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In the 70s of the last century, the famous tramp actor, comedian and musician Jaroslav Štercl, who excelled in encyclopedic knowledge, had a brief message for the representatives of the Czechoslovak national team: “How to win … (let’s place an opponent )?” The advice is not difficult. After all, you have a lion on your chest and a hedgehog behind your back!
Players with the king of animals in the national emblem on their chest honestly followed the instructions of the popular artist. During the period 1974-1976, they did not lose in a record 22-game series and became the leaders of the continent. The Spartan team, which won seven championship titles with him, did just as well.
Václav Ježek has become an immortal legend.
Originally from Slovakia
He was born on Monday October 1 in the town of Zvolen in central Slovakia. His father was from Bohemia, worked as a telegraph supervisor and found a wife in Slovakia. Little Václav played ball from the age of five. When he moved to Banská Bystrica with his parents and younger brother Miroslav, he played for local Slavia from the age of 11, where he was coached by Eduard Gosiorovský. In addition to football, he also trained in Sokol, where he played volleyball, handball, skiing and ski jumping in winter.
As a teenager in Slávia Banská Bystrica, he scored a lot of goals and had a promising football future ahead of him. From his early days he worked in the Baťa company, but his football activities declined. He attended classes in Zlín, cleaned, sold and repaired shoes. Later he returned to Zvolen and obtained a place in the House of Service. There wasn’t much time left for fun.
After the declaration of independence of the Slovak state on March 14, 1939, the family had to leave, but he was able to remain as an employee of the Baťa company. But only until the end of the year, he then settled in Brno, in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. This ends his Slovak period. He only returned to the east of the federation for football matches.
However, he never forgot his birthplace. “He spoke Slovak very well and, within the national team, he communicated with Slovak players, journalists and officials in their native language,” emphasizes Slovak publicist Tomáš Černák.
He has a plaque with his name on the Walk of Fame in his hometown of Zvolen. He is an unforgettable personality for a town of 40,000 inhabitants.
Beloved and successful Sparta
With a less than stellar reputation – until then he had only managed teams from lower competitions and youth teams – in 1963 he took over Sparta Prague, which was not part of the Czechoslovakian league decorations at the time. . Symbolically October 1, his fortieth birthday. But he only took over the team two months later, while he got to know the players and the environment.
He introduced new elements. Two-phase training, year-round training plan, physical tests, individual plans, establishment of a coaches council within the club. He took careful notes on each one. He was an excellent psychologist, he knew when to shout, when to caress, when to encourage.
But he got off to a great start: Letenský won the title the following year after 11 years. And two years later they added another one.
Then he went out into the world. “This is where he mainly matured,” emphasizes Zdeněk Sivek, a renowned Czech methodologist working for FIFA. “He knew other schools, he improved his languages, he learned to behave with famous players,” calculates the experience accumulated by Ježko. He also traveled abroad on other occasions.
He returned to Sparta in the 1980s and once again proved himself unique. He also knew how to navigate the complex tangle of political pressures in a totalitarian regime. But there was no cheating on the field. “He was constantly reading something and educating himself,” recalls one of his most famous students, Ivan Hašek.
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He angered Spartan fans when, after social changes in 1989, he became manager of rival Slavia together with Czech-American businessman Boris Korbel, when the foreign businessman failed to succeed to buy Sparta early.
They had big plans together, they intended to create a financially strong club at European level, but the time was not yet right for that. The Slavic project failed, and the Spartans eventually forgave the beloved coach for his “betrayal.”
He is also a legend of the Leten club.
He trained the masters
In 1972, he took charge of the national team, which was going through a very difficult period. The explosion during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, the coming normalization, the decline in performance. He honestly and patiently built a team that eventually ruled the continent – in 1976 they became European champions.
His methods were effective and above all pleasant for the players. “He created the mood,” recalls Antonín Panenka, author of the Vršovice dlobák, which brought the ultimate joy in the final penalty shootout in 1976. “Together with assistant Jozef Vengloš, they hummed to us an intelligent and friendly manner. There was a lot of sitting time and little training. At the training camp in the Tatras we were getting fit, we always went somewhere, did a few sprints, otherwise it was mostly fun “, adds striker Zdeněk Nehoda. “The penalties were thrown, we had a friend here and there… It was after the season and he was more likely to prepare us so that we were comfortable and tactically tempered,” he praises. approach of the coach even with the passage of time. .
The journey was huge. In the qualifying group, the English and Portuguese were eliminated, in the quarterfinals the incredibly strong at that time Soviet Union, in the semifinals in Zagreb they were humiliated by the Dutch with their total football and triple Ballon d’Or Johan Cruyff, during the final in Belgrade, the world champions were the players from the Federal Republic of Germany, led by “the emperor” Franz Beckenbauer.
- Born October 1, 1923, elected August 27, 1995, Prague
- Playing career: Slávia Banská Bystrica – youth, SK Jaroměř, Dvur Králové nad Labem, SK Úpice, Spartak Hradec Králové
- Coaching career: Tatran Liberec (1953-1956), Jiskra Liberec (1956-1957), Lokomotiva Česká Lípa (1957-1959), Dukla Prague – juniors (1959-1963), Sparta Prague (1963-1969), ADO Den Haag / Netherlands (1969 –1972), Czechoslovak national team (1972-1978), Feyenoord Rotterdam / Netherlands (1978-1982), Sparta Prague (1983-1984), FC Zurich / Switzerland (1984-1986), Sparta Prague (1986- 1988, 1990-1991), Czechoslovak national team (1993)
- Achievements: European champion 1976, six times champion of the Czechoslovak league
He always knew how to prepare the team. “He had a great talent for observation,” Nehoda recalls. “He saw the opponent and immediately knew exactly what to say to the player. Look, you’re played by so-and-so, 90 percent of the time he’ll indicate he’s going right, then he’ll loop to the left. He was precise,” appreciates Ježek’s ability to read the opponent.
When the last qualification of the federal team for the passage to the 1994 World Cup in the United States went badly, he sat on the bench for the last duels in place of the recalled Milan Máčala. It gave hope, but it was extinguished by a goalless draw in Belgium.
He did not experience the World Championship as a coach, but only as an expert observer. He was 71 years old and still showed incredible vitality. But a year later he left earthly life rather unexpectedly.
He remained indelibly written in the chronicle of the national team, no one else achieved such success.
His legacy lives on. A football tournament – the Václav Ježek Memorial, organized since 1994 for national youth team selections – also bears his name. This year’s winner is the Czech under-18 team, led by coach Aleš Křeček, who left behind the teams of Switzerland, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and Slovakia.
The Czech team triumphed after eight years.
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