The only Czech in Barca was a hero, but he could also climb. Drda knocked him out of the Dumb Barricade

The only Czech in Barca was a hero, but he could also climb. Drda knocked him out of the Dumb Barricade
The only Czech in Barca was a hero, but he could also climb. Drda knocked him out of the Dumb Barricade

He is the only Czech footballer who has ever played in the jersey of the famous Barcelona. It was a happy ending to the dramatic life story of football midfielder Jiří Hanke. Before the native of Lysá nad Labem put on the shirt of the famous club for the first time, he fought against the Wehrmacht during the Prague Uprising, and a few years later he fled from the communist regime.

It was May 5, 1945. Demonstrations against the German occupiers quickly turned into armed resistance, and barricades were erected in the streets of Prague. One of the headquarters of the Prague Uprising was located in U Studánky Street, in a gym that belonged to Slavia at the time. It was not a coincidence, a number of members of the sports club were then involved in an unequal fight with the retreating Wehrmacht.

One of them was soccer midfielder Jiří Hanke.

He took it for granted to face German tanks with a rifle in his hand, but he came from a family that was actively involved in the resistance during the protectorate. The heroic defiance of the people of Prague ultimately helped the final liberation of Czechoslovakia. However, the Slavists did not manage to save their stadium, which was then located on Letná: German soldiers deliberately set fire to the wooden tribune.

In addition, Hanke also brought his friend with whom he “served” at the barricade in Kamenická Street during the days of the Prague Uprising. The life of Karel Keval, a teammate from Slavia, was prematurely ended by a German bullet.

“Hanke’s role in the liberation of Prague was noted by the writer Jan Drda in his original version of the novel Němá barricade. However, after pressure from communist officials, he had to delete his name from the work,” describes the renowned football historian Vladimír Zápotocký.

The reason was simple: he fled abroad in 1950. Communist functionaries had often reprimanded him for refusing to participate in trade union competitions, and the excuse that he did not have a membership card did not help Hanke. The comrade in charge reached into the drawer, handed it to him, and then the twenty-six-year-old reservist knew he had no choice.

On April 5, he played his twelfth derby with Sparta, but then disappeared. Apparently, only the team manager Karel Sehnoutka knew about his intention to emigrate, who advised him how to obtain a player’s card from the communists in the management of Slavist football (then Dynamo Slavia), which according to FIFA rules allowed him to play abroad as well, and to sign a professional contract there.

“There are various fairy tales about how he got abroad, but Hanke never revealed it back. One of the variants is that, apart from football, he worked at the Energovod company and his official duties often took him to border areas, so he could know the routes across the green border,” explains Zápotocky .

However, Hanke was not only decorated with a heroic character, he also had some less flashy personality traits. He wasn’t exactly a football talent from birth, and when he came to Prague in 1942, he started athletics at Slavia – he devoted himself to running and jumping, and was even a member of the 400-meter relay team.

During the war, it was customary for athletes to train together, and the speedy Hanke caught the eye of football officials, who particularly liked his unusually long cars.

But no one told him that, other than the Parrot. He liked to repeat the trainers’ instructions to please them. There is even a tradition that he secretly brought a suitcase full of meat to Josef Bican, which was in short supply during the war – just to impress the famous shooter.

Jiří Hanke (second from the right in the top row) during the record match that Slavia won over České Budějovice 15:1 in 1948 | Photo: Archive of Vladimír Zápotocký

In Slavia, he oscillated between the first team and the reserves, but as the red and white players became less and less – some fully committed, others even shut down – he was given more and more chances by the coach at the time, Emil Seifert. At the end of the war, he already belonged to the basic lineup, kicked in the national team, even in the memorable match against Hungary (5:2) in 1949.

However, after emigrating, he did not go straight to Barcelona, ​​he jumped to the Colombian league for a year. His acquaintances from the Catalan club, coach Ferdinand Daučík and striker Ladislav Kubala, allegedly helped him arrange the engagement in the Millonarios team, in whose colors the famous Alfredo Di Stéfano shone at the time. To earn some dollars, because he fled Czechoslovakia with practically no means.

He subsequently won the Spanish title and cup with the big Catalan club, against whom Pilsen will play in the Champions League today. In the top competition, he played 57 games for him over four seasons, scoring five goals. He added another start in La Liga for the smaller Barcelona club CD Condal, then played in the Swiss FC Biel.

If the first half of Hanke’s life was lived in a dramatic rhythm, the second was already sweet. And literally.

“He found a French partner who was a famous pastry chef. He threw himself into business and together they owned a chain of pastry shops. We have news about Hank from 1996, when Slavia played the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in Bordeaux. On that occasion, they met in France. And that was the last time , what has anyone from Slavia seen with him,” says Zápotocký.

Hanke died ten years later in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Czech Barca hero climb Drda knocked Dumb Barricade

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