Happily hopping around their old ground of the Dolícek again, Prague’s ‘Kangaroos’ are on the up. Having returned to the top flight and stayed there (just), Bohemians 1905 have justified the faith fans put in them. When the club stood on the brink of collapse, fans paid part of the debts out of their own pockets, and challenged a rival Bohemians, FK Bohemians Prague, who had taken over the club’s legendary badge and colours.
Since fined, resigned to Letnany and currently in the fifth-flight Prague Division, FK’s demise must give as much satisfaction to ‘Bohemka’ followers as the revival of 1905.
The year 1905 refers to the foundation of the original club as AFK Vrsovice, in the same neighbourhood as Slavia Prague would later move to – although a ‘Kotva Vrsovice’ had been formed ten years earlier.
The key year came in 1927, when the club changed their name to Bohemians and set upon a legendary tour of Australia, returning with two kangaroos that they later donated to Prague Zoo. The animals, in turn, provided the green-and-whites with a badge and nickname.
Undergoing frequent name changes after the war – they played for nearly a decade as ‘Spartak Praha Stalingrad’ – the club continued to be based at the Dolícek, set in a little hollow surrounded by modest housing.
Shortly before the club switched names back to Bohemians, in 1957 the club took on a precocious nine-year-old junior: Antonín Panenka. This figurehead, later midfield player, rose through the ranks to make more than 200 appearances for ‘Bohemka’, famously dinking in a match-winning penalty in the final of Euro 76 for Czechoslovakia against Beckenbauer’s West Germany. It was a brash move Panenka had worked on for years at the Dolícek – and earned him a place in football history.
Currently the club chairman, Panenka left for a successful spell at Rapid Vienna shortly before Bohemians won their only title, in 1983. That same year, ‘Bohemka’ reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, their finest achievement in Europe.
A second title nearly arrived in 1985, albeit to be taken from the Kangaroos’ grasp when rumours of corruption had the authorities bring pressure to bear – and Sparta won the league on a better goals record.
Since then, attention was drawn to the annual Vrsovice derby games with Slavia – and the behind-the-scenes problems of ownership, finances and the Dolícek ground itself.
The crisis came in 2005 – exactly a century after Bohemka’s generally acknowledged formation – when insolvency cause the club to fall as far as the third flight.
Based at Slavia for five years and battling with FK Bohemians – later referred to as FK Bohemians Prague (Strízkov) for legal reasons – the newly named Bohemians 1905 made it back to the top flight only to drop down again in 2012. They have since returned to the top flight – and stayed there. Their fans never lost faith – nor did the Dolícek lose its charm.
Playing at a simple pitch by the Vrsovice Tesla factory since 1914, set up by local trades unions, ‘Bohemka’ became a victim of their own popularity following the Australian tour of 1927. With Bohemians attracting crowds bigger than the maximum of 6,000, union chief Zdenek Danner decided to have a new stadium built, opened in 1932, first known as Danneruv after him.
Later known as Dolícek (‘Dimple’) after the dip in the ground it was set in, this remains one of those classically quaint Czech grounds that warm the heart of any football romantic.
Holding an all-seated 7,500 and still with only one main stand, ‘The Dimple’ is surrounded by the grey landscape of Vrsovice, Prague 10. A huge billboard for a nearby residential redevelopment may point to changes in the air, but for the time being, the Dolicek looks more or less how Panenka and players would have seen it in the 1970s.
The only change is in the seating arrangement – done out in the club colours of green and white, the Dolícek was revamped several times over the last decade, reducing the capacity from over 15,000 as more seats were installed.
The main stand, accessed through Gate 1 on Vrsovická by the tram stop, contains the club shop and museum. Gate 2 on the corner of Vrsovická and Sportovní allows access for away fans in the D sector behind the south (‘Jizni’) goal. The home goal, sector B, is accessed further up Sportovní through Gate 3.
The Dolícek is set by the Oblouková tram stop on line Nos. 6 and 24, five stops from IP Pavlova (line C) or seven from Námesti Miru (line A) metro stations. Slavia is only two tram stops away.
There are pre-match ticket offices by each of the three gates or tickets are sold in advance at the club shop. Prices are set at a simple Kc150 for the main stand, Kc90 everywhere else. Tickets are also available online through Ticket Portal.
In the main stand just inside Gate 1, the Fan Shop (Mon-Wed, Fri 11am-5pm, Thur noon-6pm, match days) sells toy kangaroos, a Czech-language account (with photographs) of Bohemians’ Australian tour of 1927, and copies of club magazine/programme ‘Klokan’, ‘The Kangaroo’.
The Bohemians Museum stands just along from the Fan Shop in the main stand, with a players’ hall of fame on the wall outside, and archive videos within. Opening hours are irregular.
Naturally, the Dolícek is surrounded by bars. The nearest and most suitable is U Tri Soudku, opened in 1934 on the corner of Vrsovická and Sportovní shortly after the Dolícek itself. Posters on the wall testify to the ‘Save the Dolícek’ campaign successfully waged by local regulars, complementing the shirts and pennants in green and white. Pilsner Urquell, Bráník, Svijansky Máz, Svijansky Kvasnicak and unfiltered Staropramen beers can be accompanied by the house speciality of chicken Vrsovice-style (Kc89). There’s a TV screen in the corner if Bohemians happen to be playing away that day.
At Orelská 4, U Bohemky is of similar ilk, while the Kozlovna bar/restaurant opposite Gate 3 on Sportovní can trace its history back to 1874.
On main Vrsovická, on the other side of the tram tracks from the stadium, you’ll find the Club Bohemka at No.44 and, at the corner of K Botici, the Eva Bistro, part corner shop, part local bar.