Saturday, September 22, 2012

However, the Czechs were not yet the bright future either. Down in the final table were the Cup winners of 1976 Sparta. Another old and well known club from Prague – Bohemians – was still vegetating in mid-table. They had the big hero of the European championship campaign, Antonin Panenka, fine midfielder, who scored the decisive penalty kick against West Germany, but even he was not enough for more than 9th place. Banik (Ostrava) perhaps suffering the hangover from their title in 1976, was not a factor at all - 8th place. Much better was another club: Zbrojovka (Brno) – they finished 4th, just a point less than the bronze medalists, which was a pity, for Zbrojovka had better goal difference and if they got one more point, the bronze medals would have been theirs.

Zbrojovka, having name very familiar to people interested in weapons, belonged to the rifle factory – hence, the name. The factory provided 'the means of existence', but Brno is old strong football centre anyway. The club performed well and consistently was among the upper layer of Czechoslovak football in the 1970s. Similar to Banik (Ostrava) in that, and steadily getting better. They had only one player called to the national – Karel Kroupa – but the rest of the squad was experienced, well-rounded, and improving. The great star of the 1960s Jozef Masopust was coachimg them, apparently well. Zbrojovka was coming near maturity, meantime representing the increasing power of Czech clubs.

Slavia (Prague) finished third, more or less the best the 'sufferers' were able – or allowed - during Communism. Their climb to the top was not exactly steady, but Slavia had good team and pushed Slovak teams back as well. Three players – Biros, Dusan Herda, and Frantisek Vesely – were members of European champions, although only the veteran Vesely played at the finals. The team was more than those three, though – Peter Herda, Klimes, and Starek were also candidates for the national team. The rest were dependable, well reputed players. Perhaps Slavia had not a team really up to winning the title, but they were close and certainly better team than most of the Slovaks.

Bronze medals for these guys and well deserved too. Standing from left: Jan Luza, Robert Segmuller, Jan Mares, Miroslav Starek, Zdenek Klimes, Pavol Biros.

Crouching: Jiri Grospic, Dusan Herda, Peter Herda, Josef Bouska, Frantisek Vesely.

Slavia contributed to restoration of Prague's leading place in Czechoslvakian football with their third place. Well over thirty, Frantisek Vesely was not thinking of retirement – he was to play abroad yet in a rather bizarre deal.