I remember my parents’ words, repeated on end: “Petr, study hard, you never know if that beloved football of yours will earn you any money. We wish it would, but you never know.”
Exactly! All the boys from my class dreamed about donning Viktoria Pilsen’s jerseys. Maybe we all had the same dream: Running onto the pitch, sold-out stands of the Pilsen stadium greeting us with a standing ovation, because it’s the match against Sparta Prague… Mrs Střebovská, our history teacher, kept telling us to take an example from former Pilsen players, guys who started at Skvrňany school and made it into the top league.
“There, where you’re sitting, that was Dan Šmejkal’s spot. He used to do the same shenanigans as you boys,” she reminisced.
“And this is where Zdeněk Bečka sat.”
“You see, they got into worse trouble than you lot, but they worked hard and went far in football. So start working so that one day you also play in the league.”
Mrs Střebovská was small, she had kind eyes and wore her long hair in a pony tail. When we were writing a test, she would just sit behind her desk, look out the window and casually say: “Boys, if you’re copying from someone, kindly write his name on the back of your paper so that I don’t have to spend time tracing it back to someone. I’m not a detective. I used to say the same thing to the guys who are now playing in the league. What would people think if you copied off each other on the pitch? You’d be a laughing stock.”
It was 1993, Czechoslovakia had just dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Pilsen just promoted to the new Czech league. Half of the team were guys born in 1970: Bečka, Janota, Čaloun, Šmejkal… They were indefeasible idols to us and Mrs Střebovská knew all of them personally.
She really took a keen interest in us and she loved football, which impressed us. When she learned we had an important game coming up, she surprised us with a motivational speech: “Gentlemen, the one who scores the deciding goal will get an A+ from me on next test.”
She couldn’t keep that promise, of course, but we were happy because we knew we can rely on our biggest fan during our history lessons.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 14