My first practice in Blšany flew by and before I knew it, I was showered and going back to Plzeň. Soon, we were heading to a training camp in Žinkovy, near a big pond called Žinkov.
Now the real work was about to begin.
Poor Mr Sedláček, when he first saw me at goalkeepers’ practice. I can still see him watching me with wide eyes, thinking: “Ah shit, who is this klutz they’ve sent me?”
I was standing in the goal, he was in front of me. He took a shot, a really easy one on the ground, I crouched to catch it with my hands, but the damn ball slipped between my legs. I was so nervous.
I was done for. I only heard the ball reaching the net behind me. I didn’t even want to look at the coach to see his reaction. He must have been taken aback, probably scared. And I felt so embarrassed.
Jiří Sedláček was the goalkeepers’ coach in Blšany. He was a goalkeeper for Teplice for many years, had ample experience from the first league, even played for the national team once. In the league he could boast 119 clean sheets, which is very impressive. I was a seventeen-year old newbie, he was the master. But we hit it off pretty soon, he took me in as a son, he taught me not only about goalkeeping and football, but also about life.
Sometimes he would say to me, almost as an afterthought: “Just keep learning, you’ve got talent. And time.”
Whenever I messed up, he would tell me off like a proper boss. He didn’t hide behind clichés and corny phrases, he always said exactly what was on his mind. At the same time, he didn’t just throw me in the water to see if I could swim. He prepared me for the big jump, to make sure that when I did jump, I wouldn’t drown. Thank you, Mr Sedláček.
When he kicked another ball towards me in Žinkovy, I had no problem catching it. I could see the relief in his face: “Okay, so this guy can actually do something in the goal.”
The goalkeepers’ roles in the club were clear: Aleš Chvalovský, nicknamed Chvalda, was the first-choice keeper. Then second behind him Tomáš Obermajer, ginger like a fox, nicknamed “Čert” – “the devil”. I was resigned to my fate. I knew there was no chance for me to play in the league with the senior team during the first month, I needed time and practice. It was no use trying to push my way anywhere.
I knew I couldn’t expect to push out bloke who helped his team place sixth in the league table and played for the U-21 national team after just ten practices, I would have been stupid to think that.
I needed to wait, work hard, keep improving and not mess around. And as you already know, I was pretty good at all that.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!
Why am I suddenly taping my fingertips and my wrists? …
Jokes aside, now I have to be a pro. …