22-11-2001

By Ian Willoughby

Sparta Prague and Real MadridSparta Prague and Real Madrid Czech newspaper headlines are often very literal and one in today's press said it all - 'Real won, Sparta were good'. Real Madrid beat Sparta 3:2 in the Champions League in Prague on Wednesday night. While the Spanish side were clearly in a different class whenever they shifted up a gear, Sparta must have been disappointed that they didn't manage a draw.

It was 2:1 to Real with eighteen minutes to go when Sionko levelled the score. Sparta's fans were only getting used to the idea that they might snatch a point when Morientes scored his second to decide the tie. Sparta battled hard till the final whistle - but alas in vain.

Meanwhile, the head of the Czech football association, Jan Obst, said he hopes to find a replacement for Czech national coach Josef Chovanec by the beginning of January. Chovanec resigned this week, having been subject to an inordinate amount of press criticism for not going immediately after the Czechs lost to Belgium in a World Cup play-off. Ostrava coach Jaromir Jarabinsky is strongly tipped to replace him.

Having failed to get to next year's World Cup, the Czech Republic have fallen in the rankings of world football's governing body, FIFA- the Czechs were ranked tenth best team in the world, now they're thirteenth - unlucky for some.

And finally, at a ceremony in Prague on Monday javelin legend Jan Zelezny was named Czech athlete of the year - the seventh time he has won the award. Decathletes Tomas Dvorak and Roman Sebrle came second and third in the poll. The latter set the world points record in the decathlon earlier this year, and Zelezny said - rather graciously - that Sebrle ought to have won the prize. Interestingly, the top three athletes turned up to the ceremony in the green uniforms of the Czech Army; they are all members of the army's Dukla sports team - not only is Zelezny regarded as the best javelin thrower ever, he is actually a major in the Czech army.