By Mike Girling
BRITAIN and Poland go back a long way.
Michael Marks of Marks and Sparks fame was Polish. The founder of Tesco, Sir Jack Cohen, was the son of Polish immigrants. Joseph Conrad the author, David and Ed Milliband (Polish Ma), Carl Froch, Phil Jagielka…all Polish (not County Road) descent. Ok, I’m not doing a good job here but take it from me the Poles and the inhabitants of this fair isle have a long, intertwined history.
From WWII where the 303 Polish squadron were the crème de la crème of the Battle of Britain and the Poles were the 4th largest allied force, to bloody King Canute, Prince of Denmark and England who’s Ma was a Polish Princess. He was an idiot. In the 16th Century nearly all our grain came from Poland, they’ve been living here in varying numbers ever since.
Anyway, so what’s this got to do with the Euros? I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to write a 1000 words and if I’m doing some research I aint keeping it to myself. And I quite like Poland, so…moving on, Football.
Legia Warsaw got to the semi’s of the European Cup in 1970 as did Widzew Lodz in 1983. Poland’s had some great players, how many Liverpool fans of a certain age remember Zbigniew Boniek diving for the penalty in the ill fated 85 final? He lost out in the elections to be chairman of the Polish FA to …
Grzegorz Lato, who as a player was the top goal scorer during the WC in Germany in 1974(7 goals). As a chairman, not so good. Word on the street is he likes his vodka and has been known pretend to be blind when people ask him about the corruption in the FA. I mean, literally blind.
Oh yeah, corruption in the Polish FA: By April 15, 2009, the total number of arrests for corruption in the Polish game since an investigation that started 4 years ealier reached 200, including referees, observers, coaches, players as well as some high-ranking officials of the PZPN (Polish FA). By the end of April 2009, only 15 referees remained who were allowed to preside over top-flight matches. UEFA don’t mind though.
Anyway, remember Jan Tomaszewski (The Clown according to Brian Clough) – currently he’s an MEP and sound bite friendly, media darling in Poland with some forthright and odd views on the current set up. He said that he’s not going to support Poland during euro2012 because – firstly – Łukasz Piszczek – convicted for corruption, is in the team and secondly – because of the naturalization of some players who have Polish roots but were born outside Poland. In his opinion, and I believe this to be a Polish term, they are ‘dyed foxes’ and don’t deserve to play in Polish national team (namely Obraniak, Boenish, Polanski, Perquis).
But who was voted the best Polish player of the 20th Century? That would be Kazimierz Deyna – He used to play for Man City in 1978-81 AND he also featured in “Escape to Victory” …due to the power of the Stallone/Pele/Caine/Wark dream ticket one presumes. He died in a car crash in USA in 1989, another victim of the cruel Hollywood machine.
So, what of the current set up, let’s look at few ones to watch.:
Robert Lewandowski(Borussia Dortmund) – best striker in their team last season and has come on leaps and bounds in the last 3 years
Wojtek Szczęsny (Chesney) -, Arsenal keeper, young but charismatic chap who’s got footy in his blood, he’s dad was a goalie too and while playing in UCL once, had an argument with Mancini (when he was a player) and at the end, slapped him in the face and got a red – good lad. Perhaps not as charismatic as Artur Boruc (former Celtic keeper, now plays for Fiorentina) who used to be first choice and lastly Wojtek who is basically there to make people laugh.
Łukasz Piszczek – defender for Borussia Dortmund, he, Lewandowski and Błaszczykowski make up the Polish trio in Borussia Dortmund and because of this and their influence for the team, some of the newspapers in both Germany and Poland started calling Borussia Dortmund, Polussia Dormund . Haha those guys! He’s another one who was sentenced for corruption in football but rather like one of England’s famous centre halves, he didn’t get any disciplinary penalty from the FA either. Many people in Poland will feel slightly ashamed, seeing him in the white and red kit with the Eagle on his chest. Sounds just like …
Keep an eye out for Marcin Wasilewski – defender for Anderlecht, known as Wasyl or The Polish Bison. In 2009 he got injured extremely badly Eduardo style but he’s back. He’s tough as nails, a bit Carra esque in terms of technique but an absolute lion heart. Will take no prisoners.
The Manager: Franciszek Smuda – Who has been described as someone in between Ferguson, Holloway and Redknapp: Not educated, incredibly lucky and full of unique phrases and witticisms in his post and pre match interviews. I’ll let you figure out which one belongs to which…he’s famous for only using his laptop to put coffee on top of but he’s a lucky coach. Absolute disciplinarian, has been known to remove players for disagreeing with him.
In terms of National psyche, nobody expects Poland to win it, most people expect to be 1st or 2nd in the group and go to the play-offs. The best possible outcome would be to get Germany in the ¼ finals and if Poland win, expect a national holiday FOREVER. That’s the one game and victory Polish people dream about and the players will give everything for.
So, we’ve got a lot in common us and the Poles, and like King Canute before us, we’ll both be found wanting in our attempts to halt the waves as we face the better teams in the tournament.
The Squad in full :
Goalkeepers: Grzegorz Sandomierski (Jagiellonia Białystok), Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal FC), Przemysław Tytoń (PSV Eindhoven).Defenders: Sebastian Boenisch (Werder Bremen), Marcin Kamiński (Lech Poznań), Damien Perquis (Sochaux), Łukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warszawa), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (Lech Poznań).Midfielders: Jakub Błaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre), Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor), Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor), Rafał Murawski (Lech Poznań), Ludovic Obraniak (Bordeaux), Eugen Polanski (FSV Mainz), Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), Rafał Wolski (Legia Warszawa).Strikers: Paweł Brożek (Celtic Glasgow), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund), Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96).