April 1999, Lanžhot. UEFA Under-16 European Championship begins.
Turf as smooth as a Persian rug, three thousand fans in the stands, Eurosport TV crews. We were nervous like never before, but we felt this was our chance.
This is how we had painted it to ourselves: “We’ll show what we’ve got, we’ll make people take notice, and we win. They’ll let us play in the league. And maybe even offer us transfers abroad.”
There was a swarm of scouts at the Lanžhot stadium. And so many coaches, including Miroslav Beránek from Blšany. If I remember it correctly, it was the first time he’d seen me play. And I ruined three clearance kicks, how embarrassing! My teammates always sent the ball to my weaker right foot and bam! I’d clear the ball… and it would end in the stands.
We lost 0-1. It was a tragedy. We could have scored from two penalty kicks, but we didn’t. When I saw the despair at the other end of the pitch, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In the end we decided to gamble and opened up the defence, so I had to dodge attack after attack. It was an avalanche. The Germans had so many chances to score I wasn’t even counting anymore. And people were clapping and cheering for me, but for what? It was my first big tournament and I started with such an unlucky loss.
We hit rock bottom. But two days later we played another match and this time we defeated Denmark with a last-minute goal. “We can still do it, we’ll make it out of the group,” we told ourselves before the last group game. And you know what? We did it. We defeated Greece 2-0 and we advanced to the quarterfinals. Great!
“The squad is so enthusiastic, they managed to power through the crisis, they are a true team now,” coach Štěpán praised us in the newspapers.
Onwards to Zlín then, to face the English.
Once again I managed to keep a clean sheet, there was only one harsh shot right before the end of the match that I almost didn’t reach. I was so anxious: “Please, God, let it go wide,” I prayed before I jumped.
0-0, extra time. We were luckier I guess, or maybe we wanted it more, maybe being the home side helped. Pavel Besta scored the golden goal and I ran across the pitch to jump on the euphoric pile of players.
We were in the semi-finals!
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
I got a promotion. And then I made a run for it. …
He was Petr’s first goalkeeping coach in the league. And you never forget something like that. …