and I was clapping alongside the fans. I was ecstatic. Werder Bremen won 6-0, and one young man from the Czech Republic who came for try-outs at the club packed his bags to go home.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
My pointless trip to Strahov. …
Conceding some stupid goals and getting an even stupider red card. …