Petr is done with the national team. It’s time for me to go, he says
Petr has decided to end his engagement with the Czech national team after a record 124 caps. His final appearance was thus in the match with Turkey at the EURO in France. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I’ve now come to the conclusion that the right time has come. I’ll take the opportunity to focus entirely on my club career,” said the Arsenal goalie.
Petr, how long did it take you to come to such conclusion?
I’d considered it even before the EURO. It was by no means a decision I could arrive at in a day.
What was the main reason?
I’ve pretty much gone all in since I was seventeen – both clubs and national team games. Once I’d transferred over to England the amount of games I played all but doubled. I’ve been in England since 2004 and it’s always been teams which play on all fronts. There’s countless matches at any given time and if you tally those up with national team games you’ll get at quite the number.
Are you also trying to take it easier on your body?
Even last season I’d already realized that my body suddenly needed more time for regeneration than before, and I didn’t have that time. And I felt I could no longer give my 100% on all fronts. I’d like to enjoy my career for as long as I can, and for that reason I need to lay off somewhere. I didn’t feel like taking part in a future qualification stage and then leave in the process, since I doubt it would change my mind. Therefore, it’s better to end the chapter now.
Did the Czechs’ misfortune at the European Championship influence your decision?
Not in the slightest. I’d told myself before it even began that the result or any change in managers wouldn’t be decisive. I just feel that I need more time off and this is the way to acquire it.
You said your goodbyes at a major tournament. Are you not disappointed to not have finished on a high note?
I am, quite a bit. I was sure we could beat Turkey in the last game and advance out of the group stage. But you could tell we simply hadn’t arrived at the tournament in the best possible shape and mindset.
You are leaving as a national icon; holder of a record in the amount caps. How would you evaluate your career on the national team?
I always dreamt about featuring on the team at least one single time. In the end I got to play with them more than anyone else before me. That wasn’t my priority, but it still feels nice. It just goes to show that I’ve managed to maintain my form over the past 14 years, all the while staying number one goalie with all the managers we’ve had.
Also you got to partake in the most spectacular of tournaments.
Yes, and I’m glad that I never missed a single European Championship since I joined the national team at the age of fifteen. This never changed even after I got into senior football. I’ll also never ever forget the first time we qualified for the World Cup in Germany, which was simultaneously a premiere for the Czech team as a whole—or all the relegation matches in which we always gave all we had. Those moments you simply never forget.
Is there anything you wish you had done better?
I wish we’d made it all the way to the European Championship finals in 2004 since the team definitely had what it took. We missed it by inches. We were actually the only team to ever have lost in the Silver Goal stage, as that rule later got abolished. Unfortunately that’s how things played out.
Can you recall your first national team game in February 2002?
It was a game against Hungary at a tournament in Cyprus. There were barely any fans there, a terrible pitch, but you don’t really think about stuff like that when you’re in the zone. It was a massive honour to be able to start for the national A-team. I was on for about 75 minutes and was then subbed by Martin Vaniak. We won 2-0, so it was a pretty decent premiere.
You’ve ascribed 124 caps. Do you think someone will top that one day?
There will certainly be someone. It’ll all depend on how the team as a whole does, since you amass a lot of caps in both preparatory games and the tournaments themselves. It’s going to have to be someone who’ll have started playing at a young age and last for, say, fourteen years. Who knows, perhaps we’re in for a surprise.
Petr’s important caps
First game: Czech Rep – Hungary (12 Feb 2002, friendly game)
First competitive game: Moldova– Czech Rep 0:2 (12 October 2002, EURO qualification)
50th game: Czech Rep – Germany 1:2 (24 March 2007, EURO qualification)
100th game: Armenia–Czech Rep 0:3 (26 March 2013, WC qualification)
Last 124th game: Czech Rep-Turkey 0-2 (21 June 2016, EURO in France)
Petr gave an impressive performance right in the Czech team's opening match against Spain. He jumped in for the team’s rescue on several occasions and was voted …
The Czech Republic will enter the Euro in a match with Spain. It is on this occasion that we have decided to launch Petr's brand new official website! …