It may have been surpassed by ice hockey as the nation’s favourite sport, but football and the Czech Republic have a whole lot of history, going all the way back to a 1-1 draw with Hungary in 1906. The team was called Bohemia then, but with independence came footballing independence and a whole lot of glory. Czechoslovakia were losing World Cup finalists in 1934 and 1962, going one better and winning the European Championships in 1976. Being the capital and biggest city Prague had a whole lot of input in these successes, and the city predictably dominated the Czechoslovak First League.
47 out of 67 Czechoslovak championships were won by clubs from Prague, with Sparta leading the way with a remarkable 21 titles. When the Velvet Divorce came in 1993 Prague clubs continued their stranglehold on Czech championships, with nine of the first 10 being won by capital clubs. The football riches have begun to spread throughout the country with titles being won by clubs in Liberec, Plzen and Ostrava, but Prague still acts as the traditional centre of power in Czech football.
Whilst there are a whole host of clubs in Prague itself (14 at last count), only five of these have consistently performed in the upper reaches of Czech football since the demise of Czechoslovakia. If you’re looking to take in a bit of football culture whilst in the city we wholeheartedly recommend checking out one of these five, unless you’re more of a Sunday shirts and skins type. Sparta and Slavia are the two true powerhouses, Bohemians 1905 the scrappy underdog, Viktoria Žižkov the resigned elder statesman and Dukla the former leader experiencing something of a renaissance. Confused? Let us explain in a little more detail.
AC Sparta PragueChances are if the casual European football fan knows one side from the Czech Republic, it’ll be Sparta Prague. With 21 Czechoslovak championships and eight of the first 10 Czech titles safely in its trophy cabinet, Sparta are the Prague club with the biggest continental reach by some way. It helps that well-known modern names such as Tomáš Rosicky, Petr Čech, Karel Poborský and Patrik Berger (among others) all became stars here.
Sparta itself came into being way back in 1893, when a group of young lads decided the time was right to set up a sports club. The club are now famous for wearing redcurrant shirts, and for that we have English club Arsenal FC to thank. Sparta actually wore black up until 1906, at which point then-club president Dr. Petřik saw the Gunners play on a tour of the United Kingdom. If it worked for Arsenal it could work for Sparta, and from that point on variants of red and white were the colours of the club.
The side in redcurrant simply dominated Czechoslovak football, winning the Czechoslovak league a whopping 21 times (including eight championships out of the last 10). This domination continued in the Czech league, where Iron Sparta won seven of the first eight titles. Sparta are that club, the one that is always there or thereabouts at the top of the league. They play their home games at the Generali Stadium (known informally as Stadion Letna). The Sparta women’s team has been even more dominant in recent times - it won every league title between 2005 and 2013 for example.