A golden generation? Czech floorball team takes silver at World Championships
The Czech men’s national floorball team has just registered its greatest international success in nearly two decades, reaching the final of the World Championships in Switzerland. Despite losing to Sweden 3:9 in Sunday’s final, recent Czech successes at junior level suggest that this may be a sign of things to come.
The Czechs went into Sunday’s final against favourites Sweden on a high after smashing home team Switzerland 11:3. However, the Swedes, who have dominated the World Floorball Championships since the first tournament took place in 1996, kept the match firmly under their control. Going into a 4:1 lead in the first third they eventually beat the Czechs 9:3.
Nevertheless, the result is still seen as a success in Czechia and not just thanks to the team bringing back silver, says journalist Jakub Švejkovský, who covers the sport and was a player in one of the country’s leading teams himself.
“It used to be common for the national team to go into their match against Sweden with a mind-set of trying not to lose by more than five goals. While yesterday’s match was unsuccessful in terms of the result, there was a completely different mental attitude. This was evidenced by the fact that the Czechs went into the match with full determination and publically declared that they were in it to win the gold medal. This was something that was absolutely unthinkable a few years ago.”
Švejkovský says that this attitude is in part thanks to the work of coach Jaroslav Berka. He managed to persuade former captain Matěj Jendrišák back into the national side. Veterans such as Jendrišák and goalkeeper Lukáš Bauer featured alongside a largely young team, made up of players who won the last two U-19 World Championships in 2019 and 2021.
The quality of youth floorball in Czechia has gone up a lot in recent years, says Švejkovský, adding that the country has experienced a huge boom in the popularity of the sport in general.
“As far as the youth base is concerned, floorball has even surpassed tennis and ice hockey. Its popularity was greatly helped by the hosting of the World Championship in Prague and Ostrava in 2008.
“I also see the fact that floorball is very cheap as a major reason. While purchasing a full kit for ice hockey can cost 10,000s of Czech crowns, a normal floorball player only needs a plastic stick, a t-shirt, shorts and shoes. That is the big advantage of floorball.”
Coach Jaroslav Berka, who incidentally also led the youth team that won gold at last year’s World Championships, told Czech Television after the final that he was disappointed with the performance against Sweden.
However, he added that with the first two lines of the Czech team averaging at an age of around 22, the side has potential to remain strong for a decade.