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Spartan of the century

Andrej Kvašňák

(19. 5. 1936, Košice - 18. 4. 2007, Prague)
Legendary Spartan and Czechoslovak footballer Andrej Kvašňák. A native of Slovakia's Košice, who is one of the greatest personalities in the history of Sparta, succumbed to lung cancer in 2007.
Kvašňák was born on May 19, 1936 in Košice. He started his top career in 1956 at the military camp in Dukla Pardubice, then worked for a year at VSS Košice in Slovakia, followed by a transfer to Sparta Prague. He won two league titles with the team (in 1965 and 1967). He played a total of 248 league games and scored 83 goals.
The native of Košice became one of the Spartan legends during his career. Many fans went to Letná in the sixties mainly because of him, because he was not only a great conductor of the game and a brilliant technician, but also a great entertainer. When he left to play in Belgium on his old knees, the Spartan treasurer suddenly showed much lower attendances.
In the national team, Kvašňák played 47 matches and scored thirteen goals, including a memorable penalty in Marseille in the match against Hungary to advance to the World Cup in Mexico. Kvašňák was already a member of the silver eleven at the world championship in Chile in 1962, and eight years later he said goodbye to the national team jersey in Mexico.
Until recently, Letná was one of the unmissable figures, although he never became a successful coach or official. The Spartans did not forget him and last year they ceremonially inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Kvašňák played in the red jersey for ten years. He played 433 matches in it, 202 of which were in the league, becoming the team's driving force and the darling of the stands. He won two championships with him during the Leten club's glorious 1960s. In 1962, for a change, he did a great deal to save it. The legendary Andrej hated defeat. That's why he always encouraged his teammates tirelessly.

How coach Ježek saw him

"When I came to Sparta in October 1963, Kvašňák's words came to me: Who is Ježek? I have never heard this name of a coach in my life. But two days later he knocked on my office door, opened it and said: I am Andrej Kvašňák and I look forward to working with you.
Andrej was an excellent footballer, a wonderful actor and a skillful diplomat on and off the pitch. He directed the game, his style of play was unmistakable. Only one walked around our playgrounds. He barely seemed to sleep, but he didn't miss a thing. He was said to be a walking man who was everywhere. At that time, no one could imagine the Sparta team without him. When they invited us somewhere, almost everyone didn't forget to point out that we should bring Kvašňák.
With one small exception, we worked very well together. He was able to encourage and cheer up his teammates before the game, but he was also able to properly reprimand them. At first he kind of mocked me for having a training program written on a piece of paper. Later, when he hung around the youth a bit in Belgium, he admitted that he did too. However, he never became a coach, he did not have the character for it.

Andrej was an excellent footballer, a wonderful actor and a skilful diplomat on and off the pitch. He orchestrated the game, and no one could mistake his style of play.

In 1965, we won the so-called Night Tournament in Paris, in which the then famous Anderlecht also participated. For the internal trio Mráz, Kvašňák, Mašek, the French offered 500 Renault passenger cars, which at the time represented a huge sum in crowns. And there, for the first time, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the danger that great popularity and advertising hides in itself. Suddenly, various brokers, brokers, buyers started hanging around our players, and one of them was eminently interested in Kvašňák. However, fears that he would succumb to tempting offers were unfounded.
Andrej was taken to the perfumery by this man to choose a present for his wife. And Andrej really picked and picked until there was a pile of goods worth about a thousand francs. But that was the end of it all. Andrej, but neither did anyone else, wanted to leave Sparta, Václav Ježek always returned to this memory with a smile.
It is not without interest that Václav Ježek and Andrej Kvašňák said goodbye to Sparta on the same day. In 1969, in the spring league match against Ostrava, which was played in a sold-out Spartan stadium for the first time under artificial lighting, our team won 5-0 after an excellent performance.

How teammate Mašek saw him

„Andrej transferred to Sparta at the beginning of 1960, when I had my first year of league experience behind me. At the time, Košice did not agree to his transfer, jealousy arose between the two clubs, and for a long time mutual matches were played on the edge of a knife, which I still remember well.
The main intention of the Košice players was to kick Kvašňák hard and I just watched how he coped with it. Mainly in Košice, personal accounts were settled in front of wild spectators. The worst was the very first match after his transfer to Sparta in a stormy environment in the East Slovak metropolis. I was not prepared for the hostile environment and what I saw next exceeded my expectations.
Andrej, however, prepared well for this match and during the first five minutes he himself fouled twice, for which he could have been sent off. There were scuffles, swearing, spectators climbing the fence, all hell broke loose. Even though we lost, I was glad we stayed healthy. On the way back to Prague I told Andrej that he was threatened with expulsion, but he explained to me in a mixture of Slovak, Hungarian and garbled Czech: "Venus, no one will expel you until the fifth minute. And you have to fuck the bastard before he fucks you."
I got to know him as a quirky teammate. For him, football was a joy, a pastime, an occupation and a source of material means. And a game that offers drama, that makes the spectator jump with anger and then laugh and applaud. He was a great man, a conductor of men. He was able to influence the results by his own efforts, but often by his presence on the pitch. He was an excellent technician, header and shooter, always with a sweaty shirt. He had various nicknames. To the spectators he was the boss and we players sometimes called him Hajajo, after the TV Evening Star.
He played almost every position in the team, except wings and outside backs, and he was excellent everywhere. This is also true of his starts for the national team, including the memorable 1962 World Cup in Chile, where he was one of the most watched and admired players.

I got to know him as a quirky teammate. Football was a joy, a pastime, an occupation and a source of material means for him.

When after almost ten years in Sparta he left in 1969 for Mechelen in Belgium, the attendance at our matches was for a long time several thousand less. A great player and entertainer left Sparta, which was very well perceived by football fans. And, of course, he was also greatly missed by our team," emphasises Mašek in his autobiography, The Faithful Spartan Heart.