Big interview of Dynamo Brest’s new Head Coach for Pressball.
Radoslav Latal, who has recently taken charge of Dynamo – is a famous personality in football. He has 11 appearances for Czechoslovakia, 47 – for Czech Republic, seven seasons in German Schalke 04, where he won UEFA Cup in 1997 and he is runner up of European Championship-1996. As a coach, Radoslav has been managing several domestic clubs, including Banik from Ostrava, then had successful times in Slovak Kosice and Polish Piast Gliwice – by the way, has been named as Best Coach of the Season in both Slovakia and Poland.
Now Latal starts Belarusian page in his story. The Czech may have something to say about his glorious past, expectations from the job in Brest. He easily agreed for an interview and dedicated almost an hour to our newspaper. We’ve been speaking German: the specialist speaks it fluently due to the time spent in Germany. But our talk started from congratulations – on 6 January pan Radoslav turned 48…
How have you celebrated your Birthday?
There was no big party. I had a dinner with my family – wife, son, daughter, mom, brother. So, my closest people were with me.
What about New Year and Christmas?
We’ve travelled to Egypt for Christmas, had a rest. New Year I met in Olomuc, at home.
When are you going to Brest?
At Saturday. I’ve been in Minsk three or four times only. There were meetings with Valdas Ivanauskas and other club’s management.
When have you got the offer to work in Belarus?
This happened nearly month ago. Mr.Ivanauskas called me. I was pleased to hear him. I know him since he has been playing in the 90’s for Hamburger, while me – for Schalke in Bundesliga. We’ve met at the pitch, but never talked there or later. Now we had a talk. Also I’ve watched both games against Altach in Europa League.
Was it a hard decision to take charge at Dynamo?
Absolutely not. I’ve had several more offers from Czech Republic and Poland. But Belarusian variant was more concrete and attracted me. I feel interested, although I knew few about Dynamo Brest earlier, and have never been in Brest. The city is located nearly 50 kilometers from Polish border, right?
Even closer, almost on the border.
Oh, really? Good to know. What’s about population? Three hundred thousand?
I know a fact about Belarusian football, that Dusan Uhrin-jr has been working at Dinamo Minsk, his father has been coaching me in Czech national team. Apart from two Dynamos, I’ll name BATE. The team from Borisov met Slavia Prague past summer in qualification to Champions League. Your champion resisted really well. Slavia was lucky that one of BATE’s players has been dismissed in Prague in the very beginning of the game. That eased Slavia’s task, and they grabbed the win.
Who will be your assistants in Brest?
I know only one specialist for sure – Marcel Licka. He is a Czech also, his father Verner is a famous coach, and younger brother plays in Czech minor leagues. The rest candidates into my staff are being discussed. I know, that he is a good assistant. He works well with physical conditions of footballers, which is very important for me. By the way, Marcel has been working with the mentioned above Dusan Uhrin-jr.
How many Dynamo players do you know?
But I’ll have time to learn them all. I know that there are many foreigners. Nevertheless the same has been in Polish Piast, so I’m used to it.
Does ‘Milevskiy’ surname sound familiar to you?
I’ve checked in InStat, that he’s been playing for Dynamo Kyiv and Ukraine.
Can you invite players from Czech Republic or Poland to Dynamo Brest?
First I’d like to learn everyone in the team. Then let’s see.
What are Dynamo’s goals for the forthcoming season?
We want to qualify for European cups. We have the chance to become first ever team who won Belarusian Cup twice in a row.
You’ve left Polish Piast almost a year ago. What have you been doing since then?
I have been just living in Czech Republic, learning the offers. Speaking about Piast, first it’s been wonderful there – we’ve finished second in the league. That was a sensation, and we could have won gold medals. Nevertheless, our team failed the ending of the championship, and more experienced Legia finished firstMoreover, Piast’s President resigned. After it, some started rumoring in Poland, that I don’t have coaching license. But this is false – I do have!
Can you compare the championships of three Slavonic countries – Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland?
Czech players are more technically gifted, they work nice with the ball. Polish play more aggressive football, run much. In Slovakia many players go abroad being young, so there is much youth in the teams and they are decently coached. There was Ondrej Duda in my Kosice, who’s currently playing for German Hertha Berlin, and other talented lads.
You are working abroad recently. Don’t you feel like training Czech clubs?
Why? I don’t care where to work – at home or abroad. The main is to have an interesting offer. I’ve started my coaching career in Czech Republic, have been managing teams from minor leagues, later – the famous Banik from Ostrava. Again, there were variants now, but they were not so concrete.
What language will you use to communicate in Brest?
During first trainings I’ll have an interpreter. Then I hope to learn Russian. To be true, I’ve already started – I am learning it for a month with a tutor. He is a Czech, but speaks perfect Russian. By the way, I’ve been learning this language in school for five years: my childhood went in socialistic Czechoslovakia. Russian didn’t seem us very hard. I remember how we’ve been learning alphabet. Usually I got ‘twos’ and ‘threes’ – ‘one’ was the highest mark, we have the same system like in Germany. Actually, when I moved to Gliwice, I learnt Polish quickly – two month later I’ve been giving interview speaking it. Hopefully, soon I can speak Russian with press.
Your Piast has been playing with three central defenders. Is this your favorite formation?
I successfully used it also in Slovak Kosice. I’m not ready to answer about Brest’s formation. First I need to see the players.
You have a bright playing career. What’s the most notable moment of it?
Actually, I had two – silver medals of Euro-96 and UEFA Cup win with Schalke in 1997. The victory in European cup gave me more emotions, so I’ll highlight it. That final consisted of two games - we beat Inter 1:0, but in Milan conceded in the ending. Nevertheless, we grabbed the trophy in penalty shootout. I didn’t take penalty – have been substituted during extra time. I remember, how we’ve been celebrating the win in Italy, then boarded at a plane, returned to Germany and continued the party until morning.
Have Euro-96’s silver brought less joy?
I won’t say that it disappointed. Second place is a major success. I just didn’t play in Final, as well as in semifinal. I have been sent off in quarterfinal and got two-match ban. Patrik Berger replaced me in the squad.
Where do you keep the silver medal?
I’m now talking with you from my home office – all my trophies are here, including the one from European Championship. I’ve been winning in Czech league, in the Cup, also there is a medal for UEFA Cup. There are also some regalia which I’ve won as a coach.
During qualifications to that Euro-96 the Czechs met Belarus. Do you remember?
Of course. As far as I remember, we’ve won twice. At home – 5:2 (in fact, 4:2 – “PB”), away – hm… maybe, 2:0. I’ve visited your country for the first time then. We’ve been playing at a large stadium, but Minsk itself hasn’t impressed me a lot. We’ve gone from the airport to a hotel, then – to the arena and haven’t seen the city much. But now I’ve got a chance to see the beauty of Belarusian capital. It has been wonderfully decorated for New Year. A big and lovely city.
Do you stay in contact with mates from national team of 90’s?
My good friend is Pavel Hapal and we meet almost every week. He is also from Olomuc, and now coaches Slovak U21 team. Also I meet other mates. Last year, twenty years after that Euro, in Prague, there was a so-called rematch of that Final. There were the same players, as in 1996 – Nedved, Poborski, Smicer… And we won! Many of that generation have become coaches. I’ve already told about Hapal. Lubos Kubik has been working with US national team. Jan Suchoparek rules Czech U19 team, and Radek Bejbl is one of his assistants. Petr Kouba is a goalkeeping coach in our U21 team. Oh, I remember this Russian word – vratar’ (goalkeeper)! So, I understand Russian a bit…
You’ve been playing for a long time with Pavel Nedved. What kind of personality is he?
Very calm, even thoughtful. Hardworking, very industrious. He is a big man for Czechs – he has achieved very high results as a player, and now he’s one of directors in Juventus. He’s treated with a great respect. I know, Pavel would like to do something for Czech football, but it’s uneasy as he lives in Italy.
Who was the most, let’s say, restless in that team?
Oh, hard to say. I was myself… how to say? Not nervous, but emotional. I’ve been overwhelmed sitting on a bench, when we couldn’t win. Even now, being on a bench, I can show something similar.
How would you describe Dusan Uhrin, the coach of Czech team in 1996?
Well, he’s a calm person. He was not talkative, but very involved in tactics. I’ve had more good coaches in my career. Huub Stevens in Schalke. As I’ve just arrived to Gelsenkirchen, Jorg Bergen has been managing the team, but in half a year he’s been sacked and the Dutchman was appointed. So, we’ve been working for a long period together with Stevens, and even now stay in touch. He knows about my decision to move to Brest. He said: “Radek, good luck!” Stevens is a fairly emotional man. He paid much attention to physical preparation, tactics, and discipline on the pitch and out of it. To be true, my approach is similar.
Was it hard to settle in Germany?
I had to learn German. A year before my move another Czech Jiri Nemec had come to Schalke. And he helped me a lot. His son lives in Germany, plays in one of lower leagues. Another good friend is Olaf Thon, world champion-1990. He is a superman – calm and always ready to help with language or any other issues. I’m still contacting with many teammates from Gelsenkirchen.
Didn’t you think to stay there?
When I moved to Gelsenkirchen, my daughter was very little – four months old. Then she grew up and I wanted her to attend Czech school. As a result, at 31 I returned to Czech Republic and have been playing there for some time. Nevertheless, German period has given me some lessons, influenced even on my coaching mentality. I stick to German approach – order, good physical conditions, and discipline at the pitch and in the dressing room are important for me… I’m really strict with it.
Is it true that your hobby is walking into mountains?
Well, yes, I’m fond of walking in Czech Tatra. We are making tours with friends – nearly ten kilometers. Of course, I know that there are no mountains in Belarus, but this is not a big deal!
What else are you fond of?
I love different kind of sports – tennis, ice hockey. I’ve watch a game of world junior championship Czech Republic – Belarus. You have a decent team – you were leading 2:0, and it was really hard for our boys to turn the game over and win the match. Although, I know that Belarusians have relegated…
Is your son a footballer?
Yes, the 20-year-old Radek plays in second Czech league for Pardubice. When he learnt about my appointment in Brest, he said: “Dad, wish you success as you had in Poland!” And my daughter Katrin has been playing tennis for 15 years – in Germany and later at home. Then she left sports. She’s 23.
Won’t your wife accommodate with you in Brest?
No, but she wants to attend games. When I’ve been working in Gliwice, my wife always watched Piast’s matches at the stands, living in Czech Republic, but on matchday she jumped in the car and went to Poland. Let’s see how it will be now. We know that it’s harder to reach Brest.
Author: Sergey Nikolaev, “Pressball” newspaper. 9 January 2018.