Sparta and Slavia are the two soccer teaks from Prague. Think Mets and Yankees, and you’re getting warm. Red Sox/Yankees would be closer, as there is no Boston equivalent in the Czech Republic. Tonight, these guys are playing each other, and it’s for keeps. While there has been some lying in the grass crying like a baby, there hasn’t been much, and the game is turning into a hard-fought affair.
But here’s something you will not find in any sporting contest on US soil. Frankly, I’m pretty damn stunned that it would happen here (after all, this isn’t England). The game is being broadcast live, of course, and after a corner kick the defenders had gained control when a bomb went off behind the goal.
Let me write that again, in case you missed it the first time. After a corner kick the defenders had gained control when a bomb went off behind the goal. The advertising set up there was blasted, and the goalkeeper hit the deck. The players paused for perhaps two seconds, then resumed playing while the smoke cleared. An emergency crew rushed to the location of the blast to repair the advertising. The shot of the girl in stands eating a sausage garnered more comment among the rank and file here at the Little Café Near Home.
Meanwhile, the game has been a good one. (Yes, I wrote that.) Slavia scored early but Sparta has been dominating, threatening to score much of the time. It seems I’m surrounded by Sparta fans. There are a lot of muddy uniforms, frayed nerves, and unheard of in this sport, players are picking themselves up off the turf to show that they can take a hit. Players are colliding and not falling over; instead they play through and try to get the advantage with their own talent at fotbol, rather than the ref’s whistle. The ref proved inclined early to let the boys play.
— As I typed the above, a Slavia player took a dive. Massive head trauma of some sort. “Three minutes!” Franta said, predicting how long it would take for him to get back in the action. “Two minutes,” I countered. I imagine a scene in which the team medic is summoned onto the field, to discover to his horror that the player is actually injured. The doc is helpless, as his magic freezy spray cannot heal the stricken player.
The “let the boys play” attitude turned this into a very physical game, and toward the end of the first half we found out just where the ref’s limit was, as a flurry of yellow cards and one red came out. The game is still hotly contested, but so far in the second half there have been no bombs.
Oops. I wrote that sixty seconds too soon. Smoke bombs this time. One section of the stands is engulfed in orange and yellow. There was a great shot of a woman in the Emergency Response Team running with a smoke bomb, trying to find a place where it would be less harmful.
— As I typed the above, I saw that the guy out with the head injury is still out. It’s possible I owe him an apology, but Boy Who Cried Wolf still applies. The game is winding down, and as usual it’s easy to tell which team is ahead. They’re the ones lying on the ground to eat up the clock. In this regard the game remains fundamentally broken.
— The game is as good as over, but a Slavia player was just hit by a thrown beer while preparing to throw the ball inbounds. (The beer-thrower was skilled; the cup was miraculously half-full when it reached its target.) Clearly fans throwing stuff at players cannot be tolerated, and the game stopped while security handled the situation. I assume that if the perpetrator could not be identified, the home team would have been penalized. This is right and proper, but compare with BOMB above. The bomb did not make it into the highlight reel.