Devoted František Plánička

Published: 1. 1. 2021
Author: Karel Černý
Photo: SK Slavia Praha
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It was January 1926. And as in other months and years, a lot of things happened this year as well. For example, historically lowest temperature was recorded in an inhabited area in the northern hemisphere (−71 ° C) in the village of Ojmjakon. On the other hand, a completely different event was entertaining people in the Czech lands.

On the seventeenth day of that year, 95 years ago, František Plánička, one of the best goalkeepers in the world of all time, made his debut in the national football team, being one of the few footballers who never changed a club jersey in their entire career.

One club

František Plánička was loyal only to Slavia Prague. He spent 15 years with them, played 969 matches (742 of which victorious), helped Slavia to eight championship titles and in 1929 fought the way to the finals of the Central European Cup, in which Slavia lost to the Hungarian Újpest FC. Plánička joined Slavia in 1923 in a relatively curious way. Since the age of 14 he’d played for SK Bubeneč. In order to be catching in the adult team, the officials cheated a bit and made him older on paper. He longed to go to Sparta, but they rejected him, saying he was a "a few fries short of a happy meal." So, his steps headed to Slavia. They wanted him, but his club didn't want to let him go. In the end, Plánička stopped asking and simply went with Slavia to a match in Vienna, where he started under the name Jakubec. However, this could not be kept secret and SK Bubeneč sent the whole case to the commission on crime prevention. And they made a simple ruling - Slavia had to pay a fine of 300 crowns, but Plánička could stay with them.

Gloveless and fearless

He loved football dearly, and so his life was primarily about it. He maintained a strict lifestyle, never smoked, drank coffee and just occasionally had a glass of red wine. He was notorious for his detesting goalkeeper gloves, unusual agility and his frequent catching of the ball "into the basket", which he managed not only when standing or with the classic jump, but also with the so-called diving. Naturally, there were also times when he was aching quite a bit. Maybe because at that time football was still played with balls with lacing. "When it came loose and the ball flew into your face, it could easily gash you. Other times, it would cut your fingers, for example" he recalled. He was never afraid to jump under the attacker's feet. "My head was bruised after every match, and I gradually lost all my teeth," he said.

Fatal fracture

Plánička changed his typical club jersey, a blue jumper with a star on his chest, only in one case – when changing into the national team jersey. He played 73 official matches for Czechoslovakia, and he was the captain in 37 of them. The culmination of his national team career was the 1934 World Cup, when Czechoslovakia lost in the final in overtime to Italy 1: 2, and Plánička became one of the stars of the tournament. Incidentally, another famous Slavist, Josef Bican, also played at this championship. However, he represented Austria, with which they came 4th. Plánička's last national team start was the match against Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 1938 World Cup. The match ended with 1: 1 (Leônidas da Silva and Oldřich Nejedlý scored goals) and in the 83rd minute Plánička challenged the opponent. He felt a sharp pain in his hand, but he finished the match and also the stoppage time. But then the doctors found out that his arm had been broken (and not even for the first time) and he didn’t get to play in the rematch anymore. As a result, Czechoslovakia then lost 1:2.

Football all the way until the end

After having been injured at the world championship, František Plánička ended his career and continued to catch only for Slavia old boys’ hobby team. He played with them until the was almost 70! He played until the moment, true to his style, when he seriously injured his knee by jumping under the attacker's feet. In his career, he played a total of 1235 matches, out of which he conceded only 1,073 goals. Until the last moments of his life, he would go to his beloved Eden to see Slavia matches. He died in July 1996 at the age of 95.


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