Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Czech striker puts tragedy behind him to grab headlines

AFP , SEEFELD, AUSTRIA

“If someone had told me a year ago I would play at the Euros and score the opening goal I would never have believed them,” smiled Vaclav Sverkos after netting the Czech Republic’s goal in their win over co-hosts Switzerland.

“But I am actually a known quantity — I did score 15 goals for Banik Ostrava this season,” says the 24-year-old, who is just emerging from a professional and personal nightmare period.

His goal to clinch three points against the Swiss has, however, shone a brighter spotlight upon the man who only made his debut for his country last month and who was supposed to play second fiddle to giant veteran Jan Koller.

Koller did not shine in his hour on the pitch on Saturday and Sverkos’ neat finish with the outside of his right boot has catapulted him into the limelight.

“That was the most beautiful, and important, day of my career,” he said.

It certainly made a welcome change of fortune from the ill luck which had dogged him in previous years — not least his girlfriend’s miscarriage in November 2005, which shattered him.

He bears a tattoo on his arm in honor of the unborn child.

Before experiencing that sadness Sverkos’ career had looked to be on a permanently upward curve.

He had started out in the Czech league with Banik Ostrava but in 2003 he moved to former German giants Borussia Moenchengladbach, netting 14 times in his debut season while still aged only 19 to become a firm crowd favorite.

“I still have a lot of good fans over there and retain fond memories of my first two seasons,” he says.

But in the aftermath of losing his child he needed a new impetus and headed for Hertha Berlin only to return briefly — and without scoring — to Gladbach.

A short spell followed with Austria Vienna last year before he headed back to Banik Ostrava, where the goals started flowing again this past season to the extent he finished up top scorer.

That alerted Bruckner’s interest as an alternative to Koller — even if Sverkos did not expect to get his chance so swiftly.

“Now I’m going to enjoy every minute”, he insists, while respectfully noting that, for him, Koller’s experience makes him “irreplaceable.”

Nonetheless, a changing of the Czech striking guard is at hand with Koller’s international days numbered at the age of 35.

Another veteran, Pavel Nevded, who did not join the squad this time, has also had an influence on Sverkos.

“He has helped me a lot,” says the youngster as he comes to terms with his entrance into the limelight.

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