Slovan Liberec

FC Slovan Liberec /ˈsloʊvən ˈlɪbərɛts/ (Czech pronunciation: [ˈslovan ˈlɪbɛrɛts]), commonly referred to as Slovan Liberec or simply Slovan, is a Czech football club founded in the city of Liberec. The club is one of the most successful in the Czech Republic, having won three league titles and the domestic cup since 1993. Glass-making company Preciosa a.s. is the current main sponsor of the club.

History

The Early Years

The first predecessor of the Liberec football club was the Reichenberger Fussballklub (RFK) which was founded in 1899 (renamed to Reichenberger Sportklub [RSK] in 1904). Because Liberec was a city where the majority of inhabitants were of German nationality, until 1945, it was Germans who first established clubs and played their own league. The first Czech football club, SK Liberec, was established after World War I on 11 May 1919. In 1922, the original German club FK Rapid Ober Rosenthal became the Czech club SK Rapid Horni Ruzodol. In the same year, another Liberec-based club – SK Doubi – was established, followed by AFK Straz bezpecnosti in 1931. On 27 February 1934, SK Liberec took on the new name of Slavia Liberec so that the Czech footballers could affirm their club's Slavic character at a time when the Nazi regime in neighbouring Germany already represented a serious threat to the former Czechoslovakia as well as all of Europe.

The rivalry that once existed in Liberec between Rapid and Slavia can be compared to a smaller version of the rivalry between Prague's two most famous clubs, Sparta and Slavia. In 1938, the Munich Agreement was signed, in which representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany forced Czechoslovakia to withdraw from their border area and surrender it to Germany. After the city of Liberec was incorporated into the Third Reich, Czech football in the city came to a halt for a full seven years.

Post-War Era

At the end of World War II and with the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, Liberec took on the character of a Czech city. The first post-war game was played in Turnov on 10 June 1945 by Liberec's football club Slavia. On 15 July 1945, representatives of Czech football clubs from the border areas that had started up again met at the Radnice hotel. The result of the meeting was the verdict that each border-area club continue in the same league that it had played in up until 1938. After seven years of forced inactivity, Slavia Liberec was again included in Class I A and Rapid Horni Ruzodol in Class II. In February 1948, the Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. Under the new name of Kolora, Rapid Liberec, former Horni Ruzodol, fought its way to be promoted to the premier league. Due to the poorly thought-out restructuring of Czechoslovak physical education and sports, Kolora remained in the second league – yet an administrative decision placed Slavoj Liberec, originally established as Cechie, in the premier league. At the time, Slavoj had only played in the regional league. This reorganization created a lot of bad blood in Liberec. After one season, Slavoj was relegated to the second league. Three years later, Kolora once again battled its way up to be promoted to the premier league, but the team could not manage to save themselves from relegation the following season. Whenever Kolora, which later played under the name of Jiskra, met up with Slavoj Liberec, the match was always important and a rough battle to the end.

Establishment of Slovan

In 1958, the decision was taken to close the Jiskra and Slavoj clubs and merge the two into a single team that would have the potential to win a spot in the premier league. Although this plan stirred up very negative reactions among footballers and fans alike and despite the fact that members of Slavoj originally declared that they reject the plan, in the end they changed their minds. As a result, TJ Slovan Liberec was formed on 12 July 1958. With this name, the football club affirmed the Czech character of the club as well as the region where it played. The very first competitor the newly created team faced was Spartak Praha Sokolovo, as the famous team Sparta Prague was called at the time. Slovan lost 0–3. Despite all its efforts, for a long time Slovan Liberec was unsuccessful in its fight for a place in the premier league. At certain stages of its history, it was even relegated to the regional division or third league.

In the 1970s, Slovan managed to be promoted back to the second league, which at the time included five Bohemian, one Moravian and ten Slovak teams. Due to the vast distances, the footballers from Liberec even had to board planes to play against teams in Bardejov or Michalovce, located in the eastern parts of the country. In 1971, Slovan again failed in its attempt to be promoted to the premier league. Following this were two relegations and promotions back to the second league.

Modern times

After overcoming the financial crisis the club found itself in following the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Slovan Liberec finally had the chance to gain promotion to the top league. Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the six best teams in the second league were elevated to the newly created Czech premier league. Slovan ascended to the first league with the formation of the Czech First League in 1993, and has maintained this position ever since. In the 1990s, the club achieved a series of mid-table finishes.

In 2002, under the management of Ladislav Skorpil, Slovan Liberec became the first champions of the Czech Republic outside Prague. As Czech champions, the club entered the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, but lost their first tie to that season's eventual tournament winners Milan (0–1, 2–1). Subsequently, the team finished fourth in the league in 2002–03. Due to a league-wide corruption scandal in the 2004–05 season, the club was penalised with a six-point deduction and finished in fifth position with 46 points. In the 2005–06 season, Slovan recovered to achieve their second league title, confirmed their status as the leading Czech club outside Prague and broke the dominance of Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague.

In June 2007, popular coach Vitezslav Lavicka resigned amidst problems with club management and disappointment with the team's Champions League qualification loss to Spartak Moscow. Liberec entered the UEFA Cup first round, where they defeated Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade before being eliminated in the group stage. Performances next season under coach Michal Zach would not meet the expectations of the club owners, and Slovan experienced one of the worst seasons in its modern history. Zach's replacement by former coach Ladislav Skorpil failed to remedy the situation, as the club finished sixth in the league. In the same season, the team reached the final of the Czech Cup, but lost in a penalty shootout against Sparta Prague.

The 2008–09 season began with bitter European defeat in the UEFA Cup, as Slovan lost their second qualifying round tie to Slovak club MSK Zilina. By contrast, the club began their domestic league season with positive results against both of the dominant Prague sides, beating champions Slavia Prague 2–1 and Sparta Prague 3–0. However, a series of poor results against average opposition left the club down in fifth place by the fall. The spring saw Slovan opt for a more offensive approach and brought an improvement in results, with the club winning a derby against local rival Baumit Jablonec and beating an ambitious Mlada Boleslav side by three goals. Croatian striker Andrej Keric scored 15 goals and became the league's top scorer as the club finished third, qualifying for the newly rebranded UEFA Europa League for the 2009–10 season. In the 2011–12 season, Slovan became league champions for the third time in club history.

This page also has a version in other languages:  Слован (Либерец) (russian)

Slovan Liberec