Milan Baroš scored his first goals since returning to the Czech Republic this weekend and in the process, whether he meant to or not, the ex Liverpool striker went someway into repairing his ailing reputation. The hat-trick, his first in Czech football, he notched in the 3-0 win over Hradec Králové was crowned by giving his shirt to a disabled Banik fan after the game. A touching gesture.
Of course Baroš will always be revered by the Banik fans but the rest of the country see’s Baroš as the arrogant, obnoxious footballer who tended to make headlines on the front pages of the tabloids rather than the back. However, after this weekend’s actions it left me wondering “Is Milan Baroš turning over a new leaf?”
Baroš was, reportedly, even smiling and pleasant to journalists after the game, the very same journalists who he has shunned, blamed and even threatened to kill after their European Championship last summer. The Czech striker seems to have picked up the ‘Jaromír Jágr guide to Public Relations’ and is following it page by page.
When Baroš returned to Banik Ostrava last month he told the club he didn’t want to take a wage and instead they use that money to invest in youth. Perhaps following David Beckhams lead?
I was among the sceptics when the ink dried on Baroš’ contract. Here was a player without any competitive action under his belt for 8 months and a chip on his shoulder, what value could he add to Banik and Czech football in general?
But as well as his goals and the donation of his salary back into the club, Baroš brings the punters through the turnstiles. More beer is drunk (and believe me they drink a lot in Ostrava), more food is sold and more replica shirts are flying out of the club shop.
The attendance at the Bazaly this weekend was an impressive 9617 – only the Sparta v Jablonec match managed a higher crowd with 9812 fans. Last season’s average attendance for Banik was 5968, the year before it was a measly 4054. Now, with Baroš back in town, it looks set to almost double this season. The Baroš effect is definitely in full swing.
And at only just 31 years old Baroš still has a good three or four years left in the tank.
His hat-trick and behaviour this weekend is a small step in proving the doubters (myself included) wrong. Nevertheless, he has a long, long way to go to reach Jaromír Jágr standards of public affection – best keep reading that guide, Milan.