For years we could never ever beat the Devils, they always had our number. The first year in the league we finished fourth, second year third, third year second and our fourth year we finally won, but when we lost it was always always to the Devils in the semis or the finals. Tomasek, Frankie, and a bunch of other good young athletes were a really good match for us. There were a few games that were always 16-14 in the semis, but we always seemed to come out on the losing end. I think, to this day, PD is still one of the great rivals of Fuj.
One of the funniest things I remember about the Czech League though is we never, ever, ever won spirit for the tournament. Yet the first couple of years when we were doing a lot of travel (one year we did 24 tournaments) we must have won 15 spirit awards, from tournaments as big as Rotterdam to the Savage Seven in Stuttgart.
Abroad our greatest rivals were the "bigEZ" from Vienna who were also our very good friends and some of with whom I launched the annual European Ultimate Championship Series and Finals.
Have FUJ changed since 20 years ago?
We started Fuj, as described above, as a bunch of Americans and Joe’s English students. I was a recruiter though and kept my eyes open by putting up an early Fuj webpage and talking about disc in Prague and managed to pull in some people who had real experience in the US playing serious ultimate, guys like Nate Heilmann, Iain Robertson, Trevor, Bob, Chris. Those guys brought tactics, new skills and ideas from the US that no one in Europe had heard of and it paid off tremendously. We also pulled people from teams in other countries, a few guys from Mental Discorders in Slovakia and from a team in Hungary. Our primary purpose between 2002-2006 was to play in as many tournaments as possible and we needed at least 10 people who would commit to traveling because the tournaments were all over Germany, France, Italy and they cost a bunch of money. That core group also played in the Czech League which we dominated for a while. The ultimate high for that FUJ team, which was briefly renamed "Five Fingers" was placing 9th in the European championships after being ranked dead last coming into the tournament.
We couldn’t keep Five Fingers together though, we couldn’t practice together and it became a problem, so in 2007 we dumped our foreign players and focussed on the young guys like the Vojtas, Blesk, Pepa, Hrosso, Misa, Hana, Jenik and others to take their places and become the disc players they had flashed potential when they were 13. All those guys came from a scout group that we recruited on Letna and they turned into the new core of the team as the Americans aged out or had families and could no longer dedicate enough time to the sport. Around 2010 most of the original founders of Fuj has either moved elsewhere (Mike) or had kids (Joe, David) and we turned the reins of the team over to the scouts.
What are your memories on the FUJ Young Beavers? How were they in the beginning and how were they later on? Can you remember any concrete situations?
The young beavers, as mentioned above started playing pickup with us on Letna in the early 2000s when they were a scout troop. It was great actually, we got to teach them how to throw, run, defend, handle and they picked it up. So much easier than teaching someone like me, for instance. The group as a whole had real talent, not just the boys, but the girls too, and that made a huge difference for us by 2010 when they started to matriculate and could focus on playing more disc.
To this day, the beavers have taken over the team and run it. I haven’t really followed the team since 2012 but I know we continue to do well and my daughter, now 12, has professed an interest in playing disc so naturally she’ll be pulling on a Fuj shirt in the future to continue the family tradition.