Antonin Panenka scarves and other Czech things

It’s likely I’ll be leaving the Czech Republic in about eight months. Plenty of time, I know, but it means that my stint here is (likely) more than halfway over. And while I’ve made peace with that, doing so has made me realize that there’s a lot about this place that’s kind of familiar now. Little things that I wouldn’t have picked up on a year ago.

For example, last Saturday I was at the pub. As I poured down a pint of Pilsner, I noticed something incredibly familiar on the wall. It was a Mark Messier Rangers jersey. “That’s kind of cool,” I thought, especially for a Canadian in Prague. But then next to that Messier jersey hung an Antonin Panenka football scarf – complete with a picture of the man himself, along with the moustache that guided a nation to victory.

I liked the fact that, for no reason other than living here for a year and a half, I know who Panenka is, what he did, and why he hasn’t had to buy a meal in the Czech Republic since the seventies. It made me appreciate some of the more trivial bits of Czech culture that I’ve been exposed to out here.

The fact that I’ll be leaving soon-ish made me want to try something. So, for the month of September I’m going to do my best to find one “Czech thing” every couple of days. On a good day it may be something unique like the aforementioned Panenka scarf. On off-days it could be something as subtle as a Pilsner in the park. Who knows and that’s the fun of it.

For those who’ve made it this far and are too lazy to Wiki, I’ll give you the idiots guide to Panenka and why he was important: In the final match of Euro 1976 he scored the clinching goal with a ballsy penalty kick against West Germany to give the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) their first (and only) major football title. Since then, he’s been a national hero in these parts. For my hoser brethren out there, consider him a Czech Paul Henderson.

There is a lesson to be learned from all of this and it’s as follows: Great nations need heroes with great moustaches. Czech had Panenka. Canada had Lanny. And America has Ron Swanson.

Slobodan Milosevic? No moustache. Do the math.




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