When I finished fourth grade, I also finished school in the traditional sense. I had to move again, this time because of football. I started attending the 33rd primary school in the Plzeň borough of Skvrňany, which specialised in sports.
I was placed in a football class which was affiliated with Škoda Plzeň, today’s Viktoria. All the boys from town and surrounding villages who were there with me dreamt of dazzling careers in big clubs: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Benfica, Bayern, Sparta, Slavia, Plzeň. When you’re a young kid, they all look the same to you. As do they boys: they work hard, dying for success, but they have no idea what’s going to become of them. Neither did I.
Vlasta Kožíšek was from a village called Horní Bříza and apart from football he was a skilled tennis player. Roman Javůrek, one of my best friends, lived not far from us. We’ve been playing for the same side since second grade. Then there was Petr Šlauf, also a great guy, who was commuting from Druztová, another village near Plzeň. We sat next to each other at school since fifth grade, and I used to visit him on weekends.
I can remember all of them. We were a close-knit gang, we spent five years of our lives together. (Can you find me in the picture?)
At first we were miffed that we had to spend nine years in primary school instead of eight (Czechoslovak primary schools consisted of eight grades until the ninth grade was added in the 1990s) but in the end, we were glad. One more year didn’t kill us, and it helped us forge strong bonds within our group. Even now when I live on the other side of the continent, these guys are still my friends.
P.S. Next week... Surprise!