By Jozef Ladislav
uefa.com speaks to two current Czech Republic football heroes - FK Teplice coach Frantisek Straka and AC Sparta Praha coach Jirí Kotrba - about their Christmas plans and their excellent European campaigns in 2003/04.
uefa.com: Do you get the opportunity to relax with your family at Christmas?
Frantisek Straka: Yes, I do. Christmas is a time when there is no football at all, so I try to compensate for all the time I have not been able to spend with my family. For most of the year I live 600 kilometres away from them.
Jirí Kotrba: I can never separate soccer from my private life. Yes, I have a rest during Christmas, but I am not totally without football. I helped to establish a traditional Christmas tournament in Ceské Budejovice, and I used to play there for the old boys' team. However, I do not play any more - I just go to watch.
uefa.com: Do you let yourselves go during Christmas or do you try and avoid the beer and chocolate?
Straka: I enjoy Christmas, even if I take it easy with the beer. We used to go to one place in the Dominican Republic for ten years. It's different from a snowy winter in the Czech Republic. But we have the works when we are there, so we feel very much at home.
Kotrba: It is not about eating and drinking. We used to sing carols with friends, which was good. For me, the important thing is to feel happy. It will be a little special this year, as my granddaughter is due to be born.
uefa.com: As a youngster did you ask Father Christmas for football-related presents?
Straka: Yes. I think nearly all of my presents were related to football as a child. The tree always had a load of footballs and pairs of boots underneath it.
Kotrba: Probably yes. However, for my family, Christmas was more a time for having a laugh with family and friends, rather than about presents.
uefa.com: Have you told your players to enjoy Christmas, after both your teams kept their respective European campaigns alive?
Straka: It's totally up to them. They are professional enough to know how much they can enjoy themselves. I only asked them to be fully fit and not overweight when they return to training.
Kotrba: They deserve the freedom after a long and hard season. They can eat and drink all they want. Only the players who were injured for a long time must stick to their individual plans to recover.
uefa.com: What will you be doing for New Year?
Straka: Relaxing without any football in the Caribbean.
Kotrba: I don't like to do anything too extravagant. I prefer a quiet celebration with the family. We will go to my parents' cottage as usual.
What will your New Year's resolutions be for 2004?
Straka: I have only one resolution, and that will be for me and all people to be healthy.
Kotrba: I don't believe in New Year's resolutions.
uefa.com: What are your football hopes for 2004?
Straka: I hope the Czech Republic will maintain their wonderful form at UEFA EURO 2004™, and prove they are one of the best sides in the world. On the club scene, I hope that FK Teplice will be in next year's UEFA Cup.
Kotrba: We have fulfilled our dreams already by advancing to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage and booking a last-16 match with AC Milan. I hope we can produce the same kind of form against them as we did against S.S. Lazio.
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