## Friday, February 15, 2013

### SSC Naples - Viktoria Pilsen

The soccer team in my hometown, FC Viktoria Pilsen (web), has already brought some quality moments to its fans in Pilsen, in Czechia, and beyond.

After decades in which it struggled on the boundary of the top Czech league and the next-to-top league, the team (now led by the new stellar coach, Mr Pavel Vrba) won the top Czech league two years ago (it was second on the following year) and showed the best Czech team results ever in the super prestigious UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

A year ago, they once played 2-2 against AC Milan, defeated Atlético Madrid two months ago, played as peers against FC Barcelona, the world's best team according to most soccer fans, and beat many teams that don't sound as luxurious as FC Barcelona but that were still expected to smoothly prevail. But last night, the level of joy that the Pilsner players may bring to their fans has been upgraded to a brand new level.

They played the first match (the rematch will take place in Pilsen next week) against SSC Naples. The winner of the bi-match will advance among the top 16 teams of the UEFA Europa League, the second most prestigious league on the continent. Based on the information below and no other data, infer and discuss your estimate for the final score last night.

Here are the data:
• among the 48 teams in the group stage of the league, Viktoria Pilsen has the lowest annual budget, around 5 million dollars
• the most expensive Slovak player of SSC Naples, Marek Hamšík, is more expensive than all the Pilsner players combined
• Naples is currently 2nd in the top Italian league (Serie A) which is qualitatively more renowned than the Czech league (where Pilsen is the current leader)
• Naples hasn't lost in UEFA matches played at home for nearly 20 years
• Naples hasn't lost a match in 2013 yet
• bookmakers set the odds for a Pilsner victory to 8-to-1 or so
• four Pilsner fans were attacked (and sort of stabbed) with knives in the Naples railway station
• one goal Pilsen scored was declared invalid due to some kind of offside situation that almost no viewers understood
• Naples fans were so sure that their team is playing an inferior foe that they only filled 1/4 of the Stadio San Paolo
• the Italian fans were showing "3-0" with their fingers to the Pilsner players, to indicate what they believed the final gift to Pilsen would be
• the Pilsner captain and others had the goal (before the match) to achieve a result that would preserve some chances for the rematch. This formulation meant that they only wanted to lose by a moderate score like 0-to-5 so that some Pilsner fans may still believe that the rematch will be 6-to-0 and Pilsen would advance
• SSC in SSC Naples usually stands for Superconducting Supercollider whose center-of-mass energy was supposed to be 40 TeV, i.e. 5 times higher than the LHC in 2012
• Naples has 1 million inhabitants, 6 times more than 170,000 who live in Pilsen
• there is a saying "to see Naples and die"
Fine. So what was the result? The Pilsner guys gave quite a lesson to the Italians, 3-to-0, just like the Italian fans expected – but with a wrong sign. ;-) Mount Vesuvius above the Italian city hasn't erupted for quite some time: they simply had to import an eruption from the Czech lands. The Czech team's players saw Naples and let it die. As you can see, expectations are one thing; reality is another thing. Dozens of arguments in favor of an expectation don't imply that the result has to be one of a particular kind; the consensus among arguments is irrelevant as long as each of these arguments is soft.

Pilsen started the match more actively. After 10 minutes or so, the forces were balanced but everything changed again around the 20th minute. Pilsen was better once again. After 28 minutes of the match, the 22-year-old emerging star of Pilsen Vladimír Darida (who may sometimes inherit the shoes of captain Pavel Horváth, the witty 37-year-old soccer player with the greatest buttocks in the world) scored a beauty.

At the beginning of the second period, the Naples coach finally realized the seriousness of the situation and sent the Slovak player Marek Hamšík, an ace of theirs, to the stadium because Cavani, another star, had clearly been neutralized throughout the first period. Suddenly, the pressure by the Italians seemed overwhelming. But the Czechs – well, we have four Slovaks in our team, not just one – were apparently super lucky in defense, destruction of the Italian tricks, and the goalie Matúš Kozáčik (one of the Slovaks in our team) remained flawless.

So despite the pressure, Pilsen could develop its own impressive projects. At some moment, František Rajtoral scored a goal. It would be the second goal by Pilsen – an impressive feat, we would think at that moment: imagine, 2-to-0 against Naples – and most viewers believed that the goal was legit. However, the referees evaluated it as some kind of off-side that depended on the Pilsner player's (David Kolář's) ability to reduce the efficiency of defense by a defense player of Naples. It sounds awkward, nevertheless the goal wasn't counted.

Rajtoral got kind of upset so some minutes later, he scored another goal, anyway. ;-) Captain Horváth realized that if this is how Rajtoral acts when he is angry, the referees should try to p*ss him off much more often. This second goal broke the resistance by Naples. Stanislav Tecl, a new hopefully elite forward hired by Pilsen a month ago, finally scored the third goal that humiliated Naples, too. Next week, Naples has to beat Pilsen by a 4-goal difference to advance. Unfortunately, it's not impossible but it may turn out to be hard. The Italian press has already abandoned the team and their chances to win the double match.

If Rajtoral's first shot were approved, Pilsen would have 100% efficiency (4 of 4) in its shots on the Italian goal. ;-) Sometimes things simply work.

In the same UEFA Europa League, Sparta Prague played Chelsea (with goalie Petr Čech who is also Czech) at home. The traditional, decade-long "best Czech team" lost 0-to-1. People were praising Prague for not being humiliated. However, one may easily see that much of this praise is lacking emotions. Everyone knows that Sparta is a mediocre, uninspired, defensive, alibistic, politically correct team in the international context, a team that is unlikely to truly excite you. It's Viktoria Pilsen that is able to stun the viewers by its courageous, combative game style and earn new fans well beyond the city borders of Pilsen.

Due to the recent successes in the international context, the Pilsner stadium – now called the Doosan Arena (across the Radbuza river from the Pilsner Urquell brewery; owned by the city; named after an industrial company that forked off Škoda Pilsen) – had to be extended and upgraded. It looks kind of pretty over there and the Pilsner fans are luxurious, indeed.

Oscar Pistorius' murder

Oscar Pistorius, the most worshiped South African athlete and amputee, probably murdered his girlfriend, a glamour supermodel, in the morning of the Valentine's Day. The early media reports stated that he thought the victim was a robber. It turned out that it was just a story backed by himself, not by police or any other official places. Reports of shouting in that home make it much more likely that he knew damn well whom he was shooting.

I don't know the motives and I am not making any official accusations but I do think it was a regular murder of the kind that not-so-famous people sometimes commit, too. Many people find it unthinkable because the image of Pistorius has been shaped into one of a moral authority. I think it's a silly media construction. The amputations make certain things hard but he was lucky – to a large extent, overcompensated – on many other fronts and difficult events in one's life just can't make him a universal saint in all respects. He was presented as a universal saint because many companies were making profit out of such an image but it has always been a man-made mirage of a sort, I think.

1. "showed the best Czech team results ever in the super prestigious UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League." That's not true, Sparta Praha made it 3 times to round of sixteen in the Champions League and Slavia Praha to semifinals in the UEFA cup (now renamed to Europa League).

2. OK, fair enough, so it should have been recently instead of "ever".

3. Great result for you!

Apropos which, I remember how utterly enjoyable it was to see Czechoslovakia beat CCCR at the icehockey world championship not long after the invasion. I almost had patriotic feelings for the wrong country, that time! ;-)

4. Right! And I almost had patriotic feelings at the wrong time, that time - because it was almost 5 years before I was born. ;-)

5. I'll have a look now! :-)

6. A brilliant result indeed! They're always entertaining it's become my favorite team to watch. Just a small correction: "FC Barcelona"

7. Ha ha Lumo,

denen habt ihr gezeigt wo Gott hockt :-D!

Cheers

8. Thanks, fixed!

9. Hi Lubos, I do not intend to burst your bubble. Obviously this is a great win for Pilsen and the team and their fans should be very happy about it. But Napoli (like many other big clubs) does not care about the Europa league. I don't know their line-up in yesterday's match, but I remember that they lost to PSV in the group stage, and everyone at PSV was complaining that Napoli never put up a fight. The money and prestige that comes with the EL is too little for big clubs to care. The fact that they are currently 2nd in the serie A is probably the reason they let their reserves play in the EL, because they want to rest their main players for the more prestigious and lucrative domestic league in which they are still competing for the top spot. If Napoli had played Pilsen in the Champions League I can assure you that the stadium would have been filled. So it is not their arrogance towards Pilsen, but their arrogance towards the EL. The UEFA has acknowledged this problem and is thinking of ways to make the EL more interesting for bigger clubs (for example to reserve a spot in the CL for the winner of the EL). Another example is that big clubs (Man. City this season) prefer to end 4th in the group stages of the CL, than to end 3rd. Third spot puts them in the knock-out stage of the EL, which only hurts their chances in for example the premier league.

Only around the semi-finals bigger clubs start to take the EL seriously. Big Spanish clubs like Athletico take it a bit more seriously, because it is their only chance for a prize. Domestically they have no chance to finish ahead of Barcelona.