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Czech football: 1922 or 1942? Pilát & Bican

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-08-17 14:03:58

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— Unknown | 25/12/1942 —

Who's better? Former or current footballers? — One says this, the other says that. Our Christmas poll has been organised on a photo theme. Fifty experts and laymen deliberated and then decided. How?
Unfortunately, to this day, there is no drink that can maintain or restore youth. That is why we will continue to be only fruitless debates, starting with "that's us, in our youth..." and ending with the question whether "those former young men were really different fellows".
In sport, this question comes up most often in football. Did those old guys play better or worse than today's footballers? Two of the best football forwards our football has ever had got into a similar, but only friendly, argument in our sports editorial office on December 4 this year: Václav Pilát, now 55 years old, a pensioner, and Josef Bican, a 29-year-old clerk. It was fun, but there was no way it could end, so it was finally agreed to put it to a public vote. Experts, public officials, artists were asked to decide the question "Who would win" — and here below you have their answers, which, we'll give it away right now, sound overwhelmingly in favour of the old man.
For the sake of completeness, let us also state that the two famous centre-forwards were to field the best eleven of their day, and they were only ordered to put themselves in the centre of the attack. Pilát was ready with the line-up immediately, Bican thought most about the left wing, but finally decided that no one would dig for Kolenatý anyway and put the now injured but still excellent Vytlacil there. Here are the lineups:
Pilát, 1922: Kaliba — Hojer, Steiner — Kolenatý, Káďa, Perner — Sedlacek, Janda, Pilát, Vaník, Mazal. Bican, 1942: Horák — Kocourek, Zastera — Hendrych, Boucek, Ludl — Riha, Vycpálek, Bican, Kopecký, Vytlacil.
And they back up their words with expert opinions. The most common of these is a comparison of the two teams' half-backs, which comes out clearly for the Kolenatý-Káďa-Perner trio. "They were more solid," "they were more steady," "they played with more style," "They were not moody," scream the pages of most letters. "They did less, but they put their heart into the game," say some mildly, and others add even more mildly: "If nothing else, their fearlessness and hardness would have decided that the game was not played with gloves on!"
It is interesting that among those who believe in the victory of the 1922 XI we also find four players from the young team itself. The old men believe in their superiority unwaveringly — except for one man (not counting the three dead: Kaliba, Steiner and Mazal), Jan Vaník. But read the names:
Prof. Dr. R. Pelikán; K. Petrů; Ant. Puč; J. Plaček; Ant. Hojer; F. Gurtler; Dr. Karel Myška; Frant. Kolenatý; E. Bryndač; Jára Kohout; Ant. Perner; J. Pichler; Jar. Gleich; Josef Sedláček; B. Tesař; Frant. Cejnar; Fr. Sojka; V. Valoušek; Z. Kalina; Josef Čapek; J. Tesař; Rudolf Vytlačil; Jos. Kuchynka; Gustav Krist; Josef Ludl; V. Tuma; Ing. Dr. J. Tille; Jan Říha; J. Soltys.
Out of fifty replies, only twelve were received for the class of 1942. Most of them prefer the polished technique and speed of today's team, which is perhaps more moody, but is said to have some players much better than the opposition. The great player of the past, Jan Vaník, however, says serious words:
— Today's average is much higher than ours, that's why the best players don't tower over their surroundings and why many people think that we used to be better. In hindsight, many want to idealise us — but that is also wrong.
Here are those who "trust the young":
Dr. IngC. J. Ženatý. Josef Zubr. Procházka. Dr. Vl. Siba. Jaroslav Bouček. F. Kuchař. Jan Vaník. Vlastimil Kopecký. Josef Bican. Josef Vaněk. Hiřman. R. Hrušinský.
Interestingly, many experts agree on the 5:1 result for the 1922 edition. Káďa sent us a four-page analysis which almost shows the superiority of the old and the result, two others see the decisive moment in the greater perseverance of the earlier footballists — and Janda, who recently celebrated Abraham, cannot help but see in the 1942 edition only a kind of analogy of the second set that played in Italy in 1922. Here are the names of those who see the high defeat of the youngsters:
Dr. Karel Pešek-Káda: 5:1. Josef Maleček: 5:1. Antonín Janda: 5:1. Václav Pilát: 5:1. J. Honejsek: 5:1. Josef Capek: 7:4. Stan. Kocourek: We would get a lot. Boh. Smetana: 5:1.
They spoke for the first time in their lives on 4 December 1942 in the sports editorial office. After the introduction, Pilát began the conversation with a sincere admiration.
Pilát: Boy, you can do a lot, it's a pleasure to watch you...
Bican only modestly said:
Bican: It's not so bad, you were better; friends still talk about you today that you would be an ornament to any team today!
And there's already a spark. Pilát looks away from the party and then speaks.
Pilát: Do you think that you, today, would defeat us? And by how many?
Bican says slowly again.
Bican: Well, a by lot...
But Pilát shakes his head and...
Pilát: You'd be out of parades, out of systems and out of paper forwards.
But Bican defends himself.
Bican: We are faster — and believe me the W system doesn't matter. I myself would rather play like you: in the back and send the inside forwards into the holes. We don't have inside forwards for that, but when I played for Admira, we never played the W system!
Pilát: It's not just the system, it's the whole concept of the game. When we took the field, it was one eleven — when you come out, it's eleven footballers.
Bican: That's only part of the reason. In your day, players were recruited mostly from a single stratum. Today the football community is much broader and then it's not even possible for us all to get along off the field. The difference in professions and thus the diversity of interests is tearing us apart.
Pilát: But even on the pitch you look at each other as competitors.
Bican: That's what you're accusing us of, but it's not as bad as people say. But we are all human beings. You guys haven't always been best friends with each other either, I've heard that two great players haven't spoken to each other in years.
Pilát: But no one could tell on the field. And it was just an exception. Otherwise, a football game was a celebration not only of the players, but of their entire families. Mom took the provisions and we went on a trip. Like a road trip.
Bican (laughing): And before the game, we'd make ten pies and then go on the field...
Pilát: Maybe twenty, but it was played! And the opponent was soon running away.
Bican: It wouldn't have been possible today. Today both teams have to run, even the winners, because there are a lot more evenly matched clubs than there were back then.
Pilát: Who said we didn't run?
Bican: I don't know how that went with 20 beers in my legs.
Pilát: We put the enthusiasm into it. Fearlessness, and from the first minute we dismantled the opposition.
Bican: Nowadays, most big teams know how to play like that. It just so happens that we in Slavia play a similar system: let the opponent shoot the dust and then score goals with violent attacks.
Pilát: You win "all on Bican". We played with the whole five forwards. When the defenders catch you and I cast.
Bican: The other forwards are free. I've heard about your defenders, but I'd dare to run away from them. And I think I'd score not only a few goals, but also alot!
Pilát: I don't know, I don't know. Too bad we can't make it happen.
Bican: Too bad. But we'll let the public decide.
The two great guys then agreed that besides football, fishing was their favourite thing, and after saying goodbye to the editorial team, they left as old friends.