Fenin fires Czech challenge
Thursday, 13 July 2006
by Ladislav Josef
Of the 108 players who will be involved at the fifth UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Poland, few if any will be as experienced as Czech Republic striker Martin Fenin. The teenager has scored 13 goals in 46 games for his country at various age levels, but the tournament in Poland will break new ground as it represents his first major finals.
"We had little chance to qualify in previous years, as we faced Spain with the brilliant Cesc Fabregas in the U17s in 2004 and were drawn against Germany and the Netherlands in the U19s a year later," said the FK Teplice forward, who scored against Denmark and Ukraine in the Elite round and wore the captain's armband in the decisive final qualifier against Switzerland. "It's a different story this year - we can achieve a lot."
Fenin is no stranger to achievement, having been given his league debut by then Teplice coach František Straka in November 2004 when he was only 16 and without a single appearance for the reserves to his name. "I couldn't believe it when I went into the dressing room and there were the players I had idolised when I was a ball boy at the stadium," Fenin admitted. Those team-mates soon embraced him, particularly when he found the net in only his fifth league match. "There is a great difference - I had plenty of time in the junior side, but everything is much quicker in the top flight," he said.
'Like a dream'
Nevertheless, four goals in ten league starts represents a respectable return. The 19-year-old, whose hero is Roberto Baggio, also featured in both legs of Teplice's UEFA Intertoto Cup tie against Grasshopper-Club at the start of July, but was unable to prevent a Swiss victory. He therefore has even more reason to look forward to Poland, and initially is keen for the Czechs to finish in the top three in Group A and earn a berth in next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup. "We definitely have a great chance to get to Canada," he said. "It would be a dream to play there." For Fenin and the Czechs, though, the first thought must be to conquer Europe; the world can wait.