We went to visit Lubos, his wife Hannah and their daughter Laura. They live in the town of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. Jesse and Lubos played together for the Chicago Fire. The stories they were talking about together were hilarious, but the most amazing story is Lubos’s life and how he ended up playing soccer in the Midwest in 1998.
Lubos had played all over Europe for his entire career but at 34 years old, he felt his career was coming to an end. One day he got a call from America from Coach Bob Bradley asking him to go to Florida for two weeks to play soccer. After two weeks in training camp- he was offered a contract. He decided to go for it- he wanted to play and he also wanted to learn English so he made the decision to give it a go. (Check him out on the internet- he was an incredible footballer!)
Aside from the soccer, he was also a role model off the field. Jesse and Lubos became good friends. It was easy with Lubos- here was this guy, an established European player now playing alongside young, unknown American players mixed in with players like Peter Nowak and Hristo Stoichkov- and he treated everyone the same. No ego, no concern with image. He liked to play and win, but he also liked to have fun. He is a big man with an even bigger presence.
I have a theory on what makes some people extraordinary. I think it’s going through some sort of struggle in life and coming out of it stronger and better and somehow knowing what things in life are important. Following is an excerpt from a newspaper report in 1988.
“PRAGUE, CZECHOSLOVAKIA (AP) _ Two leading Czechoslovak soccer players have defected to Britain after vanishing from their team last week in West Germany, the official media reported.
Ivo Knoflicek and Lubos Kubik, former stars of the Czechoslovak national soccer team, have not been heard from since they left their teammates on a tournament Wednesday.
Czechoslovak television reported Saturday that the athletes, who play for the Slavia Prague team, ”failed to return with their team,” the term widely used to describe defections to the West.
Knoflicek and Kubik, 24, apparently impressed British fans and managers with their play in a European championship qualifier in which Czechoslovakia tied Wales 1-1 in Wrexham last year.”
Lubos said the decision to defect was an easy one because he wanted to be free. A pass allowing him to play soccer failed to come through for a number of months. A family from Spain took him in. In 1989 he was bought by Serie A club Fiorentina. The scary part for him was having to return to Czechoslovakia to sign the contract. He didn’t know if the government would make him stay. Long story short, contract was signed, Lubos was free and he went on to play and in 1998 after making Chicago his home, he was named MLS Defender of the Year. (I told him his English must have improved greatly that first year. He laughed and told be that he was translating for some of the Polish guys so much that he just wound up hanging out with them a majority of the time. His Polish got really good, not so much with the English. Today, his English is very good and any story he begins to tell, has you from the start!)
Put simply- Lubos seems to understand how to live. He is so easy going, funny, and positive. He enjoys life and is such a good person.
Hannah and Laura welcomed us into their home, fattened us up on good food and showed us their city of Pardubice. We also spent a day together exploring Prague. So fun, despite the relentless cold and rain!
Thank you so much for being so welcoming and giving. Lubos, we need more people like you in the world- it would be much happier and more relaxed. Like you say, “nice and easy.”