Friday, June 23, 2006

The Good Soldier Nedved

Pavel Nedved moves like a kill-crazy berserker across the pitch. Hard muscled, agile, fearless, mecurial, and dedicated to victory, Nedved is the battle-hardened soul of the Czech national team. He may look like a baby face off the pitch, but anyone who has watched him in motion knows that he's Ragnarok personified. His eyes reflect a deadly courage and determination that is, I'm sure, startling to behold in the midst of play. Pity the poor man who has Nedved storming down on him!

But not even Nedved's inspiring play and refusal to give up could sway the sometimes brutal Italian onslaught yesterday, a win that sent the Czechs packing for home and the Azzurri into the round of sixteen. After their defeat at the feet of Ghana, I still believed that the Czechs could pull through against Italy. Alas, the mighty Bohemians--who were missing due to injury Jan Koller, the player who headed in that thunderous first goal against a daunted and seemingly unprepared U.S. team in the first round of the World Cup--played a cracking good game for awhile, keeping the Italian squad confused and unable to control the rhythm. But when the Italians drew first blood, the Czechs lost their momentum and by the end, only Nedved continued to play as if the whole damn thing still mattered.

I was alert and prepared for a victorious morning for most of the first half, until that blasted first strike. Then, I found myself pulled back down into slumber. Much like Lisa, my dream life of late has been heavily footie oriented. And so I started dreaming about the match in progress...

Lynda and I were in the Czech Republic having a picnic lunch of sausage, cheese, and hearty bread upon a grassy hill somewhere in the country. There were people peppered around us, and most of them were either listening to the World Cup match on radios or intently watching on big widescreen televisions (black & white no less). I walked over to a family who were mesmerized by their side's outstanding performance and we all sat together shouting an equal measure of encouragements and curses at the respective teams. The next thing I remember is . . . well, there's no other way to describe it--I freaked out. Everyone was screaming, laughing, crying, and I with them. Lynda looked at me and asked why I was sobbing, but she immediately started as well, no longer needing a verbal explanation. When I woke up I was more than a bit confused by the real score confronting me--Italy 2, Czech Republic 0.

I watched the last couple of minutes or so with a desperate ache bleeding in me, my partisan emotions drowning in the certainty of defeat. And like the soccer masochist that I am, I rewatched the entire game later in the evening to see if I had missed something--I had; that awful image of the feral Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi skittering around Czech keeper Petr Cech in the 87th minute, delivering the killing blow. Brutal, brutal stuff. Only the image of a heroic yet exhausted Nedved, his eyes still defiant even though his body was reluctantly resigned to the nothingness of what awaited, eased my heartbreak a little.

The Czechs will be back, and though Nedved (and possibly Koller?) will not be part of the next national squad, the berserker's presence will always be felt. And with talent like the young Tomas Rosicky (who will be playing for Arsenal this season) gaining experience and fine-tuning his skills (though where were you against Ghana and Italy?!) in the Premiership and the Champions League, the Czechs will deliver much more than tears in four years.

1 comment:

sal said...

"with a desperate ache bleeding in me, my partisan emotions drowning"

aahhh, the beautiful game. isn't this little fix why we all do this, for better or worse? passion.

czech has a good squad and a decent tournament otherwise. i bleive you're right, we'll be seeeingn more fof them. thanks for the thoughts.