Son of a legend but making his own path - an interview with Lubos Kubik
We sat down with Raptors holding midfielder Lubos Kubik, to chat about his time playing in the USA, what he thinks about the Raptors progression and of course about his Dad & namesake, ex-Slavia Prague, Fiorentina, Chicago Fire & Czech Republic defender.
Tell us about your football career to date:
I started playing in a city called Pardubice in Czech Repbulic - they actually just got promoted to the 1st division for the first time in like 50 years. That is where I started, through the academy to the to u16. I was brought up to play soccer through my Dad as he was a pro...sorry I mean football, that is from my time in America, the guys in the team always point out when I say soccer. Anyway, yes my Dad was a pro and also played for Czechoslovakia / Czech Republic so I had always played football.
I tried playing tennis, golf, hockey, but football is what stuck...then an idea came up for me to go play in the States and as my Dad was in the MLS at that point it was a good idea as I wanted to go there for high school anyway.
I went to Iowa - it is a beautiful state but nobody really knows it unless they are from there, it is one of those types of places, in the middle of the states, surrounded by corn fields. I was playing there for De Moines Menace Academy - the football community at that point was pretty small but we had some great coaches - their 1st team was actually playing in the 3rd division in the states. I ended up getting to the 1st team eventually, at which point I decided to play for University, in Pennsylvania.
I was studying sports management and playing football for 4 years, I was the captain of the team and we did pretty well. During the Summer I would go back to De Moines and play in the 3rd division again for Menace. Luckily the college and regular seasons are played at different times of the year.
After I graduated college I had hoped to go professional. I was completing my studies and had to work in a pro club as part of it - so ended up at Philadeplhia Union, where I worked in their marketing office and trained with another pro team in the second division. Unforuntaltey I did not get an offer to join a pro team once my studies had finished so at the point my dream of professonal football ended...and now I am playing for the Raptors.
So how did you end up at the Raptors?
When I was back in the States I was looking to move back to Czech Republic, and knew I wanted to play soccer again. In the US you cannot play year round for the same club and there is no promotion or relegation so I was really looking forward to it.
I wanted to find a team that was right for me - with a good group of guys. Then on social media I saw some videos of the Raptors and it struck me as a great community of people with an international hub. As I am half Czech and half American I really thought it would be good for me. Also because the club is so young I thought it would be nice for me to try and help it to grow to its potential. Thankfully they took me in really well and I cannot be more happy than to play for the team.
Tell us about your style and position
For the Raptors I play defensive midfielder, number 6...so the connecting position between the defence and the attack. I am helping the defenders and working on the transition forward. I enjoy the position a lot as I am in touch with most people on the pitch.
I like to both attack and defend. I pick my time more on when to go forward and the teams we play against don't always expect it so it can be good for us as a team - especially as the other guys know when to cover for me.
I really like defending - scoring goals win games, but clean sheets win titles.
What do you think about the Czech league and the level you are at now?
I did not really have any expectaitons coming in. I do see some very good individual players and then there are some teams of course better than others.
One thing I really noticed versus the US is that is much more heated here, the referee is under so much pressure every game. It can be something really small that turns into a big deal - in the US that does not really happen.
We just need to focus on making our actions speak louder rather than getting pulled into those things.
I have spoken to lots of other players - from other teams and also higher levels who have watched us and feel we should already be further up the leagues. I believe it is only a matter of time before we will go up.
What about inspirations in football? Who do you model yourself on?
Obviously, my Dad was always my role model in soccer. I've seen him play when I was a little kid and watching him on videos in the World Cup or big games. I remember watching him in the MLS and the fans were really happy about him coming over to their new league at that time. It was nice to see how the MLS fans took him in. He got the defensive player of the year in the league. Of course he had some problems too, mainly with referees..
As a defensive midfielder I also love Pirlo & Gattuso - I love that Italian squad from the 2006 era.
What team do you follow or did you support as a kid?
My favourite team was always Manchester United - I know lots of people won't like that answer. But really it was more admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson than anyone else. I love the teams he put together.
In Czech Republic it is Slavia Prague - they are doing well now but didnt always, it was Sparta for a long time, but as my Dad played for Slavia then that was always my team here.
Who in the Raptors did you connect with quickest?
As a defensive midfielder I knew I had to connect quickly with the central defeners and other midfielders, so it really it is GP, Jan, Antuan, Josh, Hans etc - all these guys around me on the pitch. Our understanding of how we all play is getting better all the time.
What are the key things that will drive the Raptors forward?
I feel we are very strong individually right now - so really it is just about how we play more together and how the players become more knowledgable tactically...we still don't know each other well enough and our team changes quite a lot due to injuries so the team is changing a lot.
What are the aims for the team this year?
Anything less than promotion is a fail. Of course though as a team we also want to leave a good taste with people from other clubs - our aim is to get out of this division but we want to leave it with people thinking we were good guys who also played nice football. That's important for the club too.
What do you think about the Raptors Women's team?
I've seen a couple of their games and I think they are doing really well. It is great the teams support each other. You can really tell with the Women's team that they are best friends, and it is evident also on the pitch - they know about each other, how they will move for the ball etc and they support each other all the way. I think the Women's team in the Raptors is actually bringing up the Ladies game in the whole of Czech Republic and I am proud they are part of the Raptors.
What do you do for your profession? I work for USA Sport & Study. We help young student athletes to go to school in the United States. I help a lot with the soccer players but we have all other kind of sports too.
What are your hobbies? I like to play a lot of sports - my father always pushed me to play all kinds of sports like hockey, tennis, golf. I also really like history - for example visiting castles, I could not do that of course for the last 10 years in America so I take advantage of it now. I believe Czech Republic has a great history and there is a lot to learn about.
What do you like about Prague?
Well actually I just moved here last year and I cannot go out much because of covid and winter but I love that it is more untouched than other cities. If I had to choose 1 thing, it would be Vyšehrad, it is a beautiful place with amazing views.
How are you coping with covid? It is tough, but I try to keep myself busy with work. I also try to spend lots of time with my family and girlfriend to keep my mind from it all. I actually started watching a lot of Netflix, which I never did before.
Quick fire questions:
Hamburgers or Řízek (schnitzel)
Oh, burgers 100%...I love Řízek but has to be burgers
Ronaldo or Messi?
Ronaldo - overall I think he is a more complete player. Plus he proved himself in several top leagues. Maybe if Messi ends up in some other countries I will reconsider
Ski holiday or Beach holiday?
Ski but it has to be done right - it is a lot more difficult to plan that but for me more enjoyable
Prague or New York
Prague - I lived in NYC but still it is Prague
Beer or Wine?
Beer, for sure
Are you a follower or leader?
It depends in which scenario, but usualy I am more of a leader
Raptors or T-Rex? Raptors!