The collapse of Bohemians football club at the beginning of what would have been its centenary year was a very sad development for the Czech game. The club's bankruptcy was followed by expulsion from the second division, and it appeared we had seen the last of the green and white Kangaroos. But Bohemians' loyal fans aren't giving up so easily, and have launched a campaign to try and revive the club.
The club was founded in 1905 under the name AFK Vrsovice, after the area of Prague where it was located. The name was changed to Bohemians after a famous 1927 tour of Australia, where they represented Czechoslovakia. The team were presented with two live kangaroos, which they donated to Prague Zoo; they adopted the animal as their logo, and were soon nicknamed the Kangaroos, or Klokani.
Later in its history the club offered an alternative to football fans during the decades of Communism, says Antonin Jelinek of the Bohemians' supporters association.
"During communism the two clubs that were, like, state or government clubs were Sparta and Dukla. Dukla was a military club. For people who weren't happy with the situation there were Bohemians. It was not connected with communism too much. We also had green shirts, so not the colour of socialism."
Bohemians, with their cosy Dolicek stadium in Vrsovice, only won the league once, in 1983. That was two years after the departure of their greatest player Antonin Panenka. But in recent years things have been going steadily downhill for Bohemka. Antonin Jelinek explains where it all went wrong.
"The club has been extremely badly managed for the past ten years. The former owner Pavel Schwarz was a really, really bad manager. First he used his own money to put Bohemians in shape, but then he used the money from transfers to pay his own debts. He left the club with debts of 20 million crowns overall."
But with Czech football engulfed by a corruption scandal, potential backers were shy of investing in a failing club. After a series of efforts to save Bohemians, the club finally went under at the beginning of this year. Insolvency was followed by expulsion from the second division.
Now though, Bohemka's fans are fighting back. Led by Antonin Jelinek and with the support of legendary player Antonin Panenka, they have launched a supporters' trust, with the aim of collecting enough money to put the club back on its feet.
"Everyone who wants to help us to save the club can be a member of this club and can put their money in. This money will be used to save Bohemians. If we raise enough money we can make it into the third league. If this doesn't happen the club will be relegated to the lowest division in the Czech football pyramid. Even in this case we are still interested in saving the club, saving the continuity of the club, and just try it, because the fans deserve it."
And I'm sure anybody with any interest in Czech football will be keeping their fingers crossed for Mr Jelinek and the Bohemians supporters. If you'd like more information go to www.bohemians.cz
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