Month: June 2014

Ondra ‘CasaNova’ on Prague City Roller Derby

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Prague born Ondřej or ‘CasaNova’ put on his skates and gave us an insight into the world of the ever-growing and exciting contact sport that involves girls with roller skates, little shorts.. and big bruises – yep, this is Roller Derby. For a sport that is relatively new to the Czech Republic, it seems to be gaining a lot of attention. We sat down with Ondra at a training session in Prosek to find out more about the sport, and his life in Prague which includes growing up in an airport and selling beer to the UK.

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Where are you from originally, Ondra?

Well, I’m from Prague. I’ve lived here all my life, here in Prosek actually.

What did you want to be when you were young?

Well, when I was really young I really like dinosaurs and wanted to be a palaeontologist and this sort of stuff. I also wanted to be a pilot because I spent a lot of my childhood years with my grandpa who was a pilot. 5 days a week I was at the airport in Letnany, hanging around the planes and sometimes flying too. I really liked to tinker around with the mechanical stuff, most of the aircraft were ultra-lights. My mother said I was too smart for the mechanic things, but don’t feel like that now! (laughs)

That’s a really cool way to grow up. Do you study or work now?

I’m studying media studies at the Metropolitan University of Prague, I’m finishing my first year.. again! I had some bad luck, but it was experience. Nowadays I work in the logistics team for AB-Inbev doing beer orders for the UK.

You’re a Roller Derby referee, how would you describe the sport in short words?

Fast. Contact. Lifestyle. Travel. After-parties. 🙂

How did you get involved in this sport?

I knew the former captain of this team, Lenka, and she asked me if I wanted to do some sports again. I’m really sporty so I went for a ‘fresh meat’ event and then bought some skates and decided to go for it and stick with it. I had also just been through a break-up, so I needed to meet some new friends, and I met a lot of wonderful people and so far I’m really happy that I’ve joined Roller Derby and that I can do it.

Great and did you do any other kind of skating before you went to the quads?

Yeah, I was skateboarding when I was young, but I wasn’t really good or anything. I also used to in-line skate which is kind of popular here in the Czech Republic, but I started on quads for the first time here. It’s kind of similar to skiing too, so that helped me a lot.

How easy is it to learn how to skate?

It really depends if you are clumsy or not! It’s just a matter of months really. If you train regularly it can be a fast process.

Is quad skating becoming more popular?

Maybe it is a little with a few shops popping up, but I think the sport will make it more popular. It’s a little harder outdoors, it’s heavier for your legs I guess.

You mentioned travelling before, have you been to many places?

Well, with Derby I’ve gone around a lot of Europe. Last week I was in Milan, and the week before in Vienna. You meet people you already know from time to time, other officials. And it’s really nice making these friends and connections. This is really great.

Some people say it is not a recognised sport, what would you say to these people if you met them?

It means that they don’t know the sport so much. It’s becoming like a regular sport because it is very athletic; a lot of the girls need to reach a high fitness level to withstand the tournaments. It’s definitely a real sport, it will just take some time to get crowds of people following it.

You also said before that it’s a lifestyle, what does this involve?

It depends on the individual. A lot of girls get into the ‘pin-up’ style, it’s also about their self-promotion – they can choose their nickname and have an alter ego. It’s also good for girls to let some pressure off. Not everybody has the chance to hit somebody else! (Laughs). It’s not too much like boxing or Thai boxing, but it’s cool.

Everybody has a derby name… and yours in ‘CasaNova’, why?

Actually (laughs), well it’s not my alter ego. This nickname is kind of old for me. I got it at a pre-high school camp and its popular to create names for everybody and I was the last one in the cabin that didn’t have one. So, there were two girls calling me asking about the camp that night, so they said ‘hey you are Casanova!’. Lenka suggested it would be a good derby name when I started out so I took it. It’s really funny because sometimes I go to a bout (a Roller Derby game) to meet new people and officials and sometimes they say “Casanova, really?”, then at the after-party they say, “ok, I get it”.

What is the coolest derby name you’ve seen so far?

Yeah there are a few. One of the refs is named “Ref-rigerater” (laughs).

Have you ever witnessed any bad accidents or fights during a bout?

Hmmm, I’ve never encountered a real fight, but yeah I’ve seen a few injuries, but nothing really serious like broken bones or anything.

Roller Derby is mainly a women’s sport at this time, but there are men’s leagues popping up. What do you think about a Prague men’s league?

I’m not sure, it would be nice if someone did it. I’m just not sure about myself, I can picture a Prague League and I would like to help them out with some knowledge or ref for them. I don’t know if I could play, they would tell me to go for jammer because they already know that I know the sport… and then I will get beaten a lot! (Laughs). I’ve seen some games on YouTube and stuff and the hits are REALLY REALLY hard, it looks like they’re about to fly out of their skates.

Where are some good places to skate in Prague

Usual skating places are the best for quads as well. You just need to have the right wheels. Ladronka, Stromovka, Modřany, they’re all good. You also have the toe-stops on the quads which are good for stairs and walking around.

How would you describe Prague?

It’s a city with a lot of history, both positive and negative. I really like the architecture and the sights. It’s also a party town because everything is really cheap, especially for tourists. It’s easy to meet a lot of people from other countries and have a really good time with them. It’s the city of my youth.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Oh, I would definitely like to see a nuclear test with my own eyes.. from a safe spot, of course. I’d really like to encounter that out of curiosity.

I’d also like to see old Prague, the medieval times to see if it was really like the history books. That’s what I would like to see.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Which actor? That’s hard! I don’t think any actor looks like me. One of my favourites is Tom Hanks, but he doesn’t really look like me. Maybe when he was young. Or I could be played by Morgan Freeman if they don’t mind that I’m actually white (laughs). Just because of the voice! I mean, picture him as a referee. It’s really cool!

Thanks a lot for your time, Ondra.

Remember to check out the bout against Munich this Saturday in Prague. More information here.

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For more information on the upcoming bout this weekend, visit the Prague City Roller Derby Facebook page.

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

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Football fan Damien talks about World Cup corruption and Turkish ice-cream

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Manchester born Damien seems to be a local celebrity here in Prague, known by many for his work with the worldwide famous hiking (with a little bit of drinking) group the ‘Hash House Harriers’. But during the interview we were also pleased to see that Damien is quite a devoted football fan, but probably not to the team you’d think. He also has quite a controversial perspective on the current FIFA World Cup in Brazil…

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Where are you from originally?

Originally from Manchester in the UK.

How long have you been in Prague for?

It started with a big football tournament in 1996, the Czech Republic played two games in Manchester. I lived in a bar at the time and we had a girl working for us who had been teaching English in Prostějov and one of her former students came over for the tournament and basically my mother adopted them. So in 1999 we came over to the Czech Republic to visit them, then I went about 5 or 6 times a year to visit them. Then about 6 years ago I just gave up and moved here.

What do you miss about home?

Absolutely nothing!

What are the Czechs’ reactions when you say you’re from Manchester? What is it known for over here?

Ahh most people know it for football, unfortunately. I mean, they’ve got the two famous football teams, but I’m actually a fan of Liverpool which a lot of people find strange. I just say that I was raised proper. I mean at the time that I was being raised, every newspaper in the country thought that the Manchester teams were the greatest thing that ever happened. They’re so far off, it’s ridiculous. Manchester City has just been bought by a Sultan or whoever and he has put in hundreds of millions of pounds to buy the best players.

Are you following the World Cup?

So far I’ve managed to avoid every minute of it.

On purpose?

Yes, I just got so fed up with the corruption of FIFA. If anyone asks me about it now, I just call it the FIFA World Bribery Tournament… I mean the next two World Cups after this one are in Russia and Qatar, and they’re talking about having to switch the World Cup (in Qatar) to the Winter because it is 50 degrees there in the Summer, which they knew at the time; it didn’t suddenly become 50 degrees after they’d won the bid. There was obviously millions and millions being paid to FIFA members to help secure that vote.

I heard you take in stray dogs?

Yes, I foster dogs. I travel as much as I can, but when I’m here I like to have a dog. I help out the shelters by taking a dog for a few weeks at a time. The shelters have limited resources and can only keep them for so long. They way I look at it is if I take the dog for a month, it goes back to the shelter as a new dog, as opposed to a dog that has been there for three months and is about to be euthanised. It then gives them another three months to find a home.

Is it easy to get into? Should more people do it?

Yes more people should. I love dogs, not a huge fan of cats, but there is also the opportunity to foster them as well. It’s very easy, I just found a group on Facebook and emailed someone.

You mentioned that you travel a lot, what do you do for work?

I do freelance proof-reading.

Is it stable work?

Most of the time it’s pretty stable. It goes through slumps. Sometimes I struggle to keep up with the work that I have, and sometimes a week will go by with no jobs at all. It’s mostly university papers, dissertations, theses etc.

What is the weirdest or most interesting thing that you’ve read?

The only thing I’ve really learnt in the three years doing this is that Turkish ice-cream is made out of orchids.

That is weird. On this topic, tell us about your writers’ circle. What do you usually write about?

Prague Writers Group, yes. I founded that maybe 3 years ago – I was trying to write a novel at the time and I thought that would maybe give me a little push if I could meet some people on a regular basis and they could give me some feedback. It’s really starting to take off now, we have around 8-10 people who turn up for meetings.

What is your novel about?

Well the one I was working on at the time was about a serial killer knifing people at train stations, it’s mainly told from his point of view. A lot of the stories I do are short stories, and quite a lot of them have a twist at the end.

You told me some time ago that you’re in a running/hiking group with the slogan “Drinker’s with a running problem”.. How did you get this slogan?

Yes (laughs). The group is a worldwide organisation and was started in the 1930s in Malaysia. We just had the 30th anniversary in Prague. We’re called the ‘Hash House Harriers’. One person will set a trail using chalk and flour and every other person has to work out where the trail goes. Some people like to run, and some like to walk along at their own pace with a beer.. I am more the second part.

How would you describe Prague in adjectives?

The greatest city I’ve ever been to – the atmosphere, the people, obviously it’s the best beer in the world. You actually have seasons here, I’m from Manchester where you have rain.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

That is one thing I’ve never thought of. In my lifetime, the thing that I most wanted to see, I was actually there and saw… That was when Liverpool won the champion’s league in 2005. They beat A.C. Milan in Istanbul and I was there in the stadium.

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For more information on the groups, check out the links below.

Prague Writers Group

Prague Hash House Harriers

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photography by Petr Kurečka.