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Čech, Fàbregas, Benayoun take part in Tomáš Rosicky testimonial

A few current and former Chelsea players in one last concert for the Little Mozart

The weather wasn’t the nicest, but the occasion was still grand as Tomáš Rosicky took to the pitch one last time for his own testimonial, Saturday at Prague’s famous Generali Arena (neé Letná). A massive downpour caused an hour’s delay, but spirits would not be dampened as fans and former teammates celebrated his 20-year career.

A player always close to my heart despite his Arsenal association, the Little Mozart (he “orchestrated” the play) announced his retirement in December, finally giving in after spending the last decade battling against a multitude of long-term injuries that effectively cut short what was going to be a legendary career.

Accomplishments at club level aside — he won multiple trophies at Sparta Prague, BVB, and Arsenal — it was with the Czech Republic national team that he produced his most iconic moments, probably none more so than his goal against the USA at the 2006 World Cup.

That tournament, like Euro 2004 (probably my favorite international team of all time, if there is such a concept), ended in disappointment for the Czechs, but back in the home nation, they were heroes.

Many of those same heroes came together yesterday for the testimonial. With Petr Čech in goal, Jan Koller up front, Karel Poborsky on the wing, Milan Baroš buzzing about, and manager Karel Brückner on the touchline, it was a true throwback. The only player missing was Pavel Nedved, who was expected to partake but ended up a no-show.

Lining up against them was a World XI filled with former teammates (mostly Arsenal), including Cesc Fàbregas and Yossi Benayoun, both of whom spent some time at Stamford Bridge as well (Fàbregas now set to be heading into his fifth season, in fact).

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A post shared by Rozlučka Tomáše Rosického (@rosicky_tr10) on

At the top, you can see some extended highlights, though obviously this was all just for fun, so don’t expect competitive, high-quality football. Rosicky played the first-half for the World XI, for example, and finished out the second half with his countrymen.

Still, those Koller headers sure took me back to 2004. The big man scored a brace to fire the Czech XI to a 5-2 win. Rosicky himself got on the scoresheet from the penalty spot — Fàbregas with the overly theatrical fake tackle on his friend and teammate to create the opportunity — Stepan Vachoušek added a fourth, and Rosicky’s own son added the fifth in a moment of extreme cuteness.

Ewerthon and Van Persie scored for the World XI in the 60-minute exhibition.

One final interesting note was the fact that Petr Čech got to play without his iconic helmet for the first time in 12 years! Čech himself played for one season in this stadium, in the colors of Sparta Prague, just before getting his move abroad to Rennes in 2002, and that just added to the nostalgia of it all.

Rivals or not, these sorts of celebrations — just like Chelsea old boys’ recent exhibition against Inter — allow all of us a moment to reflect on our heroes and our good times.

The Czech Republic team Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

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