“A huge surprise” – Plzeň crowned Czech soccer champions

Viktoria Plzeň

Viktoria Plzeň have been crowned Czech soccer champions for the sixth time in their history. The West Bohemian club have surprised many – even their own coach – with their first title since 2018.

Loud cheers rang out after Viktoria Plzeň’s 2:0 away victory over Hradec Králové on Wednesday night.

But not immediately after the game in the penultimate round of the championship group, which pits the top teams from the regular season against one another.

Players and fans had to undergo nervous moments waiting for the result of a match between Baník Ostrava and Slavia Prague, who were champions for the last three seasons in a row.

When it ended in a draw it meant Slavia – who had been first after 30 rounds – could no longer overhaul Plzeň on points. Cue ecstasy among the West Bohemians’ supporters.

Pavel Horváth,  Michal Bílek | Photo: Radek Petrášek,  ČTK

Former Czech national team boss Michal Bílek said winning the title with Plzeň was his greatest ever achievement as a coach.

“It’s unbelievable. The fact that we won is a huge surprise. When we began this season I don’t think any of us thought Plzeň would be fighting for the title and would win it. I’m glad for the guys – they did fantastic work.”

Bílek said the group had taken the final part of the season one step at a time.

“We hadn’t spoken much – or at all – about winning toward the end of the competition. After every game we evaluated it and moved on to the next match. I’m really delighted by how the boys carried it through to this kind of conclusion, because finishing ahead of Slavia and Sparta is a fantastic success.”

Bílek said it had been a tough season, with a large number of injuries at the start contributing to Plzeň’s failure to even qualify for Europe’s third-tier Conference League.

Viktoria Plzeň became league champions for the first time in their history in 2011, the club’s centenary. Since then they have lifted the title six times, with their latest success the first in four years.

Viktoria Plzeň - Hradec Králové. Lukáš Hejda on the right. | Photo: Radek Petrášek,  ČTK

Captain Lukáš Hejda has been involved in no fewer than five of those championships, but says this season’s title is the sweetest yet.

He told reporters a lot of the credit this time had to go to Bílek.

“He’s a great coach of course. He’s able to create the perfect dressing room. His ability to analyze the competition is top notch and he always made us follow tactics tailor-made for each opponent. I appreciate that – for me he’s a total dude.”

Hejda didn’t neglect to praise his teammates either.

“They’re a band of warriors who never give up. We turned games around even when we played badly. We also managed the tough matches, against Sparta and Slavia. This title proves we’re a band of warriors, and that means a lot to me.”

Viktoria Plzeň will be the only Czech team in qualification for next season’s Champions League.