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On the penultimate day of August, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev died at the age of 91. In the times of a bipolarly divided world, one of the two most powerful men on the planet, from the position of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the ruler of the Soviet Union and adjacent satellites, which included socialist Czechoslovakia, in which I was born.
For myself, I can recall what I perceived as a boy. The eternally frowning, arrogant and sullen look and tone of Leonid Brezhnev, who sent occupying tanks into Czechoslovakia in 1968, was replaced by a visibly different person after two quick deaths of other Kremlin gerontocracy apparatchiks.
In 1985, the then 54-year-old Gorbachev became the head of the economically withering empire. He appeared more benign and talked about reforms. In the Eastern Bloc, where until then the word “reform” was persecuted.
In the ossified Czechoslovakia, the Jakešov leadership did not give any meaning to the bandied word “perestroika”, but the loosening of the hoops and the warming of relations with the West ultimately led to the disintegration of the totalitarian empire, including its satellites, and subsequently to democratization processes.
And why am I writing about it in a sports newsletter? Because, of course, great history is reflected in it too.
The tensions of the early 1980s and Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan prompted the American boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Athletes from Canada, West Germany, Japan or China did not travel to the Games either. And four years later, the Eastern Bloc did not go to rematch again at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. With the exception of Romania and Yugoslavia.
Those who did not go to America for the Olympic medals could compete in the Pasquale concoction event called Druzhba 1984.
A year later, Gorbachev appeared and these fights stopped on the sports field. To highlight the improving relations between East and West, the Goodwill Games were even created, a kind of small Olympics, organized by Ted Turner, the owner of CNN, based on his personal relations with Gorbachev and, of course, his more open foreign policy.
The first Goodwill Games were held in 1986 in Moscow, ten years after the last competition between the Soviet and American representatives at the Olympic Games. 3,000 athletes participated, which was about half the number of the “normal Olympics”. Turner lost $26 million on the event, but still managed four more summer sequels and one winter.
A sadly unforgettable event of that time was the Peace Race in 1986. For many years, this cycling event took place between Prague, Berlin and Warsaw. And just for the year 1986, someone thought that it would start in Kyiv.
By a crazy coincidence, the race was supposed to start there 10 days after the accident of the nuclear power plant in nearby Chernobyl. And he started too, with half the width of the peloton than normal. The Italians, Belgians, Dutch and many others stayed at home because they received quality information about how dangerous the radioactive cloud that hung in the air over Ukraine was.
Czechoslovak competitors learned at home that it is not so terrible. And they started. I still remember how Jozef Regec and Senegambin Gambold from Mongolia circled the streets of Kyiv on the run. I would say that Regec’s yellow jersey of the leader of the standings was definitely not worth the exposure.
In the case of Chernobyl, Gorbachev did not deny the school of his predecessors. At first he hid the accident from the whole world and then shamelessly downplayed its consequences.
On the other hand, everything in the overall context could have gone and turned out much worse. If a “hawk” had stood at the head of the USSR instead of Gorbachev, he could have faced the crisis and the collapse of the empire by force and other military interventions, even with the use of nuclear weapons.
I understand that it seems to many today like a distant topic and pages from history. But I was born in Turnov, where there was a barracks with a Red Army military garrison. Many times I have seen the movement of convoys with huge tractors, carrying large cigar-shaped objects, drawn by a tarpaulin. Missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads paraded quite often under our windows, in which the tables clattered.
This power could be used against anyone, including the Velvet Revolution. Incidentally, one of the sporting harbingers of new, better times were the two Prague matches of the Czechoslovak hockey team against the Calgary Flames in September 1989.
The Canadian team, for which Jiří Hrdin also played (legally), stopped here on their way to tour the USSR, where the Washington Capitals team with (emigrant) Michal Pivoňka was also headed. Czechoslovak Television also broadcast the first games of NHL teams in the USSR. Even so slowly, the ice broke. And thanks to Gorbachev.
The collapse of the eastern evil empire was certainly not his goal. But in my eyes, it definitely turned out well this way. And in the face of Putin’s current threats, we find out how we enjoyed three wonderful decades of peace and freedom here. Before the Russian bear had a bad sleep again and woke up.
Magician of the week: Josef Jindřišek
He never played for the national team. Neither adult nor youth. He has never tasted the atmosphere of European cups for himself. He didn’t even score many goals, in 18 first league seasons he blew the opponent’s goalkeeper’s net twenty-four times.
And yet, Josef Jindřišek became a legend, not only from the point of view of the supporters of Bohemians 1905, for which he has been playing since 2009, in recent years, of course, with the captain’s armband.
Every number is, of course, “just” a number. But this is respectable. Last weekend, Josef Jindřišek scored his 400th first league start in the duel with Sparta.
In the history of domestic football, he is the 23rd fighter who managed to achieve such a number. And he has already started to attribute starts to others.
You could see a more honest worker in the league. After all, at the age of 41, even in the jubilee duel with Sparta, he had the most mileage of all.
Josef Jindřišek certainly did well when, following an agreement with the club’s management, he extended his career in the summer and did not return as a trained plumber to, for example, stretch pipes. There is still plenty of time for that. He still belongs on the league turf.
Hits of the week
The sentence against Pelta was overturned. Some time ago, the municipal court in Prague sent the former head of Czech football, Miroslav Pelta, to a prison with security for 6 years. And that in the context of the case of sports subsidies. Pelta and other actors in the case then appealed. And based on that, the Supreme Court in Prague has now annulled the verdict and sent the case back for a new hearing. My colleague Radek Nohl described everything in more detail.
EuroBasket is here. The main star of the biggest domestic sports event of the year is Tomáš Satoranský, until recently an NBA player, who, despite an injured ankle, will apparently play at the EuroBasket tournament in Prague’s O2 arena.
Nedved’s fifty. We celebrated the anniversary of the best Czech football player of the last half century with his profile.
Pilsen magic. Thank you for the invitation to the 5:59 podcast, in which we searched for the magic of successful football in Pilsen.
Against the giants. And in my home podcast Nosiči vody, my colleagues and I discussed, among other things, Pilsen’s chances in the qualitatively very charged group of the Champions League.
Tweet of the week
Watch how Betis Sevilla fans warm up before the match. Splendor!
What they hit elsewhere
New owner in Vary. Surprisingly for many, businessman Dušan Šenkypl took charge of the Karlovy Vary hockey club. In the past, together with a colleague from the Pale Fire Capital investment group, Jan Barta, he was involved in sports through the epojiesteni brand, which sponsored the football league. (sports)
Křetínského’s company is in trouble. Waste company AVE CZ is being prosecuted for alleged tax evasion. According to the investigators, the damage was 2.3 billion crowns. The owner of the prosecuted company is Daniel Křetínský, president of football Sparta, and the managing director is Dušan Svoboda, vice president of Sparta and head of the League Football Association. (folk songs)
Stadium of dreams. Take a look The pitch removal system at Real Madrid's renovated stadium is unbelievable 🤯
, how the Real Madrid stadium will look in its final form. And what technical magic will be applied to it. (Twitter)
The pitch removal system at Real Madrid's renovated stadium is unbelievable 🤯
As I have mentioned several times, from all the threats and sorrows that befall us, as fans we can still hide in the world of sports, at least for a while.
Arsenal is making me very happy so far this season, so I wish you to enjoy it with your favorites sooner or later.
And see you in a week!