Looking on the bright side, at least from a Blansko perspective, 6 weeks later we had been handed the league title and were promoted to the 2nd division. It was to be almost 3 months later before we were to see Blansko play again, in a meaningless friendly against Znojmo. Except it wasn’t meaningless for us, or at least for me - I had genuinely missed football, something that had been in my life since I was old enough to walk.
And now, with the country facing it’s second lockdown, it’s been a while since we last walked up to the turnstiles, waving to or shaking hands with the familiar faces around the ground and finding our spot in the ground with that degree of excitement I have only ever had with Wales, Swansea and now Blansko. I know it sounds a bit silly to say this, but there is a certain amount of pleasure and fulfilment in taking our seats.. Blansko have become our club.
We miss Udolni, it was our stadium, we knew everyone who sat around us. There were the slivovice toting old guys in front of us at every game, who used to give us a nod of approval and a “ahoj”as we put the flag up. The father and daughter who put their Bayern Munich cushions on the plastic seats in front of us always said hello. We even miss the cameraman from local TV, who always seemed to be pleased when Pavel the drummer wasn’t on drum duty and always asked so politely “if we could keep the drumming down today” Who would have thought that a percussion instrument wouldn’t have made good television.
To all intents and purposes, we are describing them as old friends. Well, we have been watching Blansko together since at least 2013, not really, I don’t even know any of their names which is a bit disconcerting as we see them every game and for 90 minutes we laugh at the misplaced passes and moan at the chances missed and give each other high fives when we score a goal.
Actually, when you think about it, they know nothing about us, except we sing silly songs and we have strange accents when we speak Czech, so we are definitely not from Blansko, but without fail, once the final whistle goes and we are making our way out of the ground, there is always a “ahoj” and “za dva tydny”. They don’t go away, Blansko folk don’t travel, well. Now that “za dva tydny” has now become a “next time” . Who knows when that next time will be.
It’s certainly not going to be next week , when Blansko restart the season at home to Taborsko. We are not even sure if we will be able to stream the game, like I can with Swansea games. We certainly don’t want to be sat on my sofa as an armchair fan, but if it means watching Blansko, We suppose we will. But , we do find it rather depressing.
Home games or away games used to last the whole day. We’d leave early in the morning for away games discovering the town we were in for the game and enjoying a selection of the the sometimes weird and wonderful, sometimes surprisingly cheers and friendly local pubs before finding a spot in the ground to put the flag up. Home games would always start and end at the bar of “Na Prazci”. The day out was/is part of the experience. I don’t want it to become like watching the Swans, where you sign in 15 minutes before the game starts and switch your computer off when the game finishes. That’s not what supporting a team is about.
Instead of cheering the team onto the pitch, we will be sat around a small screen trying to get excited, when we haven’t even left our home. You can’t sing and shout at home, the neighbours would call the police, thinking you have gone mad. I don’t want it to just become a football match, but that is all that it would be.
We miss the train journeys, watching from the window the train weave it’s way along the forested banks of the River Svitava. When you get to the hideous, industrial town of Adamov, you know you are just one stop away from your destination, the pub and a short walk from the ground.
We miss the two brothers at the gate, who always welcome us as “Anglicany”, even though I have told them a 1000 times, I (Ralph)am from Wales.
We miss that walk to stadium where my step quickens as we close in on the football ground. It’s the same feeling I have had since my dad first started taking me to watch this beautiful game.
We miss finding out the teams about an hour before kick off and Wingy asking us for our score predictions before every home game.
We miss queuing up for that beer, nodding in the direction of anyone who nods back in our direction.
We miss the seeing the “Angry man”, we miss his “affection” towards every referee and his dishevelled parka coat and plast bag which accompany him when he makes his usual half-time appearance. That is of course, if the stewards don’t spot him and throw him out.
We miss the players giving us a nervous wave as they come out onto the pitch.
We miss us singing our silly songs about Petr Gromsky.
We miss the run from the stadium back to Na Prazci for a quick beer and a chat about the game, maybe sinking a shot if we’ve won. Actually I miss the bar staff at the pub, there’s always a welcome.
We miss this time of year, the autumn colours – this time of year is perfect for watching a game of football – the weather is so, crisp, clear and so autumnal. Bright is the first half, dimming in the second half with just enough light to watch the final 15 minutes. Autumn football is the best.
Does any of the above really matter? 10 years ago I had no emotional attachment to Blansko, but now I have this sense of belonging, being with my mates, just doing something we love.
The ground is essentially full of strangers, although not at any time does it feel like that when you are supporting the same team. As wementioned above, we don’t know the names of anyone around us, however, they are all as recognisable to me as any of the players.
It already seems a life time since we all celebrated a goal together and part of us wonders whether we’ll all be together when we are finally allowed back into football. Times are hard and money is not always available and that’s before we even think about the most important thing – our health.
So to all of you, stay safe, look after each other and until the next time when we meet again.