One million crowns: that is how much the Czech national football team will have to pay as a fine for inappropriate conduct following the team's loss to Germany in a Euro 2008 qualifying match on Saturday. What apparently began as a meeting between players to discuss their disappointing loss at the team's hotel, turned into a party that lasted well into the early hours.
Saturday night ended badly enough for the Czech national side losing to Germany in their Euro 2008 qualifying match, but that didn't mean things couldn't quickly get worse. The next day a Czech tabloid broke the story that some players, including team captain Tomas Rosicky, had ignored rules on team behaviour and stayed up drinking into the early hours after the match. And that's not all: according to the report five players including Rosicky, Martin Jiranek, and Tomas Ujfalusi invited call girls to the hotel long after others had gone to bed. Team coach Karel Brueckner:
"The players have said one version of events, others have said other versions, I don't know which version I should believe and how things really happened. But either way their actions were inappropriate and it's difficult to excuse their behaviour. It'll probably take me a while to come to terms with it but now I have to think of facing Cyprus in our next match."
In reaction to the story, the players admitted their conduct was inappropriate at a press conference on Monday. But they also categorically denied soliciting the services of call girls. The Czech FA, for its part, has fined the team one million crowns (the equivalent of 50,000 US dollars) for inappropriate conduct. A little earlier I spoke to legendary former Czechoslovak international Antonin Panenka and asked him how he saw the incident.
"There are two ways of looking at it: on the one hand this kind of thing shouldn't happen but on the other, the players are only human. I don't think the incident should be blown out of proportion. A million crown fine was set, which is not that high, but far worse for the players is having their names mentioned in all of the papers. Most are married so they will probably have quite a bit of 'explaining' to do at home."
Some pundits worry that all the extra media attention could have a negative impact on the team's next match with Cyprus on Wednesday, which is now a must-win game following their defeat to Germany. But Antonin Panenka, for one, is confident that players will be able to pull it off.
"The match with Cyprus can be seen two ways: players will want to improve their reputations although there is a danger some won't be able to overcome the negative mood. But I personally think that once players come onto the pitch the burden will fall from their shoulders: I think they will be able to focus 100 percent on the match."
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