After the filling/artery clogging double header of deep-fried cheese and potato croquettes, it was time to contemplate our future. Namely, how to get from the hospitality of the restaurant we were in to the Juliska Stadium, home of Dukla Prague. Fortunately, Martin was in charge of logistics and there was seemingly a bus that went directly from the restaurant to the stadium. I would hazard a guess that this was mere coincidence. And lucky there was a bus as the stadium is located halfway up what the locals probably do not call Prague’s Everest.
Dukla have something of an unwarranted fame in the UK by virtue of the Half Man Half Biscuit hit “All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit”. The band once turned down the opportunity to appear on Channel 4 for fear of clash with a Tranmere Rovers fixture despite the offer to fly them back to Merseyside in a helicopter. Dedication. I have actually been to a Half Man Half Biscuit concert and there were probably more Dukla Prague shirts on display that night in Kilburn then there were as we made our way into the Juliska Stadion.
Probably need a better photographer to do this justice.
This stadium is pretty unique. Doubling up as the Czech national athletic stadium, it boasts one ‘enormous’ (c.9,000 seats) stand with a Soviet concrete bowl (small) making up the rest of the stadium. But the stand is enormous and made to feel even more so by the fact, we entered from the top. Best of all, it offers beautiful views across a sun-kissed Prague. It might be a souless stadium, but the stunning backdrop more than makes up for it.
Normal sights and sounds of a football stadium.
So Dukla. A team with a relatively chequered past stretching back way past the dubious 1980s Merseyside hit in which they so prominently feature. Founded just after WW2 as the Czech Army team, success soon followed as they won the Czechoslovak League seven times in ten attempts from the mid 50s to the mid 60s. Global success also came at this time. Global success?? Dukla Prague won the American Challenge Cup from 1962 to 1965. What is this American Challenge Cup? Well, that is a fantastic (and also somewhat leading question). Willy D Cox, a Philadelphian businessman with an eye for soccer (sic), saw potential in formalising the visits of European football teams to the US during their offseason (sounds familiar) and established the International Soccer League in 1960 inviting ten teams from Europe, one from South America and a US representational team. These twelve teams were then split into two groups of six with the winner of each group proceeding to final. Kilmarnock lost the initial final to Bangu of Brazil. Dukla Prague arrived on the scene in 1961 winning the International Soccer League by destroying Everton 9-2 on aggregate in the final, which granted them the right to compete in the American Challenge Cup the following year which pitted the previous year’s winners against current year’s winners in the most convoluted tournament format ever. They continued to win the next three (including defeating a fairly familiar West Ham side with Bobby Moore et al before losing the last ever game in the tournament although becoming the most frequent participants (ahead of the globe trotting Killie).
Dukla faded somewhat after the demise of this totally pointless tournament, winning only three more titles before the fall of Communism, which itself led to the club’s demise in 1996 when the club’s licence was purchased by FK Příbram.
So who are we watching today? Well that would be the historic successor of FK Dukla Dejvice (Dejvice being the part of Prague home to the Juliska stadium). This club was founded in 1958 and languished in the local Prague Championship until 2006 when (as seems surprising common), it announced the merger and licence takeover of Jakubčovice, thereby allowing FK Dukla Prague as the club was now known to enter into the second tier of Czech football from where they were promoted to the top tier in 2012.
This all seems fairly clear.
One fall out from all this (and I suspect because of the earlier connections with the Army/location on Prague’s Everest) is that Dukla are not hugely well supported with only 1,400 people turning up today including 50 or so from Brno (today’s opponents).
After all the cheese and history and with little or no interest in the outcome of the game, I was unsure how this was going to end. Fortunately, neither of these teams could defend. The first goal came after about 40 seconds followed by a whole load of chances and Dukla’s second after 11 minutes. Brno grabbed a quick response on 30 minutes through Skoda and he put the pedal to the metal at the start of the second half to grab an equaliser. Skoda’s Brno decelerated rapidly after that and Dukla scored a third and a fourth. The last twenty minutes produced little more.
This game could easily have been 8-5 with a little more composure. I thoroughly enjoyed it and brought our day goal tally to an impressive ten from two games.
I am not sure I would make an effort to come back to Dukla. It is a truly unique and odd place to watch football, but for now it was time to wander down the hill and contemplate what could have been had Kilmarnock won the first International Soccer League. Also probably time for some more cheese.
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