Next Monday a group of fans of Bohemians 1905 are setting off on a huge adventure. The supporters are heading to Australia to retrace a famous 1920s tour that gave the Prague soccer club both their name and their “kangaroo” logo. Among the party visiting 10 cities Down Under will be Darek Jakubowicz, whose family company are majority shareholders and main sponsors of Bohemians. When he visited our studio, I first asked Darek how the original tour had come about.
“That was in 1927 when AFK Vršovice, as Bohemians were called in those days, were one of the Prague clubs invited to tour. First they asked Sparta, who rejected the offer because of national league reasons. So did Slavia Prague.
“Then they asked AFK Vršovice and they decided to go. They borrowed a few players from the national team as well.”
And they changed their name to be more kind of patriotic?
“No, that was during the trip, when they got there. It was quite difficult for foreigners to pronounce Vršovice, so they started calling them Bohemians, which means Czechs. The [club logo] kangaroo came as well, after the trip.”
I want to speak about the kangaroo in a second, but one thing I’m also interested in is, is it true, as I’ve read, that Bohemians’ tour of Australia was the first by a European club?
“As far as I’m aware, they were the first continental European club.”
They may have had a tour by a British club but no club from the continent of Europe?
“Or Irish. Exactly.”
And the tour was a big success in Australia? Bohemians won most of their games.
“Yes. They played 20 games. Nineteen of them were in Australia, one was in Sri Lanka [then Ceylon], on their way there.
“They won 14 of them, they drew three and they lost three. They lost those matches because they were the last ones of the whole tour. They played a game every two days. They were so tired, that’s probably how they lost those games.”
So yes, the kangaroos. Bohemians came back to them Czechoslovakia with two kangaroos, I believe, but I’ve read different things about them. I’ve read that at least one of the kangaroos was a gift to [President T.G.] Masaryk from the Australian government, and I’ve also read that they were given to Prague Zoo – what’s the truth?
“I don’t know exactly what the truth is, but I can tell you what the most common version of it is. That is that they were so successful they got two kangaroos.
“Actually we say kangaroos, but for Australians they are wallabies.”
Which are slightly smaller.
“Yes. They brought them to Czechoslovakia and they were both presents to Mr. Masaryk. He gave those wallabies to one of the zoos in Prague. It wasn’t Prague Zoo, it was one of the parks which was called a zoo as well, before.”
What happened to them in the end? Did they die naturally? Were they stuffed and became kind of club mascots?
“I’m not sure what happened to them, I wasn’t around in those days. But I’m sure one of them is currently at the Bohemians stadium, stuffed, and you can visit the stadium, see the club museum and the kangaroo is still there.”
Tell us about the upcoming tour, which begins on September 1. Why was it organised?
“It was all organised by our friend Daniel Krajča. When he had his birthday, it was quite an anniversary though I’m not sure he’d want us to mention his age, he wrote on Facebook that his present would be his dream – to go to Australia to see what Bohemians saw many years ago.
“When he posted that, all the fans started joining in, saying, yeah, that’s a great idea, I’m definitely going with you. That’s how it all began.”
“Well, when Daniel saw how people were interested he went to one of the airlines and booked 10 tickets. In the end he found that 10 tickets weren’t enough. Now the whole tour consists of 12 people, I think.”
What’s the plan? The tour will follow the same route, going to the same football grounds as Bohemians did back in the day?
“The tour is not following their route exactly. It’s going around Australia. We are going to all the cities where Bohemians were 80 or 90 years ago.
“But we are going in a different direction because we’re using different transport methods.”
Is the club itself officially involved with this tour?
“The club is officially one of the partners of the tour and many sponsors are also partners of this trip.
“Also there will definitely be a documentary about the trip narrated by [well-known actor] Ivan Trojan, who’s the number one fan of Bohemians.”
Do you have plans to show the documentary on TV, or what’s going to happen with it?
“It will definitely be on Czech Television. It will be a five- or six-episode documentary.
“And the material they gather will be also be part of a Czech football history documentary, which will be filmed later as well.”
Have your group established contact with the Australians and Australian football clubs? Are they expecting you?
“Yes, they are. We’ve contacted all of them. Not only the football clubs are expecting us but also the mayors of the cities, the Czech consulate and also Czech natives who live in Australia are expecting us. I think they are the most interested in our visit.
“I think we’ve got plans for every single night, meeting Czech people there, meeting mayors, meeting Czech consulate staff, exchanging club jerseys – and exchanging historical stories and material that can later be used in the documentary.”
Does the fact that Bohemians have the kangaroo, or the wallaby, in their logo make the story interesting for Australians?
“It actually does. I’ve met a lot of Australians in Prague who when they saw the logo they felt like they were home. They feel like there’s a part of Australia in the Czech Republic.”
Have you found much interest from the Australian media, say, ahead of the tour?
“Yes. The head of the tour has already given a few interviews on Australian radio stations and I think we’ll be giving live interviews as well.”
Tell us about your own relationship with Bohemians – how did you become a fan of the team?
“I became a fan of the team when I was seven or eight, when I started being aware of football. My father brought me to a game.
“But it was later when I got really interested in the club. That was after the rebirth of the club, which happened in 2005.”
Basically the club collapsed and it was revived by fans.
“Exactly. A group of fans met in a pub, put the money on the table and saved the club.”
What is it about Bohemians that makes the club so much different from other clubs? When you go to the game the atmosphere is different; it’s less hostile and is more kind of fun. The singing is great. What makes Bohemians different?
“I think it’s the fans. We’ve got probably the most loyal fans in the Czech league. You can see it at away matches. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing in the second league or the first league – they’re always with us. It’s amazing.”
“I would say our fans are free-minded and independent people. They can think whatever they want, they can do whatever they want.”