IN the first of a new series Jules Betts (@BettsJulian) packs his suitcase and travels to Czech Republic in search of culture and a good bet.
FC Vysocina Jihlava v FC Fastav Zlin | Friday 17:00
“Life is a gamble at terrible odds, if it were a bet, you would not take it.” Even from the relative safety of the Western World it’s difficult to argue with the words of the British playwright and screenwriter, Sir Tom Stoppard. British. His children are named Oliver, Barnaby, William and Ed. Definitely British.
We’ve heard much about what that means or is thought to describe during the recent Brexit debates. Again amidst the vicious and hate filled US Presidential campaigns, immigration and the fear of diversity and was given a full, frank and depressing airing.
But it is not just for the great quote that I started with the man knighted in 1997 and inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame two years later. That same man, that same British icon, was in fact born Tomas Straussler in 1937. His place of birth – the city of Zlin in South-eastern Moravia in the Czech Republic (I knew I was going somewhere with this). On 15th March 1939, just one day before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, the Straussler family fled to Singapore.
Before the Japanese occupation of Singapore the two sons and their mother were sent to Australia and from there in 1941 they were evacuated to Darjeeling in India where Tomas became Tom and his brother Petr became Peter. And that my friends is, for me at least, a fascinating example of how tied to Europe most of us are and how little most of us realise it.
Zlin itself is best known for its shoes after Tomas Bata founded a shoe factory there in 1894 which supplied the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War 1.
The city grew from there and the model of Zlin was so successful that Bata set up branch offices in over 20 countries including East Tilbury in England.
A 2016 to remember
Zoom forward to the present day and the un-fancied Czech “cobblers” have had a storming beginning to 2016. Barely avoiding relegation last year by a mere three points, they now sit proudly and surprisingly in second position in the Czech League ahead of historical capital heavyweights Slavia and Sparta Prague.
Bearing in mind their previous highest top tier finish before now has been seventh this has been an unprecedented start. Friday’s opponents Jihlava, on the other hand, have slipped into the bottom two and sit firmly in the red zone having amassed a paltry nine points from 13 games.
Their wretched home form reads W1 D3 L3 whilst a revitalised Zlin’s away figures make for much better reading at W4 D1 L1. Even more impressive is that two of these victories were at teams sitting in 1st and 4th in the table respectively.
Zlin, just like Leicester before them, have so far been completely underrated and luckily for us continue to be so. Their four wins this season have come at odds of 6/1, 13/5, 5/2 and 6/1. That is stunning value in anyone’s book and cannot be written off as random flukes.
Jihlava are nowhere near the level of the teams Zlin have already dispatched so to see offers of 9/5 on the table for an away win on Friday is not to be sniffed at.
Apart from the single away defeat at Teplice (who incidentally also beat Jihlava by the same 2-0 score line) I see no evidence of the Zlin bandwagon coming off the rails and with a fittingly cosmopolitan look about their strike force led by six goal Bosnian Haris Harbo and the 23 year old forward from Senegal, Dame Diop, their immediate future looks in safe hands.
Jihlava offer little or nothing. Poor last season, they are even worse this. The 21/10 looks superb value to me, no way should Jihlava be priced up as favourites for this one.
Czech out the value
For those wanting an escape route the Asian Handicap at 5/6 offers the safety net of your stake returned if the game ends all square. Alternatively the braver amongst you might be tempted by the 9/2 available on Zlin + BTTS bearing in mind five in seven of Jihlava’s home games and three in six of Zlin’s away have seen both teams finding the net.
Personally I’ll stick with the 21/10 and if any further evidence were needed Zlin also happens to be the birth place of Ivana Trump, ex wife to the President Elect, who himself has just landed much bigger odds in his own surprise victory.
If Donald can do it then anyone can and with that final political reference I’ll leave you with yet another though provoking Stoppard quote – “It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.” Let’s hope we are all counting our winnings on Friday evening.
FC Vysocina Jihlava v FC Fastav Zlin – FC Fastav Zlin to win (21/10 Bet365)