With Czech Republic set to face Serbia and Poland over the course of the next week, Petr Čech is standing before an historic moment.
The 33-year-old has won 117 caps for his country since his debut in 2002, and is set to equal Karel Poborsky’s record of 118 appearances for the Czech Republic.
Speaking to journalists at the start of the international break, the Arsenal goalkeeper and Czech Republic captain admitted he doesn’t’ know which game he will play in but he is excited nonetheless.
“These milestones are not very significant, but on the other hand, when you get to such a number, it pleases you,” the goalkeeper told the assembled media as Czech Republic prepare to welcome Serbia on Friday evening. “When I dreamed that I would play for the national team, I imagined that I would get at least one game. To equal or even break the record, I never thought (about it).”
Czech Republic have already qualified for Euro 2016 in the summer, meaning Čech will appear in his fourth consecutive European Championship.
He also played for his country at the 2006 World Cup, but isn’t looking ahead to 2018 just yet. At his age, he doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to prolong his career for, even though he has high aims.
“I take it game by game, year after year. It will depend a lot on performance, health, simply on the circumstances,” he explained. “In football everything is so fast, nothing is worth much ahead of schedule. That’s why I take it day by day.”
Having said that, the example of NHL goaltender Dominik Hašek was brought up. A legendary Czech, Hašek played in the NHL until the age of 43 and didn’t retire from ice hockey until he was 47 years old.
That seems a lofty ambition even for Čech, but at 33 he could have plenty of time ahead of him.
“A player’s position is different, for a goalkeeper is a lot of reflex and response and depends on how long the body can withstand,” Čech said. “Some stop at 35, but perhaps Dominik Hasek played beyond 40 and was always one of the best and perhaps could easily play longer.”
The longer Čech can maintain his current standard, the better for Arsenal. He’s a top class goalkeeper with an incredible amount of experience. Looking at the records of David Seaman and Edwin van der Sar there’s nothing to prevent the 33-year-old from having five more years at the top, should he stay fit.
Let’s hope he manages that this week and beyond, so we can congratulate him on equalling Poborsky’s record.
A big thanks to @AFCPressWatch, who made us aware of the interview Čech gave to the Czech media.