Czeching in on a heated rivalry

The international break has been an absolute godsend for me. It’s allowed me some time to catch up with what’s happened in football from late September until now. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had to step away from the blog for a couple of weeks for my wedding and honeymoon. Just as I was getting back from my honeymoon, the 263rd Pražský S (Prague S) derby was being contested. I’m of Czech heritage so I do tend to keep an eye on the league tables.

Sparta has been down on their luck this year and do not look likely to be among the top spots of the table for a European cup berth. They’ve also been knocked out of both the Champions League (in the third round of qualifying) and the UEFA Cup (first round). On the other hand, Slavia, traditionally the smaller of the two clubs, is sitting at the top of the table. They are also in the group stage of the Champions League and are tied with Sevilla for second in their group. There is a third club in Prague, Bohemians 1905 (founded as the successor to the insolvent FC Bohemians Prague in 2005), but they are not as strong as the other two clubs and are currently near the bottom of the table.

As for the derby, Slavia were handed a dream start when after just four minutes of play. Following a Slavia corner, the ball bounced off on-loan Liberec midfielder Daniel Pudil’s knee and beyond Sparta goalie Tomas Postulka. The game remained close but Sparta’s chances took a major blow when midfielder Pavel Horvath was sent off. In the 43rd minute, Horvath was brought down by the goalscorer Pudil. Horvath lashed out at the player with both feet, earning a straight red. It would take until the 85th minute for Slavia to ice the game when substitute Zden?k Šenke?ík headed home a cross and gave Slavia a win over their rivals.

Horvath has been banned for three games while his club fined him 300,000 koruna (10,900 euros) and has replaced him as captain. Horvath is no stranger to trouble as he was fined 200,000 koruna by the disciplinary commission in September for making a fascist-style salute to fans, although he says his hand signal was meant to calm the fans.

Unfortunately, the derby was not only marred by Horvath’s violent conduct but by a racist incident. A section of Sparta fans unfurled a banner containing the word “Jude” – German for Jew – while also chanting the same word, a longstanding taunt used against Slavia. Czech public television channel Ceska Televize (CT) has threatened Sparta with a broadcast ban unless they put a stop to anti-semitic slogans being brandished by a group of their fans.

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