There is no doubt that 2012 will go down in Polish football history as a memorable year. However it will not be be remembered for any on-field successes by Polish teams, either at national or club level.
Despite the Reprezentacja failing to win a single one of its three matches in UEFA EURO 2012, the tournament must still be regarded as a success for Polish football. Thanks to some pretty audacious wheeling and dealing behind the scenes by the PZPN and Ukrainian football authorities, these countries were awarded one of football’s most prestigious tournaments – only the second time such an event has ever been held in eastern Europe. The first was the 1976 European Championships which took place in the former Yugoslavia, a country that has since broken up into six separate states after the fall of communism in 1990. But that tournament featured only four teams and only four matches were played in two cities, Zagreb and Belgrade.
Since then the Euros has evolved and even holding half a tournament as Poland did, involves hosting eight teams and staging 15 matches. The predicted problems suggested by some western European journalists, in the interest of sensationalism including racist attacks against visiting fans, never materialized in either host country.
Unfortunately Polish club football doesn’t seem to promote itself so well and more importantly, manage to get the financing that is vital in order to compete in Europe. So on the field of play it has not been such a good year, where one of football’s ironies has decided to play tricks.
Finally equipped with fine stadiums fit to host matches at the highest level, Slask Wroclaw, Lech Poznan and Legia Warsaw all crashed out of Europe at the qualification stage. The reasons for that almost certainly have their roots in lack of finances. Having just won only their second-ever league title, Slask became plagued with financial problems at the worst possible time. Their billionaire owner Zygmunt Solarz decided he’d shelled out enough money and cut off funding, leaving the Wroclaw players wondering where their next pay cheque was coming from. Hardly the best way to prepare for the Champions League.
Legia experienced a sudden exodus of three good young players who had played a major role in their excellent Europa League run, halfway through it.
Just when it looked like coach Maciej Skorza was building a good side with a fine balance of youth and experience, his work was virtually undone in one fell swoop. He followed Rybus, Komorowski and Borysiuk out of the Lazienkowska, when the second half of the season not surprisingly failed to match that promising start.
Likewise Lech lost their top scorer Artjoms Rudnevs who took a very popular route out of the Ekstraklasa, to the Bundesliga, joining Hamburg. The Latvian simply followed in the footsteps of his predecessor who had led Poznan to the league title, Robert Lewandowski.
Until clubs can get regular funding and enough of it to hold on to the good players they’ve already got, never mind buying good ones they need, Europe will always be a tough mountain to climb. This means Polish clubs will remain unattractive to sponsors and investors, and will have to continue to rely on selling their good young players thereby lessening their chances of doing well in Europe. So the vicious circle will continue.
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