14-06-2001

By Peter Smith

Yes, it's the sport now and let's begin with the news that the captain of the Czech Republic's footballer team, Pavel Nedved, has ended months of speculation by putting pen to paper on a new contract with Lazio. The dynamic midfielder has committed himself to the Rome club until the end of the 2006 season, in a deal worth just over $3.1 million per year.

There had been intense speculation that Nedved's salary negotiations with Lazio president Sergio Cragnotti had broken down, and that the club were preparing to sell the Czech to fierce Serie A rival Juventus. This led to a chorus of protests from Lazio fans, and it now appears that Cragnotti has bent over backwards to accommodate the former Sparta Prague player.

Talking about the fans opposition to a transfer, Nedved said 'Of course it had some influence, but Cragnotti made the decision alone. It is a contract that will take me to the end of my career,'

So, one Czech captain is staying put, while another is off to pastures new. Robert Reichal, the captain of the Czech Republic's ice-hockey team, has announced that he will return to the NHL after two seasons back in the Czech League. Reichal has agreed a three-year contract with the famous Canadian side, Toronto Maple Leaves worth $3.5 million per season. The centre forward has spent the last two years back home with the top Czech team Litvinov.

'For me there were only two choices,' Reichal said, 'Litvinov or the NHL - I took it as my final chance. I have not played my final match at home, though, and I will return to Litvinov!' Reichal has already played nine seasons in the NHL, turning out for the New York Islanders, Phoenix and Calgary during that time.

Finally tennis and the warm-up events for Wimbledon are well underway. Seems that most of the Czech players have a lot more warming up to do, though. At the grass court Halle tournament in Germany, Daniel Vacek had the dubious honour of going out in first round to the second seed, Patrick Rafter. The Australian - beaten finalists at Wimbledon last year - convincingly overturned the Czech in straight sets 6-3 6-4. There was also a first round exit for Bohdan Ulihrach - the big hitting Czech being eliminated also in straight sets 6-1 6-3 by the unseeded Andrei Pavel of Romania.

14-06-2001