The manager of the Czech national soccer team, Michal Bílek, says he hopes forward Tomáš Peckhart will continue to impress are finally getting his first goal in a 3:1 win over Malta in a World Cup qualifier on Friday night. It was the 14th international appearance by the tall Nuremberg striker, who is 23. Bílek told reporters he believed Peckhart would now hit the net more often, adding that a weight had clearly fallen from the player’s shoulders after his debut strike. Theodor Gebre Selassie and Jan Rezek also scored in Friday’s game, which left the Czechs third in Group B behind Italy and Bulgaria, who they face in Prague on Tuesday.
A group of Franciscan monks who were killed by a Prague mob in the 17th century were beatified in a ceremony at the city’s St. Vitus’ Cathedral on Saturday. The beatification – the first to take place in the Prague archdioceses, according to a representative of the Roman Catholic Church – accompanied a mass celebrated by the Vatican-based Cardinal Angelo Amato. Fourteen Franciscans were put to death at a Prague monastery in 1611 after the city’s inhabitants suspected them of collaborating with an invading army. The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Dominik Duka, said the killings had arisen as the result of a moral crisis in Europe and could therefore serve as a warning today.
After the counting of three-quarters of votes in regional elections in the
Czech Republic, the opposition Social Democrats are ahead in 10 of the 13
regions being contested. The Civic Democrats, who head the right-of-centre
Czech government, are so far topping the polls in one region, as are the
Mayors for Liberec Region group and the Communist Party. Prior to the
weekend’s elections, the Social Democrats held power in all 13 regions.
Prague is the only region where voting has not taken place. Voter turnout
reached 35.6 percent.
In terms of national breakdown per party with three-quarters of votes counted, the Social Democrats had received 24.2, the Communists 20.9 percent, the Civic Democrats 11.9 percent, the Christian Democrats 9.8 percent and TOP 09 6.3 percent.
Elections have also been held for one third of the seats in the Czech Senate. The Social Democrats are hoping to make up ground in the upper chamber, where they would enjoy an absolute majority if they capture three more seats. Constituencies in which no candidate receives more than 50 percent will see run-off votes between the two leading candidates next weekend.
Tomáš Berdych has been beaten by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of tennis’s Shanghai Masters. The Czech men’s number one lost 3–6 4–6 to the Serb, who has defeated Berdych in 10 of their 11 meetings to date. However, reaching the semi-finals in Shanghai for the first time could help the Czech – who is ranked seventh in the world – earn a berth at the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
The great Czech animator Břetislav Pojar died on Friday at the age of 89. In a career stretching back to the late 1940s, Mr. Pojar wrote and directed many short films in the puppet animation and stop motion animation styles. He emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, where his work for the Canadian Film Board won numerous awards. Those prizes included a Best Short Film Award at Cannes in 1972 for Balablok, which satirised armed conflict.
The police on Friday questioned Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek in connection with bribery charges raised against his deputy, Vladimír Šiška. Mr Šiška was arrested last week over alleged corruption related to an overpriced IT deal at the ministry. Minister Drábek, who said he would step down from his post at the end of the month because of the scandal, reiterated on Friday he believed in his deputy’s innocence.
In related news, the police warned on Friday that 12,000 litres of methanol-laced liquor were still unaccounted for. The head of the special police team investigation the methanol crisis, Václav Kučera, said only 3,000 litres of the deadly beverage had been found to date. Mr Kučera also appealed to the public to exercise caution when drinking spirits, and said he himself had been very careful in doing so since the outbreak of the crisis.
Polling stations opened across the country at 2 PM on Friday for Czechs to
vote in Senate and regional elections. Voters will choose assemblies in 13
of the country’s 14 regions – with the exception of Prague. Voting is
held in conjunction with elections to a third of the Senate. Polling
stations will close at 10 PM on Friday to reopen the next day between 8 AM
and 2 PM. Some 10 percent of the voters turned up in the course of first
few hours, the news agency ČTK reported.
At present, the opposition Social Democrats head governments in all the regions and look set to maintain much of that advantage. The elections are widely perceived as an indicator of public opinion on the government’s austerity drive.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6:3, 7:6 in the quarterfinal of the Shanghai Masters tournament on Friday and reached the event’s semifinals. The fourth-seeded Czech had a great serve in the match and only made few errors to wrap the game in one hour and 34 minutes. Another Czech player, Radek Štepánek, was knocked out of the tournament when he lost to third seed Andy Murray of the UK 4:6, 6:2, 6:3.
A 57-year-old man set himself on fire in front of a court building in Litoměřice, some 50 km northwest of Prague, on Friday evening, a police spokeswoman told the news website idnes.cz. The man was airlifted to a Prague hospital in serious condition, the spokeswoman said, adding the police were working to establish the motive of the man's action.
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