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From Berkshire to Bohemians… via the San Siro (sort of)

Updated: Feb 25

Like many kids, football was my life. From age five to 15, I thought about little else. If I wasn’t playing it, I was talking about it, reading about it and, of course, watching it.

But thanks to my dad’s immovable anti-Murdoch stance (I didn’t get it at the time. I do now.), that last one was decidedly difficult.

With no Sky, the Premier League came only in hour-long bursts on a Saturday night and Sunday morning. I watched them both, obviously. But even with the repeat, it was nowhere near enough to feed my football-mad mind.

Fortunately, Football Italia was there to pick up the slack. James Richardson delivered espresso-breathed roundups from the coolest league in the world, plus a live match most Sundays. Heaven.

Before long, AC Milan were on my mind more than my first love, Spurs (I know, I’m sorry), and while Italy seemed a long way away to a boy from rural Berkshire in the mid-90s, I knew one day I’d watch I Rossoneri from the seats of the San Siro.

Kangaroos and liberal ultras

Fast-forward 20-odd years and I’d yet to make that dream come true. Work, life, love and laziness got in the way. But here I was at a café table, espresso before me, about to make it a reality.

Well… not quite.

I was, in fact, a little way north of Milan, in Prague. Two days prior, a local told me I had to see Bohemians before I left the city. At the time, my knowledge of Czech football stretched little further than Karel Poborský. But I was about to get an education.

It wasn’t hard to fall down the Bohemians rabbit hole. The club’s emblem is a green Kangaroo, their ‘ultras’ are famously left-wing, and they love a flare. I didn’t need to know anything else.

As I made my way to my seat behind the goal in the Ďolíček Stadium, I wasn’t disappointed. This was proper football. The glow of the flares didn’t fade for the full ninety minutes and barely a few moments passed without an intricately decorated banner passing above our heads.

But while the scene may have looked intimidating to the travelling team, the atmosphere behind those flare-lit banners was anything but. Our mixed group of obviously out-of-town onlookers were welcomed with open arms. We even got a lesson in Czech chanting, though I’m sure our delivery left a lot to be desired.

(Source: Marcus Sanigar)

(Source: Marcus Sanigar)

There was the small matter of the match, too. The visiting Victoria Plzeň tried to spoil the party hitting back shortly after both Bohemians goals to go home with a 2-2 draw. But nothing could quell the noise bursting from behind the net.

(Source: Marcus Sanigar)

Victoria Plzeň would go on to a narrow defeat at the Bernabéu less than a week later, almost costing Julen Lopetegui his job. And Bohemians 1905 would go on to be my adopted Czech club – one of many I’ve now collected around the world.

A snapshot of a city

As I made the familiar post-match trudge back into the streets, this time shoulder to shoulder with thousands of fans of a club I’d known little about days before, I knew this was how I wanted to see the world. Away from the tourist traps and the town squares. On the terraces.

Nothing gives you a snapshot of a place, its sense of community and its people like its football club. Just three pints of Krušovice later, I booked my flight to Milan.


Flights from £45

Accommodation from £30

Tickets from £9.35

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