Every month in the Arsenal Magazine, we ask one of the first-team members about their home country.
Do the Gunners first-team stars have good local knowledge - and are they worldly wise?
Petr Cech Arsenal and Czech RepublicName: Petr Cech
Born: Plzen, Czechoslovakia, May 20, 1982
Lived in: Chmel Blsany, Prague (Czech Republic), Rennes (France), London
National know how
How would you describe your country?
We like to call ourselves the heart of Europe because of our geographical position in Europe. We are a country with 10-and-a-half million people so we are not the biggest.
Throughout history we had to fight for our little country many times so I would say we are proud of the way the Czech Republic is evolving now.
We are known for our skills, hand skills, crystal and our architecture so we are proud of that. Art is a big part of our Czech culture, and sport is too, so I’d say we are a sporting country in a way.
Name three things that are great about your country?
That would definitely be the culture, the art and the skills. We are actually proud of the literature, of the music, of the paintings, together with the crystal, so I think this is what the Czech Republic is proud of.
Then there’s the beer. We are a beer country, I have to say. We are probably one of the most famous countries for beer so if you say Czech Republic and Pilsner Urquell, I think everybody knows so those are probably the three most famous things.
And something you would like to change about your nation?
We lived behind the Iron Curtain for a long time so we were obviously isolated from the world. In the past we had a secret police service, which meant you never knew which person around you would work for and report to them.
That could be very damaging for your life. Back then, if you didn’t know someone, you didn’t speak to them, so if you came as foreigner and nobody knew you, you would have the feeling that Czechs were a bit cold at certain points.
Now that’s more the old generation than the younger generation. But it would be nice if I could change that – the way people were more open and trustworthy at times.
I think the new generation is already different because they live in a country with open borders. This was a little thing that still goes with us, that we take time to accept the other cultures in a way because we do not understand.
What’s your favourite food from your country?
Our Czech cuisine is pretty heavy – we love dumplings. Pork with dumplings and sauerkraut is one of the most famous dishes, and then we have sirloin with cream sauce and dumplings, so that’s probably second.
In all of the famous Czech food you will find dumplings. As a kid I always used to eat that and I love it so when I go back home I never say no to a Czech dish because it’s nice.
I don’t usually cook that during the week because it’s really heavy to eat but when I go back home I have to say it would be one of my little treats.
Which sports are popular, other than football?
We’re an ice hockey country, so there’s pretty much a football and ice hockey fight every time because they’re quite equal in terms of support. I would say in the past because of the weather everybody played football in the summer and ice hockey in the winter.
Nowadays we play the season throughout the year so in the modern game you can’t play both games at the top level, which was possible in the 1960s and 70s. You had players who played in the highest football league in the summer and in the top ice hockey league in the winter. Now it’s impossible because of the way the modern game goes, but the popularity of the sports are almost the same.
Who does your country have their greatest rivalry with?
It’s definitely Slovakia now, because since we split there is a little rivalry. It’s like, “OK, we have split but we want to show you we are better,” so we support each other when we play anybody else but when we play each other everybody wants to win and there is a spicy atmosphere.
I would say there is always a special game when we play Germany in a way because of the past, and because we have borders with them, so when we play them it is special.
What’s a typical phrase from your country?
I can’t really choose one! We have the word ‘vole’. It’s a word that means nothing but we use it in the way to kind of accent the sentence.
It’s probably the word you hear a lot – it’s not rude, it’s not really nice, it’s just this kind of word that when you use, you feel you spice up the sentence in a way so people understand that it is either really good or it is really very bad, but it kind of makes the sentence different.
If you write something in school you would never put that word in. It’s kind of a slang way to make the feeling of the sentence different. So that is the word: vole.
Who is the current President and Prime Minister of your country?
Milos Zeman is the president and Bohuslav Sobotka is the current prime minister of our country. We have the Parliament, we have the Senate and then we have the President. You have the Chamber of Deputies as well.
"I would definitely recommend Prague because of the culture, architecture and everything you will find there"
If you change the law, the Parliament has to agree with the Senate. If the Senate is not happy, they can bring it back and they have to do it again.
Tell us – if you can – the first line of your national anthem?
The first line is, “Kde domov muj.” That means, “Where is my home?” It’s quite a surprising sentence for everyone but in a way it describes the way where the Czech Republic lies. The continuation of that song brings you to the point where you are. The lyrics are very old.
Do the players always join in before an international game?
We don’t have the rule that everyone has to sing. It’s up to you. Some sing just for themselves, some sing it loud and some sing it quietly. Everyone has a different character. It’s not like you go out and have to sing. I think most of the people in our team sing the national anthem.
Where are the best places to go on holiday in your country?
Well, I would definitely recommend Prague because of the culture, architecture and everything you will find there. Since the time of Charles IV, who was king in the 14th century, you’ve had the old town square and the old style.
Everything is mixing up in the centre of Prague now so if you walk through the old town square towards the castle across the Charles Bridge, you can walk through the centuries because you have everything around you, including the famous clock in the old town square, and it is absolutely beautiful.
It’s a destination where if you like architecture or history you will find it there. So I would say that’s the place to go. We do have mountains, although they’re not very high, but we have a national park in Krkonose, which is very interesting in terms of nature.
We don’t have any sea, so we’re not really a beach destination! You can raft on the rivers, which is quite fun because we have long rivers with camps so you can go camping along the way. But for someone who wants more action and to learn about the Czech Republic, Prague is the place to go to.
Where would you like to go in your country that you haven’t been?
We used to go on trips which were cool, and we pretty much tried to go everywhere, but there might be places I’ve never been before. There are still places where the nature is almost untouched and where you can find surprising things.
I would say I was lucky – I went on trips with school and my parents, and because the borders were closed you couldn’t ever go anywhere else but you could go anywhere around your own country, so I’ve pretty much seen everything.
What languages do you speak?
I speak Czech, English, French, Spanish and German. I learned German at school and I haven’t used it much in the last decade but I can still speak it and still understand it. I’m pretty much fluent in Spanish, English and French, and Czech obviously.
What languages would you like to speak?
I really enjoy learning languages. When we went to Japan, I learned a little bit of Japanese, which is very difficult. It would be interesting one day to learn it completely. If you take Spanish and French, it’s similar in some ways with grammar.
German is slightly different and the Slavic languages are completely different. The Czech language is completely different but because I’m Czech I know there are a lot of similarities. Japanese is different again so maybe one day I’ll learn it.
Tell us somewhere in the world you would like to visit.
As a footballer you get to go everywhere but mostly you go to play, train and then you don’t really have time to visit places. Sometimes you have time, and you’re always grateful when you can.
I once played in the Champions League in Rome, and went two days early to visit the Vatican. That was something you visit. But when you just go for a pre-season or international game, you go to the country, train, go to the hotel and the following day you play before going home.
Sometimes you are everywhere yet don’t have time to see much. There are places where you always want to go to, some isolated islands or rainforests, where things look absolutely stunning, but you have no time to go. That will be something to do when I retire.
What was the first trip you ever made outside of your home country – and why?
The first time I went abroad was when we had a tournament in France. I was 12 years old. It was a great experience for all of us, and then a few times we had winter tournaments in Germany.
Those were the few trips we went on when I was a kid. Every time we went somewhere, it was mainly with the national team or my team to play a tournament.
Did you have a feeling back then that you would like to explore and see more of the world?
The borders opened in 1990 and the first time I travelled abroad was in 1994. I was 12, everything was new and we didn’t speak any languages except Czech.
On the way we stopped in Paris, went to the Eiffel Tower, and discovered a completely different capital from what you are used to. Everything was new and you just think, “Wow, it feels different.”
Can you name the capital cities of these three countries?
1) Poland – Warsaw
2) Wales – Cardiff
3) USA – Washington
Were you good at geography at school?
Yeah. I wouldn’t always look at the map but I was one of the few people who actually liked school. I didn’t love school but I liked it. I enjoyed learning new things.
And can you name the countries from their Presidents/Prime Ministers?
1) Angela Merkel – Germany
2) David Cameron – England
3) Vladimir Putin – Russia
Where is the next World Cup being held?
In Russia, in 2018.
Who won the World Cup in these years?
1) 1966 – England. Everybody is proud of that and has been saying since I came to England that this national team should finally win it again. I think that’s where the pressure comes from all the time.
2) 1990 – It was Germany.
3) 2002 – The final was in Japan, and it was Brazil.
?What nationality are the following Arsenal legends?
1) Dennis Bergkamp – Dutch
2) Anders Limpar – Swedish
3) Lauren – Cameroonian
In which country do Arsenal de Sarandi?
There are a few Arsenals around the world. There is one in Kiev, then you have some in South Africa and Latin America. I’ll guess at Brazil. (Wrong - correct answer is Argentina)
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