“Motivator” František Straka appointed Czech football manager – but for how long?

František Straka, photo: CTK

Just over a month after the sacking of Petr Rada, František Straka has been appointed manager of the Czech international soccer squad. Straka has a reputation as an inspirational figure, though he has achieved little at club level. What’s more, his appointment is not definitive: he could be gone in a couple of months.

František Straka, photo: CTK
František Straka himself won 35 caps for Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, and spent ten years in Germany’s Bundesliga, where he acquired the nickname ‘Franz’. As a manager, however, his only success has come with Teplice and Sparta Prague in the Czech cup, a competition that is not taken at all seriously.

Straka is set to sign an open-ended contract, though he is only certain of helming the Czech team in a friendly against Malta in three weeks’ time. At the end of June a new Czech football association executive will be elected – its members will decide whether to make the appointment permanent.

The manager commented on the situation at a news conference on Wednesday.

“I will do all I can to make sure it is not just for one game, to make sure I stay on for the rest of our World Cup qualifying campaign. The offer I received represents a great responsibility to me. I’ll do all I can so that we can lift Czech football back to the days when we had a very strong team.”

The selection of František Straka surprised many in the world of Czech football, especially after a Czech FA expert group last week gave their backing to Dušan Uhrin Sr., who led the Czechs to the final of Euro 96, their greatest success in recent decades.

František Straka, photo: CTK
Straka is regarded as a powerful motivator of players and places a great emphasis on ‘srdíčko’, or heart. However, his critics suggest that, like Petr Rada before him, Straka will be out of his depth at international level.

For his part, the suavely-dressed 50-year-old says he will demand the respect of Czech players.

“If you come to the national team, then you have to behave like an international, and that’s your priority. I think it’s all about pride in playing for your country…You don’t like hearing the word ‘heart’ that I’m forever connected to: Straka – heart, heart, heart. I’ll tell you something – it REALLY IS all about heart.”

Another issue facing ‘Franz’ is what to do with the six players who were given an indefinite ban by the Czech FA for drinking and partying after a game. He says he wants to hear their side of the story before making any decisions.

“I want to know from all of them what they think, what happened…The only player who’s worn sackcloth and ashes is Radoslav Kováč, who said they shouldn’t have been there at all. None of us is perfect…and I think from that point of view if a player admits his mistake and then performs well, we’d be glad to forgive him.”

František Straka’s first game as Czech manager is against Malta in Jablonec on June 5. Whether or not it will also turn out be his last match in charge should become clear a few weeks later.