As the lights went out in the National Stadium after the Italy v Germany UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final encounter, so did Polish football’s brief period of basking in the world spotlight.
It’s back to reality which is, that at national level Poland still has a lowly-rated team with which to tackle a monumental task in qualifying for 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The old nemesis England and ambitious neighbours Ukraine will provide large and difficult obstacles to surmount.
It is also a national team that has no coach now that Franciszek Smuda has officially ended his tenure, while the choice as his successor will probably not please those who want someone with a high-profile CV. Polski Zwiazek Pilki Noznej (PZPN) has already announced that the next Selekcjoner will not be paid anything like the 150,000 zloty per month which Smuda received, so that rules out another foreigner in the Leo Beenhakker mould.
At club level the summer break has already seen the familiar exodus of good players to the greener pastures of west and even eastern Europe, KKS Lech Poznan will be without their only class striker Artjoms Rudnevs who has joined Hamburg. On that front there has been no change, even the Ekstraklasa’s big guns cannot match the sort of wages that clubs in second-rank leagues like Turkey, Russia or Holland are paying. There are even some players such as Dariusz Dudka and Radoslaw Majewski who are financially better off in the second-tier leagues of France and England.
It all boils down to money – or lack of it as far as Polish football is concerned.
The game is not able to attract the vast amounts needed to compete against even the average leagues of Europe, never mind the best. Neither corporate sponsors, TV companies, supporters or rich owner sugar-daddies are prepared to inject the kind of capital which will enable Polish clubs to either buy, or even hold on to, very good footballers.
Though Poland is not the only country that ‘suffers’ from a lack of huge financial investment – it is almost certainly the reason why big neighbors Germany have such a poor record in the European club competitions, compared to England, Spain and Italy. Even the Bundesliga champions who are also the country’s best-supported club and one of its wealthiest, Borussia Dortmund, couldn’t stop their Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa from fleeing to mega-rich Manchester United. But at least German clubs, who are all required to live within their means and balance their financial books, are still wealthy enough to hold on to their best players and even import some world-class ones like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
However Poland has the great world-wide success of Euro 2012 to build upon and needs to capitalize on it while it is still fresh in people’s minds. Perhaps this is where the government, who did a fine job in backing the tournament, can step in. They need to attract financial backers from abroad in the same way they do in industry. The potential for clubs like Legia Warsaw, Wisla Krakow, Lech Poznan, Lechia Gdansk and Slask Wroclaw to do well in Europe is there. They just need to play in a stronger league and that can only come about with a huge investment of money.
Eventually, this will benefit the Reprezentacja – the whole world has just witnessed that the way to build a great national team is to base it on players who play in their domestic league. This was true of not only Spain, but also Italy and Germany.
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