Czech football association present Preston butcher with signed shirt and thank the city for its hospitality during Euro 1996
The Football Association of the Czech Republic (FACR) have presented a Preston butcher with a signed shirt and a message from their chairman thanking him for putting on a barbecue for the Czech team at Euro 1996.
At the '96 tournament, which was held in England, the Czech national side was based at the Preston Marriott Hotel and were ably supported by Czechoslovakia-born Preston local Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who acted as an interpreter for the team.
Through his friendship with Lady Milena, butcher Michael Clarke, who had a stall on the market, reached out to the team and offered to host a barbecue for them at his home. After a victory, the team's manager Dušan Uhrin agreed, and so the national side travelled to Catforth with their wives at Michael's invitation.
"My wife claimed that only officials would come, that the players would definitely not show up," Michael told Radiožurnál reporter Jiří Hošek five years ago. "But then three big white buses appeared, and our jaws dropped. I had to send quickly not only for more meat, but also for the staff to help us with everything!"
GALLERY: Take a look at some of the pics of the Czech team at the barbecue here.Michael was reportedly extremely impressed by the Czech team, particularly how they engaged with local children at the barbecue, and was even able to attend three of their games during the tournament. His food clearly did them the world of good, as they went on to finish as runners-up to Germany, with a 95th-minute Oliver Bierhoff winner sealing a tight 2-1 win.
In honour of his hospitality, Michael was presented with a number 10 Patrik Schik shirt - Schick scored a stunning goal from halfway against Scotland in the group stages of Euro 2020 - and a letter from Petr Fousek, Chairman of the FACR, at Lady Milena's Preston home on Tuesday. Ivo Losman, Consul General of the Czech Republic in Manchester, was also in attendance.
"Czech-British relations have always been at a very good level and this applies not only to sports," said Mr Fousek. "If we want to be successful in the association's activities towards the future, we must know our history and not forget it. The 25-year-old story of the people around Michael Clarke and Lady Milena is a great example of this."
Michael is now unfortunately ill with terminal cancer but was, according to Lady Milena, overjoyed to receive the Czech shirt and even brought a photo album containing a selection of pictures from the barbecue he hosted some 25 years ago for attendees to take a look at.
"Michael is going through a difficult period of his life and we did not hesitate for a moment and immediately approached the FACR [to organise] a symbolic gift from the Czech national team," said Consul General, Mr Losman. "Michael was very pleased, which I greatly appreciate."
The FACR have also extended warm greetings to the city of Preston and have thanked them once again for their hospitality in 1996.