Like most nations, the Czech Republic loves sports. And like the rest of Europe, and most of the world, in fact, they love soccer (football in Europe). While the national team didn’t make it into this last World Cup, taking in games for free in Prague’s Old Town Square – where tournament games are broadcast on a giant screen and expatriates gather to cheer on their respective nationalities – is a positively riotous affair.
The two main professional men’s teams in Prague (Sparta and Slavia) do themselves proud at a number of stadiums around the city, and an afternoon outing to one of their matches, complete with Pilsner and fried cheese sandwiches, is very diverting indeed.
The national obsession with ice hockey is the stuff of song and legend. From the capital to the most far-flung, struggling village, Czechs will come out to root for everything from the national team to the professional women’s league (the 2010 championship-winning HC Slavia Praha squad boasted no less than three Americans).
If you’re wondering whether any residual Cold War-era animosity persists in the country, the sight of Praguers chanting “Russian pigs! Russian pigs!” during the final of the 2010 World Championships against Russia (the Czechs won, by the way) spoke volumes.
American expats seeking some competitive recreation may be surprised to learn that pickup basketball tournaments flourish, as do baseball and softball leagues and tournaments. In particular, the sports complex at Baseball Center Krč in Prague’s 4th district is something to behold.