I love Lubo

LUBOMIR MORAVCIK is the brightest light in Scottish football says The Pastels’ main man. And everyone from supposedly impartial commentators to Teenage Fanclub agrees.

Words: Stephen McRobbie

s Scottish football aspires towards an upward mobility.

with (chic and Rangers keen to proy‘e they can cut it

on the liuropean stage. an event like the Scottish (‘up Final may become downgraded and lose its allure. But this year. by 3pm on Saturday 20 May. enough hype will haye gone down about ‘('eltic's historic treble bid‘ and llibs‘ ‘best side since Stanton. ()‘Rourke et al‘. that a frenzied carniyal atmosphere is sure to greet the players as they step out onto the bland new llatnpden arena.

.-\s the noise hits the players. we‘ll see the first 21 take on purposeful demeanours. some with puffed-out chests and looks of gritn determination. while others with less to pt'oy‘e (the l.arssons. Lamberts and Sau/ees) stride on with the casual authority of the truly talented. But it‘s actually the person who‘ll incyitably emerge 32nd that we‘re here to celebrate: a straggler at the back of the (‘cltic line-up. so unfazed that he

looks like he’s just nipped down to the shops for a pint of

milk. 'l‘hat‘ll be l.ubomir Moraycik. or just l.ubo. on his day clearly the brightest light and most gifted performer in Scottish football.

Such is this Sloy'akian player’s effect on his admirers that objectiye analysis breaks down into warm smiles and foggy- ey'ed looks of affection. 'l'lu' Hem/(1’s excellent football analyst. (iraham Spiers. is concerned that Moraycik is

undermining his stattis as an erudite and impartial analyst of

the game. At a recent Visit to (‘eltic l’ark he was alarmed to find (‘eltic fans coming up. slapping him on the back and thanking him for being ‘one of us‘; it made him realise he'd been going oy'er the top in his praise of Moraycik. So what’s so special about the guy"? 'llis‘itlsl his . . . skill.‘ says Spiers. ‘lt was so refreshing when he first came on the scene. and it's fantastic to see a player line up to take a corner or free-kick. and on a whim decide which foot to take it with. It‘s his ability to change direction in mid-stride. lle‘sjtist so . . . thrilling.’ Spiers admits that Moraycik‘s superior skill is highlighted amid the galumphing footlmllers who populate Scotland‘s so- called beautiful game. But there‘s something else that makes

Moraycik stand out. Musician (ierard |.o\'e. one-third of

melodicists supreme. 'l‘eenage l‘anclub. says there‘s a basic humility or modesty about him that makes us see him always as the underdog. But for Low. .\lora\'cik‘s enigmatic quality has partly dey'eloped from the fans‘ inability to find a memorable song for him: 'lt‘s a hard one to rhyme.‘ he admits. ‘maybe too many sy'llables.‘


Moravcik is so unfazed that he looks like he’s just nipped down to the shops

for a pint of milk

l‘iabttlously. Mot‘ttyeik looks like classic-period Jean—Paul Belmondo. baffled amid the complexity of a (iodard plot. While the plot of Scottish football is not so intricate. we were slow to welcome this enigmatic stranger into our midst. initially seeing his arriyal for a paltry {300.000 as an indicator of how shabby (‘eltic had become.

Not that Moraycik was bothered: under his mentor. l)r Josef Venglos. (‘eltic were soon playing expressive liuropean- style football with Moraycik naturally the key man. Soon after his arrival he‘d entered (‘eltic folklore with two wonderful goals in a 5», l thrashing of the expensiyely assembled Rangers side. But this was a false dawn and it‘s only now under a new coach. Martin O'Neill. and a more pragmatic style. that this long—suffering side seem to be making any progress.

Reluctant at first. ()'.\'eil| too has succumbed to Moraycik‘s magic aura and it‘s no coincidence that most of (‘eltic‘s elevated moments occur when the Sloy‘ak’s on. Asked about Moraycik. ()‘Neill has said that his only frostration is that he‘s 35 rather than 25. and has asked the question. ‘Where was he ten years ago‘." This idea of Moraycik‘s ‘Iost weekend‘ is absurd. because he was actually blazing a fantastic trail from the Sloyakian backwoods to the World (‘up quarter-finals and to a brilliant career in l-‘rance. where he was Zinedine Zidane‘s fayourite player and voted best import year after year.

But whatey'er. it's our pleasure that Moraycik turned up here and has made football seem as much an an as a sport. A brilliant individualist but also a team player: a modest genitrs. Let‘s salute Lubo.

Celtic v Hibs, Scottish Cup Final, Hampden Park, Glasgow, Sat 26 May. Also on Sky Sports.

Objective analysis breaks down into warm smiles and foggy-eyed looks of affection