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The dates of Ostrava’s Baník battles have an almost sacred weight in Roman Srkala’s family. “My brother knows that I’m abnormal here. I told him that if he gets married on Saturday when we play Slavia, I won’t be his witness. He made a concession, postponed the deadline by a week, which I still appreciate,” said a loyal fan and the club’s unwritten archivist.
His passion in life is summed up in the story of marriage. Srkala, who is a carpenter by profession, readily admits that he plans his life around Baník’s fights. “It’s not just about loving the club. “Football bewitched me,” he admitted.
One of the most traditional clubs on the sports map of the Czech Republic is celebrating its 100th birthday exactly today, and it is also linked to a dedicated fan base.
Srkala herself will turn 50 this year. “Twenty years ago, I told my friends that I just have to wait for a hundred clubs and my logs. I hope I can do that. Then I took it as my goal, now of course I want to continue working, ” he said amusingly.
He once made a promise not to miss a single home game for the club. He broke the tradition this year only at the end of August. He was missing in the 1:2 loss to Teplice. He was traveling in Russia at the time. “Everyone’s forehead is tapped. I don’t support Putin’s regime, but I want to travel there. That’s all I feel,” he explained, adding that at least he wasn’t worried about the stadium when he lost .
He has been going to the club of his heart for 43 years. The first visit dates back to 1979, when Baník hosted Dynamo Kyiv full of Soviet representatives. At the time, the seven-year-old boy was commuting with his grandmother, who lived only a fifteen-minute walk from Bazal. “We had a friend out with us. We were interested in where people were going. So we joined them,” he recalled.
Men can’t get to the fight without an escort. “The gentleman who checked the tickets asked us about our father. We pointed to a strange man and we got there,” he described his first experiences in Baník.
Since 1981, he has been attending his matches regularly. Only a few of them missed the European cup tour after the revolution. As he says, he is not a typical fan who comes to the stadium to shout and then discuss the match with his friends in the pub. “It became an abnormal passion for me. I started collecting programs, newsletters, autographs, I was interested in the personal lives of the players,” he said.
At home, he fills drawers with all kinds of artefacts, visits archives, collects signatures. “I got so far that now I’m compiling a database of every player who played for the club. I’m looking for information about him and his family. I bribed the registers,” he laughed and mentioned his friend which is Roman Popek, who also lives in Baník.
Srkal’s fandom turned into detective work. And he has no boundaries. “It happened that I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, to secure the roster from the match in 1974,” shocks Srkala.
As he explained, especially ancient reports from summer matches in Czechoslovak sports often lacked detailed statistics. And so Srkala looked for data wherever she could.
Similarly, he “flew” to Burgas, Bulgaria, for example, where he was interested in one of Baník’s matches in the summer Intercup. He had to take a picture. “They didn’t give me advice at the main library, it’s closing time at the second one. The cleaning lady called a fellow librarian, and she worked hard to find a record for me two hours after work. We found a photo report in a local newspaper,” he recalled of the research success.
He also has one of the first Baník documents in his archive. He found it in a battered suitcase belonging to the grandson of one of the players. “I had to convince my grandson at first. Finally, he brought me a vintage case and I couldn’t help but wonder. There were photographs in it, one of the documents. That gave me a kick, and then you try to squeeze as long as You can do it,” reported Srkala.
In addition to many activities, he collects signatures of players, including older legends. He cherishes the memories of meeting players who have passed away. Archives are obtained, for example, from descendants.
Research also brings him paradoxical experiences. Srkala has chronic breathing problems, she suffers from bronchitis. “I was treated by a doctor who didn’t think much of it. When I found the grandson of one of the Baník players, I accidentally found out that he was the head of the lung department in Prague. Now, I visit him once every six months for a check-up,” he added.
His love for Baník and his wards sometimes helps him even when traveling around the world. “When I was in Turkey, I didn’t spend much time there. But I found a local rock fan, Milan Baroš. Then he let me stay at home for two days. We still have contact.’
Srkal’s wife is from Armenia, she does not share his passion for football. “It has nothing to do with football. Also, he’s crazy about cleaning. When he gets to my lockers, it’s bad. One time is enough for him to throw the bulletins at me, so I’m on a rampage,” he said with a laugh.
He also loaned some valuable items to the organizers of a special exhibition for the club’s 100th anniversary. “I put old foreign newspapers there, for example. When Baník was in England, the front page of the Times published a big picture of the football club from Silesia Ostrava, which came there on tour. It was a great honor that such a club got to the front page,” said Srkala, who also contributed to Tomáš Šiřina’s book We are Baník. It came out last year on the occasion of the round anniversary.
What doesn’t make him happy is the club’s results this year. Baník won just once in the opening seven rounds and remains in fourteenth place in the table. “A special edition of jerseys, t-shirts for fans, has been released. One proudly wears the inscription of a hundred years on the chest, but the performances are difficult. There are continuous underwear which is a problem in the club and it is carried inside the cabin.’
Even his descendants, including his son, observe Srkal’s passion from afar. “One wants the children to stumble. That’s almost wishful thinking, but the result? The act of running away. So let’s see,” he added.