uefa.com has been profiling the 16 UEFA Women's Cup second qualifying round contenders and conclude today with Czech champions AC Sparta Praha.
With the second qualifying round of the UEFA Women's Cup starting a week today, uefa.com has been taking a detailed look at each of the 16 clubs looking to progress to the quarter-finals and beyond. Today we conclude with Czech champions AC Sparta Praha.
Sparta may be the Czech Republic's prime force in male football but they have been even more dominant in the female game. Since the split of Czechoslovakia, Sparta have won the women's league title 12 times in 14 years, including the first nine. Their roots go back to 1970, four years after the first official women's games in that nation, but Sparta initially took second fiddle to SK Slavia Praha. Sparta did not win a Prague derby until 1974, and their first title, still under founding captain Hana Bubeníková, came two years later. Since then they have clinched 22 league crowns in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.
Sparta also showed a liking for European football, among their notable results a 6-0 win at BSG (now 1. FFC) Turbine Potsdam in 1978. But there was no UEFA club competition in those days, so Sparta concentrated on their domestic supremacy, continued after the formation of the separate Czech Republic in 1993. Their 2000/01 league triumph entitled them to enter the first UEFA Women's Cup, but they had the misfortune to draw eventual finalists Umeå IK in their group, and a 1-0 opening loss meant subsequent wins against 1. FC Femina Budapest and LFC Grand Hotel Varna were in vain.
The next year Sparta were back again - only to run into Umeå. After a 6-0 win against TKSK Visa Tallinn and 4-0 defeat of Klaksvíkar Ítrottarfelag, Sparta met the group hosts, and although Lucie Martínková scored first, by the half-hour mark it was 6-1 to the Swedish side and that score remained to take Umeå through on their way to winning the trophy. That season also saw Sparta miss a tenth title in a row as they were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player against Slavia.
Sparta missed out behind Slavia on the pitch in 2003/04, but they restored their supremacy the next year. They followed that with a fine UEFA Women's Cup campaign, cruising through the first qualifying round and moving through the second stage along with 1. FFC Frankfurt after a draw with the eventual trophy-winners. Waiting in the quarter-finals were new Swedish nemeses, Djurgården/Älvsjö, and following a 2-0 home loss, Sparta were eliminated despite a subsequent 0-0 result in Sweden. Sparta held on to their Czech title, and receiving a bye in 2006/07 in Europe were drawn in a group with Potsdam but finished bottom.
They entrered in the opening stage this season, and needing a win in their final match against Maccabi Holon FC trailed 3-1 but came back to triumph 4-3. Unsurprisingly, Sparta are the biggest supplier of players for the national team, and indeed Dušan Žovinec - who has coached the club since 1988 - also leads the Czech side. Key players for both teams are captain Eva Šmeralová, goalkeeper Zuzana Malcová-Pincová and striker Iva Mocová.