Prague-based sports writer Mark Smith makes his long awaited debut on CZEFootball. And for once he’s looking forward to the future as a Slavia Prague fan.
International breaks are supposed to dull, tiresome affairs but it’s been a brilliant week to be a Slavia Prague fan. Firstly, Milan Skoda was the Czech saviour with his two goal cameo from the bench against Kazakhstan – I must admit it was an eerie feeling to see a Slavia player (not a former Slavia player) come to the Czech Republic’s rescue on the big stage.
There was, however, bigger news to come: The Chinese were here.
The announcement on Friday last week that CEFC had acquired a 59.97% share of Slavia Prague was as surprising as it was welcome. It’s the first time that I can remember in five years of supporting the club that Slavia received positive headlines. I was beginning to think I was a jinx to the club.
While my initial reaction was relief that Ales Rebicek will no longer hold the reins, it soon turned into unadulterated excitement at the thought of what it could mean. New players, buying the stadium, title challenges, klobasa in sector 205 and Champions League football all crossed my mind.
However, I’ve used the weekend to gather my thoughts and listen to some of the noises coming out of the club and the word “Stability” is one that resonates with me. Forget the multi-million kc deals and promises of success. Stability and honesty is what the clubs needs as the last five years has been anything but.
As mentioned, I began to support Slavia five years ago and it’s been a sorry state of affairs with every passing season. While Sparta had Vaclav Kadlec and Wilfried Bony upfront in the derby match in 2011, we had Pavel Vyhnal and Jakub Hora.
Sparta can attract the best young Czech talent while Slavia were relying on the creaking bones of Vlcek and Kisel. The gulf in class between the two sides was clear then and it still is now.
But now at least Slavia have hope.
Hope of a fresh start under new transparent management, hope of a stable future and hope of building a successful team from the foundations up.
It will be a lengthy process, it won’t happen overnight and may not even happen at all. But the comments from Jiri Simane, who owns the other 40.03% of the club were encouraging and refreshingly honest.
“The basis of any successful team must have a perfectly functioning academy and youth teams. Without their own quality players the club has no chance in the European context.”
“The average is not enough, we have that all around us. Do not expect miracles but we all need to work honestly” he said in a recent interview with idnes.cz
Simane also called it his ‘civic duty’ raising his stake in the club to 40% due to their financial issues and the partnership with CEFC has the hallmarks of a fruitful one.
Selling a football club is a complex business. Are the new investors the right type of people? Will they push the club forward? Or will they be gone within 12 months and a pocketful of cash?
I’m somewhat relieved that the club didn’t take the Russian or Kazakh millions that were rumoured to be on the table. Russian investment in Slavia would have left me twitchy as the evidence of the failed Russian funded KHL hockey team Lev Praha was soon dismembered.
Moreover, the Chinese investment appears to be rock-solid as it’s already been announced they’ve made a string of investments in the country. CEFC have made Prague their European headquarters’ and bought property in Martinicky Palac and the former Zivnobanka Bank in Prague.
This monopoly style spending spree is a clear indication that CEFC mean business and as a Slavia fan it sits very nicely indeed.
With the financial backing of CEFC and with Jiri Simane taking a more active role on the football side of things the clubs appears to be safe hands. Well, from the outside at least.
A stark contrast from the Rebicek era, when chaos reigned and managerial appointments were laughable and borderline insanity. 10 managers in five years tells you a story of a haphazard owner as well as managers, who, quite rightly, had enough of having their hands tied and either left the club out of frustration or paid the price with poor results.
Frantisek Straka and Petr Rada were two managers who were destined to fail, while Poustka and Petrous were loyal but never given a fair crack. Meanwhile, Rebicek, to his credit, tried to think outside of the box and appoint Dutch coach Alex Pastoor – but unfortunately, most of their attacking play during that time was outside of the box too.
This slapdash approach to hiring and firing would have surely put off any credible candidates to the job under Rebicek. I’m thinking of Lubos Kozel here who must have been in the clubs thoughts over the last few seasons. In fact, I have a gut feeling he will be in charge of the club for the 2016-17 season, if not sooner, but that’s a separate discussion.
I hope the club will now have a long term plan in place and look for stability.
But first Slavia must get their house in order, pay their bills and retain their best players. For once, there is no need to sell our best players such as Milan Skoda or cash in on Jaromir Zmrhal. So, much like the CEFC takeover, there is a foundation to build on here.
But there is no magic wand that can be waved to erase the damage caused over the last 5-6 years, I think even Harry Potter would struggle to fix the mess that CEFC will find at Eden.
Overall, in my brief spell as a Slavia fan I have seen plenty of low points. Watching the team get smashed 7-0 at home to Teplice in torrential rain always springs to mind and the lows always seem to outweigh the highs with Slavia, but, for once, I think the scales are beginning to tip in the clubs favour.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 10th September 2015