Open Wheeler: I don’t do stupid things anymore, I still want to play in the Champions League. Tvrdík is a great father-in-law
Lagos (from our correspondent) – At the training camp in Portugal, he is working to keep his form from the end of autumn. But the 28-year-old Slavist goalkeeper Kolář will never be satisfied, as he points out in the luxurious Cascade Hotel, from where you can hear the splash of the Atlantic Ocean.
Do you dare to say that you are back to the shape you were in before the severe head injury?
This is always hard to say, I’m getting into it. But then I was at my peak, we were playing in the Champions League, I was hit by almost everything there. Sometimes I thought it was impossible. Take the game in Barcelona (0:0). If they played there for four more days, everything would hit me. I feel that I’m getting closer to it again, but I’m still missing something to be in optimal shape. Besides, I’ll never admit to being in it again. I used to be a bit lax, but otherwise I set my mind and I will keep telling myself that I can improve.
Much has been said and written about your attitude and the fact that you did not give everything to football. Did you definitely correct the quotes?
Yeah. I always had the gift of being able to do everything. Compared to the others, I was able to shoot at thirty percent and the ball was hitting me. I had the given genetics, I didn’t have to sacrifice everything and it worked out. To tell the truth, everything changed with the wedding. The stress fell off me, I stopped doing stupid things. I also experienced such burnout. When I got out of the gate I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t want to go back. Just a tough time. After getting married, I got my head in order, which was the best step to get back into the gate.
When exactly did you experience the burnout you speak of?
It started with the match against Ferencváros (August 2021), when the ball went over my leg, I scored a goal, and in that double leg we were eliminated from the Champions League. Then we didn’t even advance to the Europa League and I was criticized. For some mistakes certainly rightfully so, but overall I think it was over the top. It was coming to me from all sides, my family was reading it, it was confusing me more and more. It was hard to deal with. It probably took me longer than it should have. As (one of the goalkeeper coaches) Štěpán Kolář says, it was already a minute past twelve. But it worked, I’m struggling and I have a completely different approach.
You mentioned that you’ve also done some crazy things. What kind?
Don’t imagine I go to discos. Not that. But when I didn’t like something in training, I was immediately angry and then I didn’t do things to my full potential. I had to reset my head, I changed my lifestyle. I am grateful to the coaches that they never broke the stick on me.
When you talk about being able to work at thirty percent, don’t you ever wonder where you could have been, when you would always drive at one hundred? Can you think of the Premier League?
Everyone tells me this. But if I pushed harder, I might get injured. I drove in a mode that suited me, and I stayed in it for several years after leaving Liberec. Everything went smoothly and three and a half years in Slavia turned out to be above standard. I had no injuries, I succeeded, I helped the team a lot. I rode that wave for a long time. Then came two or three mistakes and everything started to turn around. I think a lot of people were waiting for me to drive them away. Everyone probably doesn’t enjoy reading about someone doing well for a long time.
Are people wishing you mistakes?
I think it was. At that time, I played in a style that probably no other goalkeeper here played. No one was used to it and people thought I was crazy for zigzagging in the middle of the pitch. I was waiting for the error to come. The first one came in Teplice, when we clearly won, so no one really cared about it. I didn’t even make a similar mistake with Ferencváros, but the ball went over my leg and it was a mess. This broke my neck.
So what changed for you after your wedding?
I realized in my head that it’s not just me anymore, that I’m not living a youthful life anymore, but I have to start living differently. I had to be more responsible. I thought that I would not only embarrass myself, but also my wife and the whole family. Moreover, Janča was my willow, I kept complaining to her. She always stood by me and supported me. She helped me a lot. If it wasn’t for her, God knows how I would have turned out.
How do you deal with your relationship being under a lot of scrutiny? You are the goalkeeper of a big team and your wife is the daughter of club boss Jaroslav Tvrdík.
The beginning was harder, a lot of jokes were made because of it. At first I laughed, then it started to bother me. But then I thought: so what? I have a wife, I love her, I am happy with her, and what others say can be completely stolen. It depends on how the two of us and our families feel about it. We are satisfied, both families see each other, we are missing nothing.
What is Jaroslav Tvrdík’s father-in-law like?
Super. I was a little worried about it, but we sat down as human beings even before Janča and I got together. We have always treated each other fairly. I was a little worried about what he would say to our relationship, but he took it positively and brilliantly. We have above-standard relations and we know each other. But we said goodbye to work, we don’t deal with it at all at home.
So football is taboo at family visits and celebrations?
We are talking about the English or Spanish league, for example, but we said that we will not discuss the situation in Slavia at home. It was not good towards the cabin.
How did the cabin take the news that your partner is the daughter of the club boss?
I still hear a joke about it. But during my time in Slavia, I have built up a certain position. I’m here for the sixth season, I’m one of the most experienced. I definitely don’t want to be seen through the fact that my father-in-law is the boss of the club. And maybe no one is looking at me anyway.
When you were at your best, you received a lucrative offer from Nice. Don’t you sometimes blame yourself for not accepting her?
This offer was really interesting. Great destination, football, excellent coach. But I tell myself that everything is as it should be. I don’t regret it. I had a wonderful time in Slavia, I found a wife. If I had left, God knows how it would have been. So yes, the offer was lovely and lucrative, but that’s okay.
Are you still thinking about a possible transfer abroad?
Right now I want to do a double. We’ll see what happens next. Of course, every player has ambitions and wants to try abroad, but now I want to climb as high as possible with Slavia. And I want to play the Champions League at least once more. But I wouldn’t mind trying it abroad once.
It is interesting that you are already preparing without a helmet, which you first wore in matches after a head injury. Why did you make that decision?
When I got back in the gate after the injury, I was very scared. I thought about it and thought I could have been dead or lost an eye. I created a block. Then I got into the gate and started making those mistakes, everything was wrong. I thought something needed to change. And I tried to throw off the helmet, I wanted to get rid of it, to throw him off me. I gave away, two matches came out, but then I started to worry again in training. It started to come back to me. Everyone wanted to help me, they sent me to a sports psychologist, but I’m not good at this. I needed to find that way, my wife helped me with that. Now I’m not afraid anymore, I throw myself under my feet like before, I don’t remember what happened at all. And I don’t have a helmet.
Do you ever remember the fateful clash with Kemar Roof from the game against Glasgow Rangers?
No longer. I used to get videos to me. So now I sometimes find it morbid when some fans come in asking for an autograph and they have a card where Roofe has a football in my head or my head is broken. I ask myself if they want to remind me like this.
Yes. I laugh about it now, but it used to make me uncomfortable. I don’t know how anyone would like it if they were in a car accident and people showed them pictures of it. That would not be pleasant for anyone. But I’ve always signed and I’m glad I don’t deal with this moment in myself anymore.