Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
SK Slavia Praha vs. FC Banik Ostrava 0:2 (0:1)
November 23, 2012 | attendance: 7.080 | pictures
Too much happened today to give you a detailed lowdown on Slavia Prague’s history. However, it seems noteworthy to point out, that the club (founded 1892 by students and nemesis of workers’ club Sparta) was on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the last few years. After winning titles in 2007/08 and 2008/09, Slavia almost lost its license as a result of economic problems, a chaotic management, and issues with investors and their new expensive stadium. The club was saved, but the team only managed uninspiring mid-table positions since. Before the match, the guys with the red star on their jerseys were eleventh in the league and trying to keep today’s opponent Banik Ostrava (4 points less than Slavia) at bay.
Due to the lack of success, there are only about 5,000-6,000 fans visiting the pretty Synot Tip Arena (capacity 21,000) on a normal match day. Luckily, today was not a normal match day and 7,080 people filled the stands (about 1,000 from Ostrava). Slavia’s fans had an ulterior motive, though, they were here to say goodbye to Stanislav Vlček, who was about to play the last match of his career after almost 150 caps in the red-and-white jersey. The right winger was a main contributor to Slavia’s 2007/08 championship and also scored an important goal in a Champions League qualification match against Ajax Amsterdam. He started today’s match on the bench, but the fans would dedicate the entire 90 minutes and beyond to him.
Both teams and both fan groups started with great intensity: The Slavia fans were incredibly loud, and unveiled the first choreography early in the first half: the entire block was covered in club and national colors, a banner read: “Stando diky” – a thank you to Vlček (are you ready for a quick Czech lesson? “Standa” is short for Stanislav – “Stando” is the vocative; “diky” means thanks). A few small flares were lit up from under the banners as well. The game went on at a steady pace when suddenly Ostrava scored after a bit of commotion in the box that was the result of a free kick. The Banik fans raised their voices noticeably – but the Slavia fans never stopped singing either.
Impressed by their endurance and by the level of noise the Slavia fans produced behind their goal (Slavia fans in the other parts of the stadium mostly enjoyed the match quietly), I decided to go near them at the beginning of the second half and discovered the secret of Prague’s loudest fan block: their leader was using a microphone and very loud speakers to conduct his flock. Just as I arrived, the stand lit up in bright orange and fog crept down onto the pitch as the fans lit several flares. The singing continued, a huge banner was raised in the Ostrava block (“Za Baník život dej!” = Give your life for Baník!), there just didn’t seem to be a break – it was breathtaking.
And it got even louder in minute 64 when Stanislav Vlček came on the pitch for his last appearance in the Slavia jersey. With my attention solely dedicated to the stands, it was quite practical that not much was happening on the pitch: Slavia did not find a way past the Ostrava defense, Banik patiently waited and eventually scored a second goal from a direct free kick taken from the edge of the box.
The Slavia fans remained unimpressed and were gearing up for Stanislav’s final moment: when the game was over, 17 flares lit up the block, another big banner was unveiled (“Navždy Legenda” = a legend forever). Standa got to lead the post-game ritual and fans were singing “Stando diky děkujeme” (Thank you, thanks Standa) for several minutes – a tune many of them still whistled on the bus on their way back home.
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