From the Weeklies

Never has a foreign top league football club paid so much for a Czech player - Tomas Rosicky of Sparta Prague is worth 25 million DM!

The income of most Czech football players is supposed to be kept under wraps but - if you are dying to know what they make - Tyden has some answers.

"Finally a quick look at the weather" - can you blame meteorologists if they get the weather wrong and how far ahead can you trust them? And, this may be the third millennium, but there are things that no robot can be trusted to do. Those are some of this interesting stories in this week's magazines.

Most people who opened their morning paper on Wednesday doubtless did a double take at the eight digit figure which Borussia Dortmund is paying to sign up Czech football star Tomas Rosicky. 25 million DM or 450 million Czech crowns. "Name your price, mate" is the heading of an article in Tyden which few readers are likely to overlook. The income of our football players is supposed to be kept under wraps. "Czech society is not ready to deal with that kind of information" former football star Antonin Panenka told the weekly. "There is too much jealousy and not enough appreciation for the responsibility that goes hand in hand with such a salary." Vladimir Smicer, who currently plays for Liverpool, agrees. "In the States it's no big deal. But in the Czech Republic it's not a good idea to disclose your income even to good friends. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. I've made that mistake," he adds.

Well, Panenka and Spicer were tight lipped but not everyone else was, and Tyden magazine has ferreted out some of the information it was after.

The best paid football player in the world is Alvaro Recoba of Uruguay. Just a few weeks ago, Recoba signed a contract with Inter Milan which puts his annual income at the equivalent of 290 million Czech crowns.

Czech football players don't come anywhere near that astronomical figure, but they have little to complain about. On average their accounts rise by 500,000 to one and a half million crowns annually. The top stars make a lot more, for instance Horst Siegl of league leader Sparta Prague has an income of 9 million crowns a year.

Czech top league football clubs pay their players differentiated salaries. There is a basic salary which ranges from 4,000 to 110,000 crowns a month. Then there's the signing fee that clubs managers don't particularly like, because they have to pay the money whether or not the player turns up for even a single match. In the case of Jaromir Blazek of Bohemians the signing fee was 2.7 million crowns, payable over a three year period. The top stars logically get much more, Tyden notes.

Then there are game bonuses, performance bonuses, target bonuses and loyalty bonuses - all related to performance. Just playing a match gets each player 3,000 to 10,000 crowns, more bonus money is linked to points and goals. Chmel Blsany divides 200,000 crowns among the team for every win, 100,000 for a draw abroad, 80,000 for a draw on home ground.

Clubs also cover the cost of rent, petrol and mobile phone bills for their star players. In short, the annual income of a top-league Czech football star playing for a Czech club is between 2 and 9 million crowns. As for Czech stars playing abroad -Anderlecht Brusel pays Jan Koller the equivalent of 20 million crowns, Patric Berger gets the equivalent of 92 million from FC Liverpool, while Lazio Rome pays Pavel Nedved the equivalent of 103 million crowns a year.

So, is THAT enough to make you think about a change of profession?

"And now, a look at the weather" - a phrase you hear daily from us and all other radio and TV stations. Can you blame meteorologists when they get the weather forecast wrong and how far ahead can you trust them? Pravo magazine visited the Czech Meteorological Institute to find out.

Even the latest available technology can't predict the whims of Mother Nature with total precision so a forecast for the next 48 hours will on average turn out to be 85% correct. For 24 hours ahead 90%. The only forecast you can trust 100% is one for the next two hours, says chief meteorologist Vladimir Seifrt.

In addition to things like satellite maps meteorologists use fairly simple means of compiling the information they need, for instance something called the radio-detector which is a small package tied to a large helium filled balloon. A radio-detector is sent up once in every six hours. It ascends to a height of 34 km, measuring temperature, humidity, pressure and direction and wind speed as it ascends, sending the information down to Earth as it is monitored. Eventually the balloon bursts and the radio-detector falls to the ground. Although each radio-detector costs 4,500 crowns, only a few dozen are found and returned each year.

Another potentially helpful innovation is a system of detectors monitoring temperature changes several inches above and below ground along the Prague-Brno highway. That was installed in view of giving road-maintenance crews early warning about ice and snow on the road in order to prevent pile ups and accidents. However, the information alone doesn't help. Maintenance crews say they have a severe shortage of funds to do the job.

Well, if they can't make your life easier or improve on a bad weather forecast TV stations at least make sure you get an eyeful when listening to it. Soft-spoken voices, sexy looks and broad smiles have become the norm for weather presenting on all Czech TV stations.

Some of them persuade you not to take them too seriously by including a forecast regarding your physical well-being, thirst index and love life potential for the next three days. Taking the whole thing to absurdity, private TV Nova gives late night viewers a nude weather forecast.

Gone are the days when my grandpa would say "my rheumatism's playing up again, we'll be having rain before the day's out," and it would rain within the hour, says Vaclav Pergl of Pravo magazine. Our forefathers had plenty of folk lore as regards the weather -and many of these sayings are still fairly accurate.

Here are a few if you happen to be far from a radio and TV. A clear, bright moon in winter is a sign of coming frost. Low-flying swallows spells rain, intensified activity of bees and wasps: a summer storm. A sundown that turns the sky red spells rain. A yellowish sky spells cold weather. A deep purple sky means clear skies and fair weather. For some reason our forefathers did not try to forecast their love-life potential or thirst index, but you are quite welcome to try and apply any of the above to yours....

This is the third millennium and by all accounts we will soon be able to leave a vast amount of our daily chores to robots. But although robots may turn out to be more skillful, less emotional and more reliable, there are things they will never be able to do. Things that require "feeling". You'd never guess but I'm talking of ringing a bell. Or to be precise, bells.

"Bell-ringer" is an ancient profession and according to those who have devoted their life to it "an art that not the finest mechanism in the world can replace".

In Prague, the city of a hundred spires and dozens of Gothic and Renaissance churches, there is plenty of work for bell ringers - but, just as there is only one National Theatre, there no greater prestige than "ringing" at St. Vitus.

St. Vitus has four bells, the youngest made in 1602, the oldest in 1542. They weigh from one and a half to sixteen and a half tons and only the two "babies" Josef and Jan can be rung by one person. Sixteen and a half-ton Zikmund tires out four ringers. But it's not just good physique that makes a good ringer. Thirty-eight-year-old astronomer and chief bell- ringer Tomas Starecky, who has 20 years experience in the art of bell ringing, says "good bell ringers don't pull their weight - they make music". You need the sensitive hands of a musician, a feeling for rhythm and what Starecky calls "a soul". He says it is not the giant Zigmund but the smaller bells that are more difficult to make chime. The rim is closer to the heart of the bell so you need to do everything faster. If you are in control the end result is anything you want it to be - joyous, majestic, happy or sad. Different occasions require different music and at St. Vitus a number of ringers work wordlessly side by side to produce the magical 10-minute long chiming of bells at midday. Any exchange is made by sign language. After climbing two hundred stairs on the steep winding staircase leading to the bell tower that's quite a feat.

There's no muscle-flexer like Zigmund, Starecky says of the 16-ton giant. You feel the strain of those 10 minutes in your arms for the rest of the day.

But having said that, no electric mechanism can produce the effect of a person's hands - not to mention the ringer's feel for music. "A well-made bell is like a musical instrument " one of the bell-ringers told Kvety's reporter at the pub where ringers meet for a drink after the day's work. "You can have a lifeless recording of a piece of music or have a virtuoso perform for you and bring out all there is in the instrument. To try to attach an electric mechanism to a precious bell with a 500-year-old history is a sin, no less."

Apparently, the bells of St. Vitus couldn't agree more. Several attempts to get them electrified have ended in fiasco. In a brief space of time the bells completely destroyed the mechanism. And the ringers were summoned back. "I told you, they have a life of their own," the chief bell ringer concludes, adding, "even a bell needs to hear a kind word once in a while."