A Velvet Revolution - The Rock Of Prague

Prague Raptors
We all respect each other no matter what nationality, religion or “colour” we are and that’s something special, something that makes me feel home at Raptors.
— Lukáš Semrád

By J.S. Leatherbarrow

Prague - beautiful, historic, full of brilliance and magic.

Like waves crashing over a rock, events over the last three quarters of a century have battered & bruised the city. But the rock stood firm.

It stood firm when the Nazi wave came rolling in. It stood firm when the Stalinist wave came rolling in. It stood firm when the floods came rolling in.

Its people are incredible. Everything from the Prague Spring, in 1968, through to the Velvet Revolution in 1989 tells you this.

And they love football. My God - do they love football.

Prague Raptors are every bit as wonderful as the city they hail from.

Inclusive, diverse & open, they are a model that all clubs in football should look towards for ethical inspiration. They have a set of guiding principles at the club that they call DESIRE: Diversity. Education. Social responsibility. Innovation. Respect. Energy.

In practice this means that they welcome players, staff and anyone else they work with, from any background. This means that the colour of your skin, your sexuality, your religion or gender are not a barrier to playing football and becoming part of a community. They have a rainbow coalition of many different nationalities at the club.

Founded, with these principles, in 2017 they are a wonderful example of how to shape the future of our sport.

Prague have a new velvet revolution on their hands, they have a new rock too. This city & its people have withstood so many crashing waves over the last century.

Prague Raptors are the antidote to any wave of discrimination or inequality not just in football, but in society as a whole. They are a rock of ages that will not be cleft.

I decided against doing formal interviews with the club as I feel them too unique to load, aim & shoot the same questions that journalists usually ask their subjects in football pieces. Instead, I decided to ask 8 of their players - 4 women & 4 men to symbolise the equality of the club - to speak about one simple thing.

What Prague Raptors Means To Me.

Raptors for me is my friends and family in Prague. Playing football gives me the right balance between work and leisure time. Through the international atmosphere in the club you get to know lots of insights into different cultures. I love it!
That’s a tough one. Raptors are something like my 2nd family. They accepted me like one of them after first training, even when I’m younger than all of them, they weren’t looking at me with all the prejudices, they saw a new guy and the only thing they did was that they made me feel special, like we know each other for years, not for minutes. Raptors means a lot to me, I know that these guys will never let me down and when I feel bad, they always make me feel better because of their positivity. We all respect each other no matter what nationality, religion or “colour” we are and that’s something special, something that makes me feel home at Raptors.
— Lukáš Semrád
Prague Raptors means a lot to me. It is something we are building - training after training, match after match. But also dinner after dinner. It is trust that we are building, because each of us accepted to respect some values in order to achieve a common goal. It means that if you are not respectful, you are kicked out, even if you are a champion. And to me this means a lot, because every player is first of all a person. You can’t be a good player without being a respectful person.
— Iris Sammarco
The Raptors ...a growing community of strangers coming together through sport to have fun, to socialise and to make positive changes in our world... being a part of all that from the start and seeing how far we have come is just flippin cool :)
— Dean Da Lanca
What Prague Raptors means to me? It was first where I just wanted to play organized, competitive and ambitious football. Now it’s where I get to do it with great friends. I am also pretty sure that unconsciously it played a part in my decision to stay 2 more years in Prague too. For me and many in the team it’s a special club as it made our life in Prague even more enjoyable. I’d advise you to join us even as a fan if not as a player. It’s a great community to be in!
— Alex Aionitoaei
What Prague Raptors means to me? Raptors is more than just a football team, it’s a whole concept - from the team to each individual member, social media, event involvement and organization. It helps you grow - in different aspects, not just as a football player. I am happy to be part of it and if I am to hang my boots, I would really love to do it from here.
— Lucian Zavoianu

When I came to Prague last spring I didn’t know almost anyone. I wanted to find a football club to join, but I was very lucky and I found Raptors, not just a football club but a group of amazing people with great team spirit. Being part of the Raptors made me feel that Prague is really my home. Prague Raptors means lot of things to me, it’s about having fun together but also working hard and getting better as a team and supporting each other. Prague Raptors is like a family to me when my real family lives far away.
— Jonna Hautala

What Prague Raptors means to me? Prague Raptors means so much to me. I found an amazing international club with awesome players, coaches and staff having real passion for football. I like the Raptor’s project originality, philosophy and club atmosphere. Thanks to this club my dream come true - I can again play ladies football and fully enjoy it - that’s so amazing!
— Šárka Antonyová

Words by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Original photographs by Simona Lebánková - artwork by FATC - all rights reserved.

J.S. Leatherbarrow