Sports News

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By Peter Smith

Yes, it's the sport and the new football season here in the Czech Republic gets underway this weekend, with the opening round of matches in the Gambrinus League. Sparta Prague have been crowned champions for the last five seasons and are favourites again this year, but city rivals Slavia - under the guidance of new tram coach Josef Pesice - will be hopeful of finally wrestling the title away from Letna.

There are more immediate matters, though, for Slavia Prague, namely their vital UEFA Champions League qualification match against Panathiniakos of Greece. I spoke earlier to Slavia's General Director Vladimir Leska about a number of football matters, but firstly that all-important tie against the Greek champions..

"It really is a very important game - we have bad experience with qualification round because we lost last year, an unlucky game against Shaktar Donesk but for us at this moment it is a lot better for us to play against Panathiniakos Athens than Shatkar."

But if you were to lose again, would it be a big disaster financially?

"Every defeat is a disaster for me."

But financially?

"Yeah, but at this moment, Slavia's position in European competition is very high - it is very important to give some happy days for our fans - it's more important that that is on the first level for the club, but I agree that financial income, financial profit from participation in the Champions League would be very nice."

Czech clubs, your Olomouces and Jabloneces, do not want to sell players to other Czech clubs.

"That's the real situation on the Czech market because Europe is much more open, and young players now have a good knowledge of English, experience, different life style - I think that it's the normal process."

Do you think that young players are going abroad too soon?

"My feeling or experience is that under the age of 21 is too soon. "

General Manager of Slavia Prague football club, Vladimir Leska, speaking to me a little earlier.

Staying with football and it was a disappointing evening for Chmel Blsany - the tiny village team went down 3-1 to Italian club Brescia in semi-finals of the Intertoto Cup on Wednesday.

Quickly tennis and WTA Polish Open in Sopot - Kvetoslava Hrdlicka has gone out in the second round - the Czech went down in straight sets to the number three seed from Jugoslavia, Jelena Dokic.