Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
Prague has become a very popular tourist destination – during spring and summer it’s almost impossible to get through Old Town without getting stampeded by hordes of tourists either in large audio-guided groups or in noisy packs with large beer mugs. If you want to escape the madness, you might find some peace and quiet at Prague’s many stadiums and football pitches. There is a huge diversity, and kick-off times will allow you to either visit multiple games or do a game and still spend the day with the family afterwards. Here’s an overview of thirteen grounds and what the matches and atmosphere there are like. It is sorted by capacity – starting with the largest (title picture). If you want to follow my football travels on a regular basis, subscribe to Groundhopping etc. on facebook.
Stadion Strahov | capacity: 220,000 | AC Sparta Praha youth teams | pictures
Communist megalomania built this giant beast of a ground. Construction began in 1926, and it was upgraded step by step in the coming 50 years. Originally it was a venue for synchronized gymnastics events on a massive scale, which was continued in the communist area in the form of Spartakiáda, the Eastern Block’s anti-capitalist answer to the Olympic Games (imagine hundreds of men in boxer shorts and women in miniskirts dancing and exercising in sync).
Today, the 63,500 square meters are filled with eight football pitches, and the stadium serves as training ground for Sparta Praha’s youth teams who also play their matches there. Attendances are small and it’s difficult to care about the match when even the pitch feels insignificant in this sea of concrete and steel.
You’re in military territory when you enter – Dukla Praha is a former army club and the ground still belongs to the government. Don’t expect large attendances, the big steep main stand usually looks a bit empty during league matches. Don’t expect much atmosphere either – there’s a jolly group of old folks with a drum but that’s about it. But you should still most definitely go, because Stadion Juliska offers the best view of Prague, so if the match is not exciting you can gaze at the city, the castle and the river.
In terms of fans, Prague is mostly about Slavia Praha and record champion Sparta Praha who used to dominate the football landscape in the Czech Republic. And who have a deep hatred and rivalry going on. Things have quieted down a bit, though – their 20,000 capacity arenas only fill up when they play each other, otherwise they struggle to fill even half during regular league matches. Both clubs have quite active fans and Ultras who present colorful choreographies, burn off a few flares and support their teams with constant chants and songs. The atmosphere is best when they play each other or if Banik Ostrava is in town (they usually bring a larger crowd). Slavia’s core supporters make the most noise, but the ground (which is built into a shopping center) is the more sterile of the two – the identikit arena appears a bit sad, especially when only filled with a few thousand spectators.
The third team with a more active fanbase is Bohemians Praha 1905 whose logo is a kangaroo (you can find the back-story in the article linked above). The fans call themselves “Klokani” (kangaroos) and the core supporters will sing throughout the match, display banners and light flares just as much as Slavia’s and Sparta’s fans do, though the “Klokani” are smaller in numbers. The Ďolíček stadium is a lot more charming, though – it is open so you get a good idea of the surroundings, and you are close to the action.
Just like the Ďolíček, you will get a good view of the residential area surrounding the stadium. Games traditionally kick off at 10.15am so you can watch a game and then still tour around Prague for the rest of the day (it is located near the central train stadion). Depending on the league Viktoria Žižkov play in and the opponent they face, you get a little less or a little more than 1,000 spectators. A very small group of them behind one of the goals will try to create a bit of atmosphere every now and then.
Stadion SK Motorlet Praha | SK Motorlet Praha | capacity: 5,000 | pictures
We’re now drifting towards the non-league grounds. Even if some of the teams play in second or third league occasionally, it still feels like amateur football with less than hundred up to a few hundred spectators. It’s mostly locals who come, from young families to old folks, and there is a playground at almost every of those stadiums, most of them with a good view of the pitch. The atmosphere is relaxed, the architecture manifold and most stadiums are lined with trees. You will spend a quiet morning (most matches kick off at 10.15am) at either of those. Take a look at the full picture galleries linked at each one to find out which one you’d like best.
Here at Motorlet you see the typical combination of a decaying main stand with a few wooden benches and said treeline around the other sides.
Stadion Na Pecích | capacity: 4,000 | FK Admira Praha | pictures
Admira offers one of the best playground views, and its neighboring astro turf pitch is elevated so if you walk up, you get a good bird’s eye view.
Areál Libeň | capacity: 3,500 | FK Meteor Praha VIII | pictures
At Meteor Praha’s Areál Libeň you can walk around freely and watch the match from an assorted range of vantage points, some more crumbling than others. The ground is probably most famous for its wooden main stand – it smells of history (Meteor being one of the four oldest clubs in the Czech Republic) and the planks creak at your every step.
Loko Vltavín has an overgrown volleyball stadium (with floodlights) next to the football pitch. Check it out at half time!
Stadion SK Uhelné Sklady Praha | SK Uhelné Sklady Praha | capacity: 3,000 | pictures
In terms of architecture this is my favorite non-league ground. It feels a bit surreal and post-apocalyptic: the Stadion Uhelné Sklady is a mix of bunker and botanical garden. Densely grown coniferous trees and shrubbery line the entire concrete ground. The overgrown terraces look like flower-beds. Go on top of the main stand building for a good overview and view of Strahov hill.
The FK Bohemians Praha team is hated because of a name dispute with Bohemians Praha 1905 (see report), but that doesn’t make the ground any less pretty. It features another prime playground view and a solid main stand with a good view of the surrounding area.
Areál SC Radotín | SC Radotín | capacity: 2,000 | pictures
A visit to Prague’s southern periphery, which has an industrial charm. This ground is quite a gem: the main stand is covered and has wooden benches, its building also harbors a bar and the lockers. And perched on the side is a little porch – porch swing and everything! The rest of the stadium is a green oval around the running track with decaying and beautifully overgrown stone steps. There’s also a footpath along part of the upper ridge, so people taking strolls will stop by and watch. The paying crowd are usually older locals and families, including dads rocking their toddlers while enjoying the view and a beer. The cargo and passenger trains thundering past close by every so often add to the atmosphere.
Stadion TJ Praga Praha | TJ Slavoj Hloubětín | capacity: 1,500 | pictures
This is the last and smallest ground of the list. Just a small locker/office building and some stone steps/wooden benches across where you can enjoy some tree-shade. Nothing special, we’re also very far down in the league pyramid here, but still an enjoyable visit if you get the chance.
So that’s it for now. It’s a pretty extensive collection that covers the main grounds and teams, and it (+ the picture galleries and reports) should give a good first impression of what’s out there. There are obviously more grounds in Prague (Meteor Praha’s is missing for one) but this will be for another time. Follow Groundhopping etc. on facebook in the meantime, to get stories, pictures and videos on a more regular basis.