Rudolf Řepka, general secretary of the Football Association of the Czech Republic, tells UEFA.com why it was vital they found a new home and mourns the loss of a Czech great.
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The Football Association of the Czech Republic (FAČR) recently moved to its new headquarters at Strahov in the capital, Prague. The complex includes the Czech Football Hall of Fame, which features a replica of the UEFA European Championship trophy won by Czechoslovakia in 1976.
Rudolf Řepka, general secretary of the FAČR, tells UEFA.com why it was vital Czech football found a new home, how the 2015 Under-21 Championship will provide a lasting legacy for the domestic game and reveals what the next generation can learn from legendary midfielder Josef Masopust.
UEFA.com: The FAČR complex includes a fully equipped training centre with four dressing rooms and a pitch. How important is it that Czech football has found a new home?
Rudolf Řepka: It's a great thing for us because we have wanted our own building for a long time. It's important for every sports organisation to feel comfortable and to have their own premises without any financial burdens. It's not only our headquarters, it's also a training centre, and together we can use two other venues: the Rošický and Přátelství stadiums.
UEFA.com: The Hall of Fame contains an array of national team shirts. What other exhibits can Czech fans look forward to seeing?
Řepka: It's part of our history, so we found it necessary to open the Hall of Fame. There are some very interesting displays, for example [a replica of] the 1976 European Championship trophy. The fans can learn a lot – it's a summary of our football history. We also have the shirts of famous Czech players including Josef Masopust, Pavel Nedvěd and Josef Bican. A very nice addition is Masopust's 'Golden Ball' [Ballon d'Or award from 1962], which we borrowed from him.
UEFA.com: Tell us about the experience gained from hosting the 2015 Under-21 Championship, the greatest event to take place in Czech football history.
Řepka: It was an enormous event, so the FAČR put together a new team. The people from our association gained a lot of experience, not only in communicating with UEFA and the other teams but also in solving everyday problems and dealing with different situations. Such experience is invaluable, and they can learn from it. Before the U21 finals we actually made a bid to host the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship [for the first time in 2017]. There'll be another event [in the Czech Republic] in two years and we're looking forward to it very much.
UEFA.com: Ander Stadium and City Stadium, in Olomouc and Uherske Hradiste respectively, and Prague's Letná Stadium have been renovated. How will this benefit the Czech game?
Řepka: I'd like to thank the state and the government for releasing the funds and I think that they have been used very well, both in Moravia [Ander Stadium and City Stadium] and in Prague [Letná Stadium]. The clubs [Sigma, Slovácko and Sparta Praha] have something to be proud of because everything has been reconstructed – the pitch, the dressing rooms, the VIP area and especially the media zone. The press, as we all know, are extremely important nowadays.
UEFA.com: Masopust, the European Footballer of the Year in 1962 and a key figure in Czechoslovakia's run to the FIFA World Cup final that year, passed away recently. Tell us about his legacy.
Řepka: It's very sad. I'm glad that he managed to see UEFA President Michel Platini at the last moment, the day before he died. There was definitely something between those two players; maybe he was waiting for this big name to say goodbye. We will remember him for a very long time. Like Nedvěd [in 2003], he was awarded the Ballon d'Or – they are the only Czech players to receive this award. That proves what sort of player he was.
UEFA.com: In 2004, Masopust was nominated as the Czech Republic's most outstanding player of the past 50 years. What can youngsters learn from him?
Řepka: He had a very strong sense of fair play, he was very diligent. That's necessary for every player. If you want to achieve something you must work hard – not only on the pitch but off it, too.
UEFA.com: With help from UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme, you were able to bring in a player registration system. How has membership aided football in the country?
Řepka: It has definitely helped. People active in sport and in football said to themselves: 'First we have to do our homework, we must start working on being transparent, and we must know who our members are.' So we cleaned our records to be able to figure out what our membership base was – that's a good thing. Members now must pay fees and the football association redistributes them to the smallest clubs at regional and district levels.