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Čech still number one in Czech hearts

Petr Čech's move from Chelsea FC to Arsenal FC was heralded by excited fans back home – UEFA.com's Ondřej Zlámal explains why his countrymen love him so.

Petr Čech's career before joining Arsenal ©AFP/Getty Images

"When I started playing for the junior national teams, I wished I could win at least one cap for the senior side," said Petr Čech before his 100th outing for the Czech Republic. "To reach 100 is more difficult for a goalkeeper as he has to be number one, otherwise he would not get to play."

Since his debut against Hungary on 12 February 2002, he has not lost his place as first-choice keeper. That was not the case at Chelsea FC, where he was usurped by Thibaut Courtois last term, prompting him to consider his options. Today the 33-year-old ended his long association with the Stamford Bridge club by joining their London rivals Arsenal FC "on a long-term contract for an undisclosed fee".

Čech has 114 caps and needs five more to break Karel Poborský's Czech record, a fact that illustrates how much he appreciates playing international football. He is not only known as a goalkeeper but a skilful drummer, even organising a small gig during UEFA EURO 2012.

Recently he launched his own project, Bike for Everybody, which encourages active lifestyles for amateur sportspeople. In June, he took part in one of the races himself. He regularly runs his own summer school for young footballers in Prague, too.

Last season, however, was different for Čech. After returning to Prague, he regularly faced questions about his significantly reduced playing time at Chelsea. He always replied that he is a professional and must be ready to play as if he was starting. "Two years," said national team coach Pavel Vrba when asked how long his predicament would have to last for it to become an issue. The Plzeň-born custodian will be hoping the switch to Arsenal ends any such talk.

Čech is a phenomenon, an example for young goalkeepers and, having been voted Czech player of the year a record seven times, is writing footballing history. Čech has already been involved in three UEFA European Championships and is hoping to secure a fairy-tale return to France – where his great international career started while at Stade Rennais FC in 2002 – with qualification for UEFA EURO 2016.