Before each season, they believe that they will see the red colors again at the top of the league, but the Spartan public has been waiting for the title for eight long years. And the new football year? It started very badly. “For me, it’s a huge disappointment. You have to start from the top, work hard and with healthy humility,” claims Tomáš Řepka, former stopper of Sparta, West Ham and Fiorentina, in an interview for Aktuálně.cz.
Sparta announced that it was going to go in a new direction, brought in foreign coach Brian Priske. However, she encountered in the first double match with the Norwegian Viking, in the league premiere she fell against Liberec. Were you surprised or were you already skeptical?
It’s a huge disappointment for me, I expected Sparta to fight better with this. If they are to go this way, it is not good. The question is to what extent Priske was able to incorporate his practices into the team and if the players are able to fulfill them. But they were obviously not visible, we witnessed the same song over and over again – without an idea, without a thought, without a player who would take it upon himself, who would decide the match.
What do you think was the biggest difficulty in the cup double?
When you take the lead in the second game, you have to watch it. It’s impossible for you to concede three minutes after the first goal, especially just before the break.
And the second goal after Hanck’s huge foul? How do you see her as a former stopper?
Talking about the fact that Hancko made a mistake is pointless. In football, whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins. Mistakes happen, but this was completely unnecessary. The combination between goalkeeper Holc and Hanck did not solve anything. At the last set minute! The goalkeeper was supposed to drive everyone out and kick forward – the instructions were supposed to come from the Girl: Drive it halfway, I’ll kick it and you fight for the ball. In general, I am against the goalkeeper and stopper playing like this near the small goal, if the team does not focus on it in training. Well, if you have space, the backs are spread out, you pass from the goal to the outside, to the side, why not, but it is impossible to combine with the goalkeeper so close to the goal, simply not. It should be heard from the coaches: Stop, gentlemen, this will not be done, because we cannot do it. We are not Barcelona.
However, Sparta should have had a comfortable lead at that time and controlled the duel. Do you agree?
Of course. Let’s talk about the first match, we should have brought a 3-0 lead to Norway. The Spartans are putting themselves under pressure, unfortunately.
The management of Letenské declared big goals before the season, and such blows will come right at the beginning. What will this do to the team?
Exactly what I didn’t want happened. A huge blanket falls on the manchaft. There is no magic wand to wave and overcome it. I wouldn’t break the stick over Prisk, I would hold the boys. But he wants to start from the top, work hard, change his mentality a little, sit on his back a little. Now no one can go wrong with Sparta, that time is over. All that remains is to focus on the league and the MOL Cup, such a disappointment cannot come anymore.
What do you even say to the strategy of Sparta, which brought in a foreign coach with whom he intends to play physically demanding football, supported by analyzes and rigorous work with data?
Why not, let’s see how successful she will be. But I still can’t get rid of the feeling that Sparta is a Czech club, and I personally would like it the most if it was led by one of its legends. A former star who wore the summer jersey for ten or twelve years and knows very well what red colors are about. Priske has a slight handicap in this, but I will trust him, I will support him. Hopefully he will soak up the Spartan atmosphere as soon as possible.
You are talking about legends, including František Straka. I reckon he’s already off your list because of his slavish escapades, right?
Yes, you are right. He is a Spartan legend and he has already experienced what it means to train at Letná, but I have a problem with him more because of my personal attitude towards him. By those personalities I had in mind, for example, Ivan Hašek or Michal Bílek, I am especially sorry for him that they did not bring him back to Sparta.
By the way – have you forgiven Straka yet?
Of course not, and it probably won’t happen. When we meet somewhere, we say hello, but I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him again. I don’t know what made him do it then… I can understand a lot of things, but I just won’t forgive him for this. I would love to have him as a guest on my podcast sometime and ask him directly.
At the end of last season, especially after losing the final of the MOL Cup, considerable criticism was directed at the sports director Tomáš Rosický. The situation even went so far that the former national team midfielder offered the club owner Daniel Křetínský his resignation, but he did not accept it. Do you think it was the right decision?
The question arises whether Rosický really meant it and raised his hand himself that he wanted to leave, or was it just a game for journalists, for people and for Sparta fans. I rather lean towards the second option, that no seriously intended impulse came from Tomáš. In any case, by staying, the Spartan management showed the public that it is possible to stay in the club even after such an unsuccessful period. For me, that’s a big exclamation point.
In the summer, the sports management was expanded by Tomáš Sivok, a former national team member and your partner from the Spartan striker pair. How do you think his cooperation with Tomáš Rosicky will work?
I had known that Sivy was to go to Sparta for some time before the agreement was officially announced. Originally, however, I expected that he would come as a replacement for Rosický. But then it became clear that he would be his right-hand man, his sports manager, that he would answer to everyone and everything. Then I read an interview with him in which he claimed that he has his own opinion and that they discuss all things together before they meet somewhere. I don’t believe that.
Because I know Sivy’s view of football and during the time he has been in Sparta, I have already become familiar with Tomáš Rosický’s view to a certain extent. Such a connection smells slightly bizarre to me. Perhaps we will soon see that Rosický will really take on that responsibility and Sivok will replace him – in my eyes, he is the ideal sporting director for Sparta. He understands football, he puts his best into it, and he would present the club to the public in a much more open and welcoming manner.
Sparta demonstrated its determination to finally succeed not only with a new coaching staff, but also with a significant strengthening of the staff. Former star player Jan Kuchta is among the summer signings. You don’t mind his past?
He understood why it should bother me. We’ll see how he does football-wise, he didn’t play much or score much in Russia. (ten games/three goals) He is a quality player, but he hasn’t shown it yet even in Sparta.
Kuchta joined Tomáš Čvančara in the squad, who is a typologically similar striker, moreover, both are said to be relatively complex personalities. Isn’t there a danger that their battle for the post of striker could cause mischief in the cabin?
I hope that this will not happen, but of course I perceive the risk. Both are very temperamental, and when things don’t go their way, they get annoyed quickly, which can be seen in their communication and how they behave on the field. But if the coach decides to deploy two strikers, which would make sense especially in home matches, then there should be no problems. But we must not forget about Juliš, who is now being talked about a lot, that he is in form. Which may not necessarily be good news because the standard scenario with him is that when he starts playing well, he gets injured and you don’t see him again for a year.
It has been eight years since the last title was celebrated at Letná. Won’t even the staunchest Spartan fall after such a period of pessimism?
I expect every year that Sparta will rise and win the title. Sparta is destined to make titles. On the other hand, I’m tired of the disappointments, because the hope at the beginning of the season is very quickly replaced by disaster. After all, we hear optimistic statements in the press before the start, and I’m curious if it will finally work out this time. And if not, what will we hear in the post-season evaluations, if the fans, the groundskeeper or the custodian were to blame.
Let’s go from football to you. In January it will be three years since you left the prison gates. How have you changed since then?
Any normal person behind bars will understand the mistakes they made. I consider my criminal experience to be the birth of a new Řepka. It may sound like a phrase or an exaggeration to some, but I take it absolutely seriously. I am more humble, I don’t approach things so automatically, but above all I realized that without the support of my family and especially my girlfriend Kačka (the Kristels) I wouldn’t be where I am now. I appreciate all things and people and am basically grateful for the experience. Now I’m just living a clean life, and even if my critics don’t like to hear it, I’m living a nice life and I’m enjoying it.
Most people who fall to the bottom like to use high, strong words, but it is more difficult to fulfill them. Do you think you are doing well?
It’s hard to say what the bottom actually is… In retrospect, I see what happened to me as a gift. I certainly didn’t see it that way when all those things were happening, but in hindsight it’s a definite attitude. If I was to get to the point where I calmed down and rearranged my priorities, that was a win. I am no longer entitled to mistakes. I do my best for it, and the people around me who know me and who knew me even before that confirm this change. I am very happy for that. I will not claim that I live like a sunbather, I only do good and everyone will love me. I’m still Rape, I’ll always divide society. I won’t get rid of the past and I don’t want to either, for me the criminal is not a stigma, it is and will always be a part of me. Every day I remember my past. I was in hell for a while, but it was the best transfer station. Now I’m on the right path, which I submitted a lot and had to earn.
She emphasizes the role of your partner and presenter Kateřina Kristelová a lot, and your fans often speculate about the wedding in this regard. So what is the current situation?
Yeah, maybe my story deserves a happy ending, but I don’t really believe in them. We are talking about getting married, I asked for my hand in marriage and I would be happy if it ever happened, because Kačka did not move away from me even when everyone was recommending it. She helped me in my life like no one else, especially with how much she had to endure and how many stickers the public gave her during the lynching of the tabloid media. She stole everything. Maybe one day we will both come to the conclusion that marriage is a step that should happen. In any case, it is a question of the future.
Probably the more distant one than studying for the A coaching license, which, if you pass the entrance exams, awaits you already from November. You are learning?
I have a lot of learning and a lot of work ahead of me, but I’ve already given it a go and it makes logical sense that I’ll stay in football and try to give something back. I want to be a coach, I will do my best for it and we will see in time if all the effort will pay off. I’m ready to go for it one hundred percent.
However, you can train now, you have a B license. How are you doing with the offers? Is the market interested in you?
I have already tried coaching in Červený Janovice, where I also actively play. In the meantime I received three or four offers, but I declined them with thanks. First of all, I want to complete the highest license, studies usually take place in fourteen-day blocks and last a year. I can’t imagine that, as a head coach, I would announce somewhere that I have school and he won’t see him at the club for two weeks. When I do the A, I’d like to hit it hard. And so it will be.
For now, you are busy filming your Red Card podcast. how are you doing
Most of all, I enjoy it and I’m grateful that my fans do too. My guest now will be Vláďa Šmicer, exactly one year after the first episode. Legends like to come to me and it’s like an honor for me. I have to say that I have an excellent relationship with the staff. I’m just a bit sad that I haven’t managed to teach all my fans yet that there is some Herohero platform where they can find more interviews and bonus stuff that is missing on Youtube. And that they can support our staff in this way, because it wouldn’t be possible without all the people around. Red Card is work, and behind every work there are hours of editing and background preparation.
You have not always had a positive relationship with journalists and now you are de facto dedicated to their work. How does the role of a journalist suit you?
I would definitely not like to promote myself to the work of journalists, in this I have a certain humility. I don’t feel like a journalist, not even like a tabloid, not at all. As a presenter… Actually, not even that, I just talk to the guests in front of the camera. In any case, my relationship with journalists, and I mean the real ones, is more positive after this experience…