Premature resignation of Czech Football Association chairman met with disappointment and disbelief

Ivan Hašek, photo: Tomáš Adamec

The chairman of the Czech Football Association, Ivan Hašek, announced on Sunday that he was leaving his post in favor of resuming a career in coaching. The resignation of the man who has sometimes been dubbed “the savior of Czech football” two years into his four-year contract was met with consternation and disappointment by members of the football association and the public alike. Samuel Beckwith, the blogger behind the Czech Football Daily, speaks about the implications of Mr. Hašek’s resignation, what it means for the future of soccer in this country and what Mr. Hašek’s achievements were.

Ivan Hašek,  photo: Tomáš Adamec
“For two years, he was the chairman of the Czech Football Association, but before that he filled kind of every major role in Czech football, he was also the coach of the national team at various teams, and he also was a very successful player, he actually captained the Czechoslovak national team and also Sparta.

“He kind of had a quite iconic status in Czech football. His achievements, in the two years that he was the chairman of the football association… There was something almost Barack Obama-like about him, when he was elected, it was seen as a huge wave of change, that he would bring much more optimism and root out corruption in Czech football, and there were very high expectations. And he did have some achievements: he balanced the budget, he increased the revenues from the commercial wing, corruption and match-fixing does, at least on the surface, seem to be a thing of the past, and he brought a little more prestige to the game.

“But I think that the widely held view is that it was a job unfinished, that he had left far too early. I was looking through the Czech press reaction today, and you can feel a sense of betrayal. Even the phrase “false messiah” was used in one of the articles, so quite an emotional reaction.”

Before he quit, he was dubbed “the savior of Czech football.” Was it fair or even logical to expect one man to 'save' Czech football and why did it need a savior in the first place?

“I think Czech football had become … There was a series of very widely publicized match-fixing scandals, there was a huge degree of involving clubs, basically bribing each other, and accepting bribes to throw games, there were financial problems within the association and a definite perception of a lack of transparency in the game and the administration of the game.

“And I don’t think that Mr. Hašek himself shied away from this idea that he was sort of the white knight who would come in and save Czech football. He had attempted to run for the chairmanship in 2005 and had been unsuccessful. And I think that things had deteriorated to a point, when he ran again in 2009 that people were looking to him as somebody who would come in and clean up the game and clean up the football association.”

You mentioned that the reactions from Czech media have been relatively negative. So what exactly could this mean for the future of Czech football, what’s next?

Michal Bílek,  photo: CTK
“It’s difficult to say, Czech football politics are perhaps even more complicated and almost Byzantine than Czech politics itself. I think there is a definite period of uncertainty ahead now, there does not seem to be any clear front-runner to replace Mr. Hašek There is obviously a committee underneath him that has been elected, and I imagine that his successor will come from that.

“One of the things is that it definitely casts doubts on the future role of the Czech national team coach Michal Bílek, who was appointed by Mr. Hašek and is a friend of his, and has not enjoyed a great deal of success in the recent Euro qualifying campaign, and I think if results don’t begin to go his way quite soon, I think he will come under pressure than he has in the past. I think that would be the most obvious impact.”