Poles are big fans of the game but the current state of the game in this country is depressing. A series of defeats, poor performances and lack of new talent have Poles thankful that they qualify for Euro 2012 by way of being hosts but fearful that this will result in a series of high profile thrashings at the hands of some of the continent’s bigger sides.
It wasn’t always bad news though. Poland as a national side finished 3rd in 2 World Cups and the older fans among you will remember the likes of Grzegorz Lato (Golden Boot winner at the West German World Cup of 1974), Kazimierz Deyna and Zbigniew Boniek. Although born in Bydgoszcz, Boniek played for Widzew Lodz for seven years during which time he helped to knock the mighty Juventus out of the UEFA cup in 1980-81. Having caught the eye of the ‘Old Lady’ Boniek was snapped up and went on to form one half of the great Juventus midfield pairing with Michel Platini.
Lodz has a reputation for being a rough place to watch football and Widzew in particular make the headlines for the wrong reasons too often. That said, we have spent time with Widzew fans at the bare-bones Football Pub in the centre of town and have found them good company. So while we would not wish to discourage you from watching a game here, we would urge that you pay particular caution and head for the more expensive seats.
As for the clubs themselves. Widzew are probably going to be better known to the foreign football fan having been Poland’s last representatives in the group stages of the Champions League and thanks to their regular appearance in European competition during the 70s and 80s. Widzew celebrated their centenary in 2010 and the 4-time Polish champions can also claim an interesting list of ex-players. Aside from the aforementioned Zbigniew Boniek, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s father Maciej won one of his record four titles with Widzew in 1996 and he is the only Pole to have won titles with four different clubs. And there is Władysław Żmuda, whose 21 appearances for the Polish national side at 4 successive World Cup finals between 1974 and 1986 make him one of the most capped players at the finals, level with Diego Maradona and only just behind Uwe Seeler and Paolo Maldini.
LKS Lodz are slightly older having been formed in 1908 and are two-time Polish champions, the most recent being in 1998. The club carry the interesting nickname of the Spring Knights due to their reputation of being one of the form teams of the second part of the Polish season. Famous ex-players include Jan Tomaszewski, the goalkeeper who is best remembered for helping to knock out England in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley in 1973, a result that saw Sir Alf Ramsey sacked, and Tomaszewski being called ‘the clown’ for his unorthodox keeping style by Brian Clough.
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