Despite once being on the books of West Ham United, Petr Mikolanda has had to fight to maintain a career in football. When you read about the hurdles he has been up against, you'll see why it hasn't been straightforward. Mark Smith reports from Prague.
Staunch West Ham fans will recognize the name Petr Mikolanda. Petr was part of the West Ham squad for the FA Cup Final against Liverpool in 2006, yet he failed to make a first team appearance for the Hammers.
Petr signed his first professional contract with Viktoria Zizkov in 2003 after playing youth team football for Slavia Prague. Seven years later, Mikolanda is aiming to make a comeback to competitive football with the Viktoria.
Viktoria Zizkov are a modest club steeped in history, they are one of the oldest clubs in the Czech Republic after being founded in 1903 by a group of students. The stadium, right in the heart of Prague, seats a compact 5000 fans, which generates an intimidating atmosphere for away teams and supporters.
The Club is known for its traditional 10:15am kick off time, it’s normally hit and miss if I ever see that time on a Sunday morning, but if I do, then I try to make the quick tram ride to the ground to watch the game.
Zizkov had its most successful period in the late 1920’s when it won the Czechoslovak Championship, but more recently - in 2001/2002 - Viktoria performed admirably in the UEFA Cup by reaching the second round of the competition and knocking out Scottish giants Rangers on away goals.
During the season 2004/05, young Czech striker Petr Mikolanda made a big impression for Viktoria after banging in 13 goals, this caught the attention of the scouts of English Premier League team West Ham United.
West Ham had just been promoted to the top flight in England and were looking for a young powerful striker to add to their squad, Mikolanda impressed on trial with the London club and was soon signed by Hammers boss Alan Pardew.
Petr was only 20 when he moved to England to play for West Ham, describing the move as a”fairytale” as he would be playing alongside the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Bobby Zamora.
Although Mikolanda made his mark during pre-season with West Ham - scoring three goals - he found it difficult to break into the first team. Subsequently, Petr was sent out on loan to gain some first team experience. After spells with Northampton, Swindon Town and Rushden & Diamonds, Petr returned to West Ham only to be released by the club in the summer of 2006.
Czech first division side Mlada Boleslav then came in and signed Mikolanda on a free transfer. After only seven games for Boleslav came the devastating news that almost ended his playing career. Petr's kidneys were failing and he was placed on the list for a transplant. In the meantime, Petr would require intensive treatment that involved kidney dialysis three times a week.
In 2007, Viktoria Zizkov offered Mikolanda a route back into the game, coaching their youth team. A return to his former club was an opportunity Petr couldn’t refuse. After three years of coaching at Viktoria Zizkov, and whilst still on the waiting list for the kidney transplant, Petr was given the green light by the doctors to play professional football again in August this year.
After following this story in the local press in Prague, I contacted Petr and had arranged an interview with him; unfortunately, he had to cancel at the last minute due to a regular hospital visit. Sadly, it does seem that there has been a setback with his return to football. Like Mikolanda, Viktoria Zizkov are aiming to make a comeback as well – to the top division of Czech football after spending the last few seasons stuck in Divison 2.
I wish Petr a speedy recovery and really hope to see him back playing before the season is over. It would be a fitting tribute to the player, if both he and Zizkov are back in the top flight of Czech football at the start of next season.
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For further reading, IBWM strongly recommends European Football Weekends trip to Prague; Viktoria's Secret