By Bulldog Drummond
Slavia Prague’s Ondřej Kúdela has been banned for ten matches for racist behaviour. This includes the one-match provisional suspension served in last week’s EL quarter-final v Arsenal.
Meanwhile there is no certainty about the fitness of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard. Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are however both ready and able to play. A defeat or a goalless draw would mean that a quarter century of playing in Europe would now come to an end.
Meanwhile Chinese Prague are attempting to reach a European semi-final for the first time in 25 years – their last appearance was in the semi-final of the Uefa Cup.
The omens for us are not especially good since the last three times we drew the first leg at home we got knocked out in the second leg – although the opposition was perhaps a little stronger each time than this week’s: Liverpool, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid.
One of the big problems for us is that while our defence is generally solid, we are not that good at doing a clean sheet in Europe – none of the last seven have seen us concede nothing. On the other hand Nicolas Pepe is reaching towards the record books with four goals and three assists in the Europa so far.
But Slavia Prague have problems of a different magnitude as CEFC China Energy, who are in effect the owners of Slavia Prague is being wound up by the Chinese state.
The problem for Slavia Prague’s controllers start four years ago as the company was refused permission to go on acquiring more and more portfolios in the Czech Republic on the rather reasonable grounds that no one knew where the money was coming from. Apart from getting a 60% stake in Slavia Prague, the Chinese group bought 10% in an airline travel company, a majority holding in a brewery, and a lot of property Slavian property. Not to mention an online travel company exploiting Prague as a destination for Chinese tourists.
Then just to make sure everyone appreciated what a jolly good thing all this was CEFC started buying majority holdings in TV stations and magazines and shutting down all negative coverage of China.
Which all sounds like good new since just six years ago Slavia Prague were on the edge of bankruptcy.
Unfortunately for the club, CEFC Europe have now stopped operating in the Czech Republic, and the money seems to have stopped flowing into the club. This Europa campaign made be the last venture for the club for some while unless a lot of new funding is found quickly.
CEFC Europe still has 22 companies in the country, but nothing is happening in the companies HQ, according to reports. Meanwhile Slavia Prague has to show its local league that in can operate at the top local level with extra finance, if it can’t … no go.
And this goes beyond a local issue in Prague. The drive to make China a leading force in European football, with money also being pumped into clubs at home, started to crumble when suddenly the deal with the Premier League to show matches on local TV was unilaterally cancelled by the Chinese, who failed to pay an instalment on the deal. Several senior Chinese officials working on the project are thought to be under arrest in China.
Probably the heart of the problem is that China is not used to have billionaires who have learned the trick of borrowing against future earnings and so take on massive amounts of debt. CEFC itself is said to have debts of £13.3bn. Milan, Atlético Madrid and Aston Villa have all found themselves in financial trouble because of the uncontrolled activities of expansionist billionaires from the People’s Republic. Wolverhampton, although having no connection with China, also got involved in borrowing against what turned out to be a very uncertain future.
So while Slavia Prague may feel they hold the upper hand as a result of the draw at Arsenal’s stadium. their future overall looks anything but promising.
- Arsenal injury crisis is a phantom of the Mirror’s imagination
- In Switzerland Fifa is on the edge of being blown up. In England….?
- Why life working for a football club might not always be what it seems
- The big six transfers thus far, and who’s got more cash?
- Arsenal transfers: Gnabry return, White a disaster, Martinez a loss?