The Historical Match of Karel Poborský

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  14. 01. 2023

Ten years ago, Karel Poborský played a football match which none of its participants or spectators will ever forget. This match took place in the remote Cameroonian town of Somalomo; Karel played the first half for the Deux-Zéro Team and the second half for Lycée de Somalomo. And it was this match which launched our project Wandering Bus in January 2013.

Photo: Khalil Baalbaki, Prague Zoo Photo: Khalil Baalbaki, Prague Zoo

It probably would not had been possible without Karel. When we announced in Somalomo our intention to guide the local pupils toward nature conservation and organize trips for them with the Wandering Bus, we were turned down. The distrust of whites there was deep and not without reason. I was thinking how to overcome it and I decided to address Karel Poborský. This was how he became the patron of the Wandering Bus and his popularity worked incredibly well. The Wandering Bus got a green light and the male part of population of Somalomo and its surroundings started intense football trainings in anticipation of Karel’s arrival.

The first trip of the Wandering Bus ten years ago led to the distant town of Limbe. Children and representatives of the parents, the teacher and the reserve guards, who participated in it, were excited. School children, none of whom had ever left Somalomo before, were immediately amazed by a tarmac road (they thought that the bus went out of the forest roads on a water surface) or by multi-storey buildings. But the peak experience was meeting the gorillas in Limbe. The children and adults saw them alive for the first time in their life, and not only as a meat on their plates.

Photo: Khalil Baalbaki, Prague Zoo

Later the trips of the Wandering Bus travelled to a closer station in Mefou near the capital Yaoundé, and after a few years they were also expanded by a stop in an education centre in Kabilone. However, only the second Wandering Bus travelled there, meaning the second vehicle, as the first one had suffered too much wear and tear on the forest roads. We brought it to Prague, all squeaky and battered, and now it is standing in the zoo in front of the Dja Reserve. After all, the design of this exhibit complex is significantly influenced by our experiences from Cameroon, which we gained largely in connection with the Wandering Bus.

The Wandering Bus project has gradually gained an excellent reputation in the surroundings of the Dja Biosphere Reserve; it helps to protect gorillas as well as other inhabitants of the rainforests there. Of course, it has also faced various challenges and difficulties. For example, when its driver drowned years ago while swimming in a river, a rumour started spreading among locals that the Wandering Bus was possessed by evil spirits. Only when it emerged that a long time ago one of the driver’s distant relatives also drowned was the crisis averted: the evils spirits did not pick on the Wandering Bus, but on the driver’s family. Recently, the COVID pandemic has been a big blow to the Wandering Bus.

But we keep going, even ten years after the famous football match Deux Zéro v. Lycée de Somalomo! We keep going also thanks to all of you, who support our collection fund “We Help Them to Survive” or who visit Prague Zoo! Thank you!