One great thing about visiting a country whose language you know nothing, absolutely nothing about is going to the local “football” game, spending the first half listening incomprehensibly to every PA announcement, cheer, jeer and obscenity, then watching during halftime as a 40 foot long banner is unfurled along the hometeam goal that says (of course in English) “All Cops Are Bastards”. No explanation, officially sanctioned as it’s inside the heavily guarded pitch, just “All Cops Are Bastards”. A heavily armed police officer stood beneath the banner for a bit. Then the second-half started and the banner was ripped up, also inexplicably. Sparta Praha beat Mlada Bodeslave 4:1, scoring four goals in the last 20 minutes.
To comply with full disclosure, I must admit my wife is a journalist and asked around about the “All Cops Are Bastards” sign and supposedly found out it was some form of late April Fool’s Day joke. Damn journalists. I was much happier interpreting the gesture as simply some form of Dada performance art, especially as it included a 50 foot x 50 foot banner passed along the hometown fanatic section reading “A.C./A.D.” Given the lack of crowd reaction to the whole ceremony, I think it worked better as Dada than as an April Fools’ Day joke, anyway.
It was a fun game to see in bright, blinding 65 degree sunshine, given a bit of local color as the police surrounded the buses of visiting fans as they entered the park. These same fans were fueled enough to scream, chant and spit obscenities for a solid two hours, until Sparta scored a go-ahead goal to come back from 1:0 and the fuel became a sedative leaving the well-caged visitors numbly silent as Sparta poured it on in the finish.
The hometown hooligans were a small, but well-organized group, chanting between jeers when the team was down, and going insane when their team put things right. Having been directed by a helpful ticket clerk, we sat near these rather skinhead crazy looking folks, but far enough away to join other couples in our section looking at the madness with bemused serenity. It was just like being at the zoo, right down to the significantly thick metal bars separating bemused and besmashed.
Only two days left in Praha (note, I am now too cool to use the English variant of the word, showing that I am now an experienced, savvy Prague traveler, i.e.: a weinie-head), and the hours are flying. Much left to see, especially on the museum front, not to mention castles, much less the approximately 1.3 million basement bar/restaurants we haven’t had the chance to fall into yet. Much more tourist works to be done.
P.S.: It is vitally important when going to a Czech soccer game to never think about Nazi Germany, the Nuremberg rallies or anything resembling “Heil Hitler!” gestures. Once you do, it’s over…every single thing the hooligan section does is immediately interpreted by the brain into something from Leni Riefenstahl…