As cult as it gets, named after a battle won by the Red Army in the Carpathian Mountains in 1944, Dukla are the quintessential army side of the Communist era. Iron-Curtain mystique helped them become fearsome competitors in Europe, while state support brought the best players in the country for Dukla to dominate at home.
Celebrated by Birkenhead indie band Half Man Half Biscuit in the song ‘All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’, the Dejvice club have become a top-flight outfit again after post-89 collapse and a long-running merger saga.
In 1948, half the dominant squad of Slavia Prague was sent to the newly formed army side, ATK, later Dukla. The club could draft any potential star, such as later European Footballer of the Year Josef Masopust from Technomat Teplice in 1952.
ATK won their first title in 1953, then, as Dukla, in 1956. They went on to take six more up to 1966. In Europe, Dukla beat the Busby Babes of Manchester United 1-0 at home in 1957, and the double-winning Spurs side by the same scoreline in 1962. Dukla made it through to the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1967, losing to eventual winners Celtic.
Quite incongruously, every summer Dukla would also compete in lucrative tournaments in New York, the players training in Central Park, taking on the likes of Everton, before returning to the institutional landscape of Dejvice, Prague 6.
Another wave of success came in the mid 1970s, when goalkeeper Ivo Viktor and right-winger Zdenek Nehoda, both Czech heroes of Euro 76, helped them to more silverware.
Dukla fell from grace almost immediately after 1989. Heading for bankruptcy, Dukla were playing in front of three-figure crowds when entrepreneur Bohumir Duricko bought second-division FC Pribram for their second-division status. In 1996 Dukla were subsumed into the club 40 miles south-west of Prague, playing at the riverside Na Litavce ground in Pribram where they had played a number of European games in the 1960s.
The Dukla-Pribram saga took many a twist and turn. Dukla regained top-flight status in 1997 and made the Czech cup final but the new ownership ran aground of the army officialdom that still managed the old Dukla ground in Dejvice. Dukla became FC Dukla, Dukla Pribram, then FK Marila Pribram. The current 1.FK Pribram maintain a top-flight presence in the Czech league, though relegation looks assured.
Meanwhile, league football was still being played in Dejvice, and at the Juliska stadium – by Dukla Dejvice. Stepping out in Dukla’s famed yellow and red, this local team formed in 1959 were carrying on the Dukla tradition. While playing in the Prague league, the club improved their status overnight when their management took over the ailing Jakubcovice in 2007, then in the Czech second division.
After four years, the new FK Dukla Prague won the Czech second division, bringing top-flight football back to the fearsome, Stalin-era Juliska for 2011-12. Dukla have since put in solid league campaigns but their European days seem a thing of the past.
Set atop a very steep (prepare yourself!) flight of steps up from the main road of Podbabská, the Stadion Juliska echoes the period it was built in. The pitch surrounded by a running track, this Soviet-era relic enjoys a commanding view over an area of Prague that was once dominated by the military.
Equally steep is the main West Stand, ringed by modest, uncovered terracing and the paraphernalia of track and field. Spots of Dukla yellow and red offset the monotone grey.
Even in Dukla’s glory days, such was Juliska’s modesty, the club would play home legs at the Strahov, Slavia or even Pribram, where they later moved.
Today, the Juliska remains bereft of main features, apart from a plaque to Dukla Olympians inside the lobby, where souvenirs (cf Half Man Half Biscuit) are available.
From Dejvická, at the end of green metro line A, take bus Nos.107, 116, 147 or 160 (two stops), or tram No.8 (four stops), to Podbaba. The stadium is way, way up Pod Juliskou via a steep staircase.
Modestly priced tickets are available at from the club offices, or online through Ticket Portal – slightly more expensive for the roofed main stand (‘krytá tribuna’ than the ‘nekrytá’.
Just inside the lobby of the main entrance, a modest number of souvenirs – mugs, pennants, scarves, shirts – are displayed on a shelving unit. A long price list is also displayed by the main desk.
On the main roundabout square, Vitezné námesti, by Dejvická metro station you’ll find the neat Kulaták Pilsner bar/restaurant, with its historic beer posters.
By the tram stop near the ground is the Restaurace Pod Juliskou shows its recent trendification.
At the stadium, down the stairs below the lobby and by the changing rooms, at a little serving hatch surrounded by Alpine scenes and Dukla team line-ups, you can order Kc10 bread-and-dripping, Kc7 tea and Kc8 Tatranka chocolate wafers.