He returns to the O2 arena with Tatran after seven years, and just like then, floorball players from Mladá Boleslav will also stand in his way this year. In a match that can give the famous Prague club Střešovice the greatest gift of 30 years. “It would be such an imaginary icing on the cake,” said the 42-year-old Znojmo native.
The return of floorball hegemony. Tatran has banked on the predatory youth and is back in the O2 arena
You’ve already conquered the O2 arena, but now a completely different challenge awaits. Life?
Probably not. I see it more as my big first as a coach. On the contrary, it will be a lifetime challenge for our boys as for many of them it will undoubtedly be the biggest game of their careers so far. I’ve had more than enough of these life challenges (laughs).
Is qualifying for the superfinal a goal in itself, or will you measure success by Saturday’s result?
To be honest, we didn’t set any goals at all before the season. Of course, it was such a secret dream somewhere far away, but rather longer term. But when it comes to the superfinal itself, our end goal is certainly not just to get there, we want to play the best game possible and we believe we will reach the top on Saturday.
Sounds pretty good on the 30th anniversary of a championship, doesn’t it?
So it’s beautiful every year that I remember (laughs). No, of course, since the year is special for the whole Tatra, it would be really exceptional in Lecce, it would be such an imaginary icing on the cake. But it’s not something we cling to now. Even if it’s the 24th or 38th year, we’re aiming for victory. But it would be even better with the 30, you’re right.
Czech floorball hegemon goes to cinemas. The film Tatran retraces the famous 30 years of the club
Do you believe that time would come when the new generation of Tatran would begin to outperform extra-league competition?
When we set club targets three years ago, we set a lower limit of just three years for certain expectations, if we can maintain staff stability. We succeeded, and this year was the first year that it was possible. But I admit that before the season there was definitely no idea that we would ride like that.
And then came the return of the successful offspring from Scandinavia and the vision turned into reality.
You are right, it is true. With the arrival of the boys from Sweden, our staff was quickly formed, around the experienced players, a nucleus was suddenly formed, made up of the offspring, who had been playing together for three, maybe four years. Though young, but experienced enough floorball players to be able to handle even the toughest matches. It settled in a lot and the results, of course, started to come.
Did it help you to have had the opportunity to work with such a young team from the start?
The most important thing for me was that the team remains really united, because forming a different and completely renewed staff each year is extremely difficult. Of course, if you have experienced players at your disposal, it’s probably easier to coach in certain situations, but on the other hand, I’m glad there are guys who have some relationship with Tatran in as a club. And I take the fact that the staff is young as a reality. We started from scratch back then, so there weren’t a lot of options anyway.
For example, with Mark Beneš, your current manager, you as captain even lifted Střešovice’s last title above your head. Have you revived your memories in the last few days?
Fortunately, it’s been so long that I can’t remember it so well (laughs). But yes, of course I remember Mark, when he was running there like a young scorpion, even on my right wing. But after this last title, the framework of Střešovice has seen very big changes, so paradoxically I will have more former teammates and opponents on the side of opponent Mladá Boleslav on Saturday.
Didn’t you say you would wear a wrestling jersey again when preparing for the last match of the season?
Absolutely not. I already said that I won’t play for Tatran more than once, so the exceptions are veterans (laughs). For me, the transition from playing to coaching went perfectly well, I got used to the fact that I can only influence games from the bench. Sometimes it annoys you, you have to let go, but I’m happy where I am.
But don’t tell me you’re lost among the young predators.
I think I missed the train a long time ago. In fact, I can’t even imagine being able to do anything about it. Besides, it’s the success of our boys, this generation, who did this rare gesture on their own, so I didn’t really think about a comeback.
Former floorball team captain Milan Fridrich is still the leader of the Střešovice party.
But if we go back a few years, what do you think Tatran was so dominant on?
I would say that especially since the beginning of the successful era, it was the experience within the Tatran squadron. In addition, the team has always been regularly renewed by young boys who, alongside older teammates, have learned to win and have inherited this mentality for generations. This created an incredibly strong team every year, in addition to the excellent conditions for players at the time, which was a big attraction for everyone.
At the same time, there were not many market players who played floorball from an early age.
Not at all in the beginning, the first wave of floorball players mostly came from other sports, when at the age of eighteen we decided to quit hockey or football and just go to floorball. At that time, concepts like educating young people or working with talents were still on the drawing board (laughs). However, over time the boys who have been involved in the sport since their youth began to arrive, and today we see generations who are literally growing up with floorball.
In what spirit were the battles for the extra-league title going on at that time?
Well, they were definitely wilder. When I compare it to current struggles, today it’s very fair and calm compared to the struggles of fifteen or twenty years ago. Sure, even now there are some heated situations on the show, where they spray emotions all over the place, but that’s not the real life-and-death fight I remember from days gone by. We’ll probably never experience that again, which can be a good thing (laughs).
The star of Tatran floorball players Milan Fridrich with a trophy for the winner of the ČFuB Cup.So you say such a small desert?
You could say that. These were wars, often literally life-threatening, as players were organized in their heads to just go and kill themselves there. It was boiling in the series, many matches ended almost in battle, there was real hatred. Of course, once the match was over, everything calmed down, but those 60 minutes of play were just crazy, as you said.
Do you remember a moment that comes to mind before the start of the superfinal?
To be honest, as my head is now busy, especially with what I have to prepare for Saturday, I tend to try to reflect on the key moments of these matches with the help of my former team-mates. To find out what was the most difficult for the boys, what motivated them to perform better, etc. In short, I try to turn my memories into some advice for my proteges.
The floorball peak of the season returns to the O2 arena, experience the unique atmosphere!
However, when you look at the whole development of the sport that was so underrated at the time, floorball has come a long way, hasn’t it?
It’s true, the progress is clearly there and sometimes it’s nice to sort out your thoughts and remember what the journey was like. Some things have changed quickly, there has been more media coverage of floorball, and the sport has gradually become known to the general public, which always arouses growing interest on the part of children and parents. But I always feel like something was better before it was needed today.
What do you mean?
Like the atmosphere. Lots of people used to go to matches, in those days there was nothing like video or the ability to watch matches regularly from the comfort of home. People didn’t have that opportunity back then, so they just watched the extra-league battles in person, which often brought not only full halls, but also incredible emotions and a twist to those key battles for the title. But such is the holt development, one cannot stop.
And what about floorball? Does he belong somewhere among the cream of national sports?
I will be honest. For example, I’m not at all sure that the floorball will keep moving somewhere. It occurs to me that not only floorball, but also other sports standing on the same line, they kinda walk in place without any major response. And the question arises where to go with these sports. Whether to enter the realm of full professionalism, which will also be a huge burden, or where to go.
Plus, floorball isn’t an entirely welcome cup of coffee on the hot seats of sports moguls.
Well, but it’s not just floorball, there are more such sports. Much will depend on the position of the sport as such, which has been promised a bigger position on a Friday. And then other things follow. I dare say that floorball, thanks to its popularity, will keep its place, it will be more and more accepted as a traditional domestic sport, but to enter sports like football or hockey, I think it’s more a utopia in the near future.