The first steps in organized football were made by PETR ČECH in the second class of basic school when, at the age of seven, he started to kick the ball in his native town in the preparatory club of Škoda Plzeň (later the club changed the name into Viktoria Plzeň). Many people may be surprised a little that from the very beginning he did not settle between the bars. For some time he played in the offensive and, in fact, in the fourth class only when during the training he stood in the goal, the coach of the goalkeepers noticed his abilities predetermining him for a quality performance of the goalkeeper's profession. In younger and older juniors Big Pete already guarded reliably the space of the 6-yard line. At the end of the basic school, when each of the boys gets a little taller, Petr grew up by sixteen centimetres – from 180 to the current 196 cm! Understandably, such a lanky fellow drew attention, however, not only due to his height but, especially, due to his talent. He spent the first two years of the junior's age in Plzeň. At that time also his representation career started in the selected up to fifteen, or up to sixteen years and, at the same time, the cooperation with the Players' Agent Pavel Zíka began.
Transfer to Blšany, Debut in the Top Flight
After the European Under-16 Championship, where he was declared the best goalkeeper of the tournament, in summer, 1999 the process of decision-making started: to stay in Plzeň or transfer somewhere else. Being aware of the fact that in the west-Bohemian metropolis he would only very hardly work his way to the First League A-team of the adults, he decided to accept the offer of Blšany. As it showed later many times, the transfer was the turning point of Petr' career (as was his later leaving for Chelsea). Already his Top Flight debut – on October 30, 1999 – and directly in the kettle of the Letná Stadium of Sparta Prague – as if predetermined that this lanky lad had enormous future. In his first season with the Blšany he did not catch much in the champions' duels, but what was much more important, his talent developed. In the next season he already defended the League goal of Blšany in the overwhelming majority of matches. Apart from that he wore regularly the jersey of the national team Under-18 with which he won the fourth place at the European Championship, 2000 and later also of the team up to 20 years with which in summer, 2001 he participated in the World Championship of that age category in Argentina.
Engagement at Sparta, a Record String
At that time Big Pete already had the contract in his pocket with the Sparta Prague that did not hesitate to pay for the services of the nineteen years old goalkeeper over twenty million Czech crowns. It was an investment par-excellence. In fact, when the start was not successful for the Czech Champions' team to the season 2001/02 and the coach Hřebík decided to make changes in the team after three rounds (including the position of the goalkeeper), Petr took the gull by the horns and in the subsequent ten duels Sparta did not get a single goal. The string of 903 minutes without a received goal was entered to the record annals of the Elite Division. Moreover, Czechino was a part of the ride of grace of the Sparta Prague in the Champions League. So, it was no wonder that thanks to those performances he received the invitation to the seniors' national squad. In the unsuccessful play-off for the World Cup 2002 against Belgium he still sat at the bench as a second goalkeeper, but several months later, when the era of Karel Brückner started to be written, it was evident already that the bet between the poles in the newly formed selected team will be on the talented youth.
Hero of the EURO Under-21, Transfer to Rennes
In spring, 2002 with Sparta Petr did not see the League title, however, the success from the type of unforgettable ones did not pass him by. It took place in June at the European Championship of the twenty-one year old in Switzerland where the Czech young men got up to the final. There in the penalty shooting it was the native of Plzeň who excelled. He let only one of the penalty kicks behind his back and it turned into historical gold for the Czech football. The hero of the final match of the tournament could not escape the attention of the scouts of foreign clubs. Interest from England (e.g. Arsenal) was spoken about a lot, however, the whole matter failed on the issue of the working permit there that, at that time – for the inhabitants from the countries outside the EU – was still a considerably complicated administrative act at the British Islands. The hallmark of interest for Sparta and for the player fulfilled, in July, 2002 the offer of the French Stade Rennes. Both parties agreed and awaiting Petr was a quick transfer to the region called Brittany. Two weeks before the beginning of the new year of the Czech league the transfer was officially sealed up.
Two years in France, a Star of EURO 2004
At first sight it seemed that Big Pete could direct to some of the more famous teams, however, as it showed later, at that time Rennes was the right choice. At the time of the transfer the twenty year old long-legs spent two seasons on the whole in the picturesque area in the north-western part of France (2002/03, 2003/04) during which he got mature from the sport and human points of view. He got used to the pressure that is exerted on foreign players, notably on goalkeepers, in a quality competition he went through a number of difficult matches with the attribute existential, because during his first season in the team Rennes moved at the bottom of the table and escaped from the relegation in the last round by the win over Montpellier (3:1). Benefiting from the growing skill and experience from playing of Čech was also the national team in which he got confidence for all qualification matches for EURO 2004. The selected team of Brückner did not face in them, a single time, the bitterness of defeat and in the final could enjoy the advance to the Championship of Europe.
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