Apologies to The Smiths and Tim Jones for the title; take it as flattery, boys.
Spring is here! There are seagulls wheeling in the air of our landlocked country, the first dandelions are flowering, and this weekend we saw the first mosquito of the season. Another surefire sign is that the Czech football season has started again after its long winter break, so off we went in the sunshine with 11,000 other optimists to watch our local team, Sigma Olomouc, play Moravian arch-rivals Baník Ostrava in the top flight of the Czech Gambrinus Liga.
Following Sigma is like being a fan of most teams, I suppose; the odd moment of joy but for the most part it’s like being trapped in a bad marriage with no possibility of a divorce. They used to qualify for the UEFA Cup now and again a few years ago, but this season they are fighting relegation. Like with many provincial clubs, all their best players sooner or later move on to bigger or richer teams. Some of them are in the Bundesliga, others in
Baník (means ‘miner’, but funnily enough not in Czech but in Slovak) are a big-city side with a big-city following. Their followers have a strong hooligan reputation; their only serious rivals for the title of the most incorrigibly wild fans in the land are the ones who support Sparta Prague. Yesterday they turned up in strength and easily outsang and outchanted the home supporters, who are a pretty hopeless bunch when it comes to that kind of thing. The situation repeated itself on the pitch, where, especially in defence, Sigma played like bears who hadn’t really fully woken up from their long hibernation and lost 3-1. I doubt if they’ll go down – there are enough teams below them who are even worse – but it’s easy to see there are going to be more than a few hairy moments before the end of the season. Maybe I should concentrate more on getting the garden in order instead…