Pilsen’s No. 1 goalkeeper, the Czech representative Jindřich Staněk, is injured, and a replacement for an important match in the Conference League at the ground of the biggest rival in the group, the Croatian Dinamo Zagreb, was offered – the already quite experienced Slovak legionnaire Marián Tvrdoň, who, by the way, has already taken on this role several times.
He has already started eight times in the highest Czech competition, the team is sufficiently familiar with his qualities. However, coach Miroslav Koubek, himself a former league goalkeeper, somewhat boldly reached for a different solution – the debut in the A team was given to only eighteen-year-old Viktor Baier. And he succeeded, the players of Dinamo Zagreb did not overcome him, he played a significant role in the 1:0 win.
This performance also helped him earn his first league start on Sunday. The latter did not go so well: Viktoria Plzeň shockingly lost at home to Karviná 0:1. However, the goalkeeper was not to blame for the defeat.
Czech football has another big goalkeeper name, who is predicted to have a great future. He may have a more dazzling career than Staněk. And maybe even Petr Čech, a great legend, whose character he resembles a lot.
Well built timbers
The young goalkeeper was not surprised by the nomination in Zagreb. “I knew that the chance could come, so I thoroughly prepared for it and I am very happy for this opportunity,” he admitted after the match.
A clean sheet against a strong team at the Maksimir Stadium is a big feat for a debutant. Baier made the most impressive save in the 61st minute, when he caught Vidović brilliantly. “That intervention made me even more comfortable and then I tried to go for the centers and it flew from my leg,” he described his feelings after the match.
For a long time he could not believe that everything turned out so wonderfully. “I guess I need to pinch if I’m still awake. I still think it’s a dream,” he did not hide his trembling. But then he woke up. “I am very happy to win with a clean sheet. I thank the boys for holding me and supporting me,” he did not forget his teammates, knowing that the team wins and loses.
He was also aided in the match by well-built timbers, pole and crossbar. But even by that you can recognize a strong personality – that he has luck on his side.
Patience – the coach advises
From a coaching point of view, deploying a complete rookie was perhaps a rather bold move, but it was also a logical one. “Several factors made the decision,” coach Koubek explained after the match. “After the loss in Liberec, Marián Tvrdoň came under overwhelming pressure from social networks and the media, there was a lot on him,” he recalls the league defeat 0:3, in which the man between the three posts was not a support for the team.
Mentality is very important for goalkeepers. “We thought we would leave him alone against Zagreb,” Koubek reveals. “After careful consideration Viktor was given a chance, we see him every day in training and according to experts he is the greatest goalkeeping talent in the Czech Republic. There was a question about how he would handle the pressure of the international level, but he showed that he has a strong head,” he praises the performance of his charge.
Father extraleague volleyball player
He inherited his centimeters and his love for sports mainly from his father, Peter, a former extra-league Příbram volleyball player. “The whole family was multi-sports, they rode bicycles, went on the water, Viki also tried hockey and volleyball,” reveals Antonín Barák Sr., a physical education teacher and youth coach, who trained dozens of first-league soccer players at the Příbram sports school in Březové Hory. Now a lanky goalkeeper has joined them.
He has no doubts about Baier’s goalkeeping abilities, but he also believes in his character. “Calm, deliberate, mentally strong,” characterizes him. “And above all, he has the appropriate humility. Respect for your opponent, your teammates and your work. I’m not afraid that there will be a mess now – the world is at my feet, everything will work itself out. He realizes that the match in Zagreb was successful and that his career is on the rise, but that doesn’t have to be the case all the time,” says Barák.
He also bases his opinion on Baier’s appearance on television after the match in Croatia. “He just exuded that respect, which is very important,” he observed. “But everything doesn’t have to go so beautifully,” he warns. The Pilsen coach Koubek takes the same position. “I don’t like premature considerations,” he said when asked if Baier would now become number one. “He won the game in Zagreb, it will strengthen him, but I was a goalkeeper myself and I know how difficult it is sometimes. I wouldn’t rush anywhere,” he advises patience.
The Příbram teacher promptly discussed the successful debut with his father Petr. “We called each other, I congratulated him on his son’s zero, but at the same time we realized that it was really just the beginning. It takes a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices, that’s what contemporary top football requires,” emphasizes Barák, whose son Antonín Jr., a Czech international, at the same time, after a longer medical break, played for Italian Fiorentina in the Conference League against Serbian club FK Čukarički and contributed to a big win 6 :0.
Roll and gummy bears
While still in the pupil category, at the age of thirteen, Radek Sňozík, one of the most famous Příbram goalkeeper bards, took care of him. “It would be nice to claim that I recognized a mega-talent in him right away, but that’s not the case,” he doesn’t want to brag about his clairvoyance.
He remembers the young charge well. “A roll in one hand, gummy bears in the other and he went for it,” he recalls. “On top of that, the boyhood years, which fade away with everyone,” he can understand the period of maturation.
Therefore, he knows how difficult it is to grind a promising gem. “It’s a specific position, every goalkeeper is an original, they have to find their own way,” clarifies Sňozík. “It was clear to me that Viki will grow up to two meters, so she may have more difficulties with movement coordination and dexterity, but that can be replaced with something else,” he explains.
The digging technique is also added to this. “Today it is a necessity, but I still see it as an added value, the main mission of the goalkeeper is to catch something,” Sňozík highlights the basic mission of the men with gloves. “However, Viki often took to the field during training, his legs will not be his weakness,” they say convincingly.
Under professional supervision
At the age of fifteen, he transferred Baier to Viktoria Plzeň. “Jirka Hlaváč took care of him,” reveals the continuation of the educational process. “And that’s the most important thing for his growth, that there are people around him who will support and help him. From my father Peter, whom I also know well, and the whole family in general, which created the necessary background for him,” he returns to his roots.
And the Pilsen team is also led by Miroslav Koubek, former league goalkeeper of Sparta Prague, who knows well what this trade entails. “That’s another advantage,” agrees Sňozík. “Although it is also two-sided, because he also sees what another coach would not notice at all,” he discusses.
Born January 16, 2005, Příbram
1. FK Příbram (2011-2020), Viktoria Plzeň (2020-2023).