Do what the locals do and see the Slavia - Sparta derby!


Zuzi and I love to travel and do "local stuff" when we get to our destination, and one of the goals of Taste of Prague is to help you do the same when you visit Prague and give you some tips for truly local experiences. So what can you do when you are in Prague in about a month's time? Easy - go see the Sparta - Slavia football derby!

The Sparta - Slavia rivalry is more than 100 years old. The first "Prague derby" game, which was the first official game of football (soccer) in Bohemia, was played on 29 March 1896. Since then, Sparta and Slavia met on the pitch in 275 championship games, Sparta winning 127 times, Slavia 85 times, and the rest of the matches ending with a tie.

Now if you ask me, the premise of the Prague derby is quite clear - it's a fight between good and evil. Sparta, of course, represents evil, the dark side. The "iron" Sparta (nicknamed the "Reds" for the color of their jerseys) is similar to the Yankees in US baseball - the richest, somewhat arrogant club that is always the favorite to win the Czech title. It is quite ironic in this context that Sparta has always been considered the working class club.

On the other hand, Slavia, the oldest Czech football club, has been the underdog for most of the past century. It was a club hated by the Communists for its ties to the middle class and possibly to the elite. The Communist regime nearly killed Slavia. It stripped it of its original stadium at the Letná plain and, to add insult to injury, built the new Sparta stadium near its vicinity, moving Slavia to another district of Prague. Slavia players are called the "red and whites" or the "stitched-togethers", both names describing their jerseys.

To make the picture complete, there are two other major football clubs in Prague. The Bohemians are club with a strong following (their nickname "the Kangaroos" dates back to the club's tour of Australia in the 1920s where they received two live kangaroos as a gift), while the Dukla has made a great comeback recently - it used to be the best Czech club in the 1950s and the 1960s as a covert under-21 team (it was a military club and all the players that were drafted had to play for Dukla instead of their mandatory 2-year service in the army).

Anyway, the next Sparta-Slavia derby is played on 26 March at 6:00 pm at the Slavia stadium in the Vrsovice district (use the 7, 22 or 24 tram lines and get off at the "Slavia" station to get to the stadium). The "Eden" stadium is a modern arena for more than 20,000 built about five years ago. Security is of no concern unless you buy the tickets behind either the goals (the Southern or the Northern stand - that's where the tough fans are seated) and arrive wearing the wrong team's jersey. No violence occurs during the games - the stadium has a comprehensive camera surveillance system and violent fans can be banned for life.

The upcoming derby really stirs things up in terms of the Sparta-Slavia rivalry. Slavia's manager used to be a die-hard Sparta player and a popular Sparta manager some five years ago before he was sacked from the team. Now he has switched sides and leads the Slavia bench, facing the hatred of both Slavia and Sparta fans. This will be the first Sparta-Slavia game with his involvement on the Slavia side. Be prepared to see the fans react to his arrival, probably with some funny, maybe mocking, response.

The tickets can be bought beforehand at any of the Ticketpro points of sale and will cost somewhere between EUR 10 and EUR 30 depending on the location of the seats in the stadium. Wear something warm - although all the seats are covered by the stadium's roof, it may still get quite chilly on the stands.

So see you there on 26 March! (Rooting for Slavia, of course...)