A hop through history: How a Prague football club got its kangaroo mascot

The most extended tour in Czech history led to a unique connection between the Czech lands and Australia almost 100 years ago.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 27.02.2024 13:06:00 (updated on 27.02.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech foreign minister’s trip to Australia this week was an occasion to reflect on a unique historical connection between the two nations.

During discussions with Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley in Canberra Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský reminisced about the Prague-based Bohemians football club’s two-month tour of Australia in 1927.

The tour would also give the team its famous logo – a green marsupial on a white jersey – and its affectionate nickname, “kangaroos” (klokani in Czech), Lipavský said in a post on the X network.

Originally named AFK Vršovice (which Australian organizers found challenging to pronounce), the 1927 Australian tour led to a name change. The team was renamed Bohemians, meaning Czechs, representing its country of origin.

During the extensive tour of Australia, the Bohemians covered over 50,000 kilometers, including 36,000 km by boat, 15,000 km by train, and 500 km by bus. Playing 19 matches on Australian soil, they achieved an impressive 14 wins, two draws, and only three losses, marking the most extended tour in Czech football history.

Two baby kangaroos were gifted to the team almost 100 years ago by Australian leaders for Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (in office from 1918 to 1935). Masaryk later donated them to a Prague zoo.

During his visit, Lipavský presented Hurley with a Bohemians jersey signed by the current players. He acknowledged Australia as the country with the fifth-largest Czech community abroad and expressed gratitude to the approximately 30,000 Czech emigrants and their descendants who have made Australia their home.

“On Sunday evening, I had the opportunity to greet some of them and thank them for the way they maintain Czech culture on the other side of the planet,” Lipavský wrote.

In addition to discussing football history, Lipavský delved into topics such as Russian imperialism and the interconnected security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific with Hurley, who officially represents the British monarch in Australia. The discussions also encompassed the future of trade and defense cooperation, Lipavský noted.

The foreign minister made history as the first Czech foreign minister to visit Australia in two decades. His visit included meetings with Czech compatriots, local government representatives, and parliament officials.

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