I need to accept that I’m THE LAST ONE.
The first time I realised this, with a certain degree of satisfaction, was when I was fourteen. That’s when the national team faxed the call-up list to Plzeň.
And there it was, my name on the list. Petr Čech.
What?! Me, in the national team?
Suddenly I wasn’t just a boy from the youth team with number 1 on his shirt. I wasn’t little Petr Čech whose life was split between school and sport. Suddenly I was the third goalie for the U15 national side.
It doesn’t matter that in the end I didn’t go anywhere because only the first two goalkeepers got to go. It was a starting point, things really got moving after that. Maybe it was the serious injury that helped, maybe it was all in the stars, but it was bound to happen.
When an eleven-year-old kid suffers a double broken leg, it’s much easier for him to get well again than for a grown-up footballer who’s been playing for years, but still… It took me eight long months to get back on the pitch. I almost forgot how to use my left leg, my strength and skill was gone, I couldn’t even make a ten-metre pass. As you already know, that was why I decided to go play in the goal.
I still had a limp, but I wanted to play. Maybe the coaches were just trying to appease me, who knows, but they let me stand on the goal line with my gloves on and I was happy as a clam. I would be a laughing stock in the midfield, it took me two years before I could walk and run normally, without any pain. I was a cripple.
Even today I feel my left ankle is not as flexible as the right one. When I press my toes together, they stay at a right angle, while the toes on my right foot bend even further.
The broken bone strengthened and is now firm, but it doesn’t move as well as the other foot.
At first I was worried, I needed to get over the constant nagging voice in my head asking me: “What will happen to me if…”
I felt the strain in my left ankle until I was seventeen; when I put real pressure on it, it hurt so much I felt like my whole body was burning. Thankfully, it got better with time and now it doesn’t affect me in any way.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 33