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Viktoria (Plzeň) head coach Pavel Vrba: How Czech Barcelona was created

It was the match vs CSKA, the last one for Pavel Vrba as the coach of Viktoria. Czech football Union declared him to be the new mentor of the national team. The negotiations lasted for a long time and at some moment it started to seem that they would result in nothing: the coach didn’t want to part, just so simply like that, with the team, which has been taught by Vrba himself to think only about wins. And still he did sign. After all, his way to the select team was long and difficult: the first match held by Vrba as a head coach, Baník Ostrava lost the match to Slavia 0:7, 10 years ago ...

It’s hard to leave Viktoria

— As early as three years ago just few people in Russia knew about Viktoria. Now you are leaving the team, which has played twice in the group stage of the Champions League, having you as its coach. What especial things have been done with it by Pavel Vrba? Indeed, Victoria in those times was quite another in comparison with today...
— Absolutely. It was an average club which could hardly get a higher place than 11-12. The owner of that time, of course, wanted to see attractive football and results, but the financial standing of Viktoria was far from being ideal. Approximately year and a half we had difficulties, but managed to win the Cup, having finished the season as 5th. At that time the situation began stabilizing. The former owner, let us say, disappeared, the new head appeared, and the club managed to attain the incredible results within three years. We have become an aggressive competitor to Sparta, moreover, for several seasons. We have not had it for a very long time.

— Maybe even not this fact is important, but rather that circumstance that small Czech Republic, which is far from top-football, has acquired a club with its denominated style, which they even have started comparing with Barcelona. What one should have done for it, considering that your financial possibilities differ considerably from those of the catalans?
— And even from those of Russia! (Smiling). If I tell you what our budget is, you will think that one can maintain solely the third league club at such money in Russia. Thanks God, that we do not have to fly to matches yet, and we do not spend money to relocations, as your clubs do. Viktoria can’t allow making high salaries. The family atmosphere in the club has always been, I dare say, our advantage, which fascinated both the players, and coaches. The relations inside Viktoria — are particularly that thing which withholds our football players from transition to foreign clubs, regardless of the fact, that they have always the proposals. I know that there are few such places in Europe where the players can gather all together after a match with their families and celebrate the victory. Plzeň — is a case in point. And when our football player is asked whether he wants to risk and try his fortune abroad — very few agree to leave this team.

— Did your best dribbler Milan Petržela refuse struggling for a position in Augsburg for this reason? Did Pavel Horváth decide to finish the career at your club therefore?
 (Laughing) How long will Pavel help Viktoria — it’s an age-related question, he is already 38. Far not everywhere they will continue trusting to a player with such age. And then he is very lucky to have avoided serious traumas. The example may be likely David Limberský — he has gone a long time ago, but, as you can see, he has stayed afloat still. As to Petržela — I agree. He played a year in the Bundesliga, then understood that everything had been quite other there, he didn’t play practically. But he came scarcely to Plzeň, he again acquired his from and now he acts on the field as before.

— Playmaker Vladimír Darida, however, has not stayed afloat. It’s possibly due to the fact that he has come to Freiburg, Viktoria has not managed to get any point yet in the Champions League. What does a coach feel, who has been withheld the most precious player prior to the very closing of a transfer window?
— Well, it’s a fate of any regional club. We seek the best players for us, and then one withholds these best players from us. Each year somebody left us: Pilař, Petržela, at present, Darida. They get the proposals which are interesting for them, but, by the way, Viktoria as well derives a benefit from their leave. After all we put a stake at our youngsters, and it means that we earn for sales. It’s all the same impossible to compete with the Germans in the financial aspect. We have arranged with Darida for a very long time that we would give him an opportunity to leave upon the completion of the preliminary competitions of the Champions League. Unfortunately, immediately after his move to Germany he got an injury and then attained a sports form for a very long time. I’m sure, however, that he will help Freiburg yet, and, I assure you, that the Germans, while buying Vladimir, saw a profitable investment for themselves. This player may be resold for bigger money, than he was bought from us.

— And what does it mean?..
— ...that Viktoria, while selling a player, includes always in a contract a clause on interest from a subsequent resale. That’s right.

— Consequently, Plzeň buys into scouting?
— We cannot buy into it to the full meaning of this word. We have concentrated upon the nearest regions — Czechs and Slovakia. Besides that, our new comers don’t have any difficulties with the language barrier, and the set of mind of the Czechs and Slovaks is approximately the same. Such selection suits us but we don’t solve any adaptation-related problems of foreigners.

— You have made a competition to Sparta namely in scouting. In essence, Viktoria now takes everybody it wants.
— It’s true that earlier we could rely only on free agents, since we didn’t have money at all. At some period of time we managed to strengthen the membership, having invited those players, who had had the finished contracts abroad, and who, for example, recovered after a serious injury. Now we are capable of paying certain money for a young talent, but you, in Russia, will, for sure, find this sum miserable (Laughing).

— Since in Russia all the sums seem miserable, why Viktoria should not sell its players for our clubs?
— We have always the proposals from Russia, and Darida had them. He has just chosen Germany. Actually, a drawback of the Russian League may be that fact that it’s to some extent apart from the European Party of Five, which everybody strives to join. Besides that, Darida from Freiburg can go home by car to Plzeň, and your clubs are scattered through the entire country and one should fly several hours. Nevertheless, Russia has made a huge progress lately, especially in the financial aspect.

Where from Czech Barcelona appeared

— Please tell straightly: have you ever seen at least one match of the Russian championship?
— I watch different football, but I do have an idea of the Russian clubs first and foremost judging by the Champions League. I watch Zenit, for example, because Tomáš Hubočan plays there, who had been by me in Žilina, and he was sold to Saint Petersburg as well as by me. For the obvious reasons I have seen many matches of CSKA, among the championship of Russia I saw at least 4 matches. In the friendly matches at the training camps we played with Spartak, Krasnodar ...

— Have you compared your team with them?
— It’s clear that Spartak refers to the top-clubs with big opportunities. As far as such teams as Krasnodar are concerned, I believe that Viktoria is ready to play with them absolutely on pari passu basis; usually these are the details which decide everything in the matches of such rivals.

— Let us speak about Hubočan. Indeed, you have invited him to Žilina, haven’t you?
— Yes, I saw him playing for Zlaté Moravce. He is so hard-working boy, a true bulldog; it stroke my eye at once. One can’t say that Tomáš is a good creative expert but in a defense he fulfills all his tasks at one hundred percent. By his potential, Hubočan outperformed the requirements of Slovak League, and I was surprised that he got an offer from Zenit so soon. He is probably satisfied, otherwise he would have 6 seasons in Saint Petersburg...

— In Plzeň Marek Bakoš plays also. He played in Russia for Shinnik and no one remembered him for anything. But now he is — in the Champions League. Incredible!
— It goes without saying that the competition in the Russian League in a struggle for places in the champions League is much higher, than at our place, accordingly, certain players have more difficulties in asserting themselves.

— And you had Russian player Roman Adamov. Were you not afraid to let him join your team, especially after Alexander Prudnikov, to say the least of it, had shown himself not so successfully in Sparta?
— We took Adamov, hoping that he would become at once the basic player. But he came out of form, he had to work for a long time at the physical form. When it seemed that Roman would start playing in a little while, he got a injury. Undoubtedly, he was a real shooter, very dangerous near the rival goal. But from the other hand, we are neither Spartak, nor CSKA, nor Zenit, and we can’t allow playing exceptionally on attack — each player must both attack and defend. And Adamov had certain problems with the defensive play; he preferred to concentrate upon the rival’s frame. It was some kind of a problem, with the assumption that Roman had had no difficulties in the team. But if one employs a foreigner the latter must at once assert him. Therefore we haven’t extended the contract.

— For all that, please confess finally: where from has Viktoria acquired nickname «Czech Barcelona»?
 (Laughing) Probably, we have really changed a bit football in Czech Republic. Earlier they believed that one must win obligatory in motherland, and when somebody got some points away — it was a miracle. Now the psychology has changed a little. If you look at Sparta, Liberec and even Jablonec and Mladá Boleslav, you will understand that these clubs are aimed at winning away as well. And when the players don’t just kick away, but seek an opportunity to join on attack, to produce chances, football becomes more entertaining. But one should not call us «Czech Barcelona». Yes, we try to play combinational football, but this is not the philosophy of Viktoria (Plzeň), but rather a trend of the entire Europe — to create, instead of wagering on a case.

Text: Ivan Zhidkov


Pavel Vrba says about that how to become a coach in Czechia

I will have to deepen a bit in history, for you to understand how lucky I’m. In Baník (Ostrava) I began working from the lowest categories, with the youngest ages and passed all the development stages of the trainer’s career. It has become my advantage — no one may tell, that I hanged up my boots and got at once the top division team under management. Now many people try to get the senior coach position, a top and noticeable appointment, as soon as possible, but that grassroots work helps a person throughout the duration of the entire career, though it seems often ungrateful. The second important stage of the establishment — is the work as an assistant. I have also passed the test by this role in Ostrava to the full extent. The third stage... It just happened that Baník didn’t want to extend a contract with me and I felt as if I had been thrown to water and I was told: «Come out». I was proposed to go to Slovakia and to head Pukhov. Two years there were difficult: sponsors lost gradually an interest to football, the club didn’t have money. I was lucky that the senior managers of Žilina had paid attention to me. It’s an ambitious club, which always sets high objectives in Slovakia, and the President gave me a chance. And just then my career followed a more successful suit. Once we won the championship, then took the second place... The President acted in a very interesting way during the third year: we tied the game in motherland, with Levski in the play-off round of the Champions League, and he decided — if there had been a chance to qualify for a group stage, one needed to encourage the team and substitute the trainer. Well, Žilina won in the away game already without me, and I went to Plzeň. Wherefore I absolutely don’t feel pity now.


    • Champion of Slovakia (Žilina), 2006/07
      • Champion of Czech Republic (Viktoria, Plzeň), 2010/11, 2012/13
      • Cup winner of Czech Republic (Viktoria, Plzeň), 2009/10
      Super Сup Winner of Czech Republic (Viktoria, Plzeň), 2011
      Trainer of the Year, in Czech Republic: 2010, 2011, 2012
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