The Czech Republic is hosting a sports world championship from Saturday until the end of next week, though it’s quite possible you may not be familiar with the sport – floorball. Floorball was only invented three decades ago, but its popularity is spreading fast, and the world championship being held in Ostrava and Prague is set to be the biggest ever.
Floorball is a bit like a kind of indoor field hockey (with a far lighter ball) and is popular in countries where ice hockey is big, such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the Scandinavian states. Indeed, floorball was invented by the Swedes in the late 1970s. What’s more, the sport’s popularity is growing fast, and the 2008 World Championship, being held in Ostrava and Prague, will be the biggest yet.
Filip Šuman is the head of the Czech Floorball Union.
“The Czech championship will definitely be the most medialized floorball event in history. Nearly 10 European television stations are interested in broadcasting games. And all the games will be live on the web. We’ve already sold 9,500 tickets for the final at [Prague’s] O2 Arena, which we are hoping will be one of the three best attended games ever. Our real aim is to break the current record of 15,106 spectators.”
It would be perhaps appropriate if a new attendance record for a floorball game was set in the Czech Republic, where the sport has really caught on in a big way. For instance, Czech international Aleš Jakůbek says it is a lot bigger here than in Switzerland, where he plays for the club Zurich.
“The media interest here is incredible. There have been a million articles in the press, on floorball websites…When I tell them in Switzerland that I’m going to watch floorball on the website of Czech Television 4 Sport, they expect I mean short highlights. They’re surprised that there are actually live broadcasts of games. I think nowhere in the world do they do as much for floorball as they do here.”
But how much can the Czech Republic capitalise on that interest, and home advantage, during the World Championship? How far can they go? Here’s Czech coach Zdeněk Skružný.
“I think our position is very similar to the last World Championship or in 2004. We’re perhaps the fourth team, on the same level as say Norway. When we set ourselves targets around six months ago we said, if we get to the semi-finals and play great floorball in the last few games but in the end our rivals are better than us, we’ll still be satisfied.”
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