Football is my passion. I will immediately explain – a passive passion. I do not play, but I watch passionately. For 16 years of my youth I had one love and it was Odra Wodzisław. When I was 7 years old Odra entered the Ekstraklasa. My dad started going to matches, and since he did not have a son, he started taking me to the matches. In this way, love for football was instilled in me, which I honestly admit can be morbidly obsessive.
At that time, matches were sacred. For those 16 years, I did not attend maybe five matches in Wodzisław? During my studies in Cracow, the weekend came, and instead of going to a party with friends, I often went to Wodzisław for a few hours to see Odra. Oh, those were the days.
At that time, I was also supporting the Polish National Team. I have been attending matches of the Polish team since I can remember. In Poland and abroad. Since 2006 I have been to all the World and European Football Championships except Brazil in 2014. I worked as a volunteer at all of the tournaments. But the matches are not just about emotions and 90 minutes of adrenaline. It is also an opportunity to get to know new places. And since my second love, besides football, is traveling, it is no less a joy to see the cities hosting our National Team, as well as the stadiums where matches are played. The football matches that I am writing about in this part of the post I did not see because I was not yet in the world. I have not been to all the described stadiums – some are gone, because they have been replaced with new ones. But the story written in the stadiums is beautiful. Some of them cannot be forgotten or omitted.
The Polish National Team played their first ever international match in 1921 in Budapest. Initially, it was not easy to show ourselves on the international arena, we were not a member of FIFA, financial and logistical reasons prevented us from meeting in a country far away from Poland. The geopolitical situation excluded matches with Russia, Germany or Czechoslovakia. In mid-1921 the Hungarians proposed to play a match. The date was set for December 18, 1921. The meeting ended in a 0-1 loss, although Wacław Kuchar had an opportunity to equalize during the match. However, after a hit in the head from the ball, the Hungarian goalkeeper fell to the pitch, Kuchar did not shoot into the empty goal, he began to revive the fainted Hungarian. These were different times. We lost the match. But our goalkeeper, Jan Loth, was hailed the man of the match. So much for the sweet.
The stadium in Budapest, where we played then, is gone. It was first demolished during the war. Rebuilt in 1947, it was home to MTK Club FC until 2014. Then it was demolished again and the Hidegkuti Nandor Stadium was built in its place in 2015-16.
Look at this picture from 1929 and admire the beautiful indoor tribune and the outfits which were worn to matches at the time.
Our debut at the 1938 World Cup
We eliminated Yugoslavia in qualifying rounds. Our first and, as it turned out, only match in this championship was played at the Stade de la Meinau in Strasbourg. The building was commis-sioned in 1906, and in the meantime, several times completely rebuilt, it serves the players of RC Strasbourg to this day.
Fifteen players went to France. June 5 in the eyes of 13.5 thousand spectators, we faced the Brazilians, with the phenomenal Leonidas in the lead. And it was he who scored the first goal in this match, though little could be said for it, because after the match no one could remember how it fell. Five minutes later, Fryderyk Scherfke scored Poland’s historic first goal at the World Cup. And it was just the beginning of the history of Polish football. Before the half, Brazil led 3-1. In the second half we played defensively, but still Ernest Wilimowski scored two goals, leading to a draw. The Brazilians responded with one goal and when everyone thought we would lose, one minute before the end of the match, Wilimowski scored one more goal. In the first part of added time, Leonidas scored two goals, two minutes before the end of the match Wilimowski added one more goal. Despite two chances to improve the result, we lost to the Brazilians 6-5. Thanks to his performance, Wilimowski was the record holder for nearly 60 years for goals scored dur-ing one match in the World Cup.
If I had a chance to see one select match in history – I would probably choose this one.
Interestingly, this stadium was lucky for our club football. An additional third meeting of the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup was held there in the 1969/70 season between Górnik Zabrze and AS Roma. The match ended in a tie, overtime did not settle anything, and because the rules did not foresee penalties, the winner was chosen by a coin toss. Fate was on the side of Górnik Zabrze, who until now is the only club to advance to the final of the European finals.
Górski’s Golden Eleven at the Olympic Games 1972…
Two matches, two historical events. The first is a 2-1 victory over Hungary in the final match of the football tournament at the Munich Olympics and Olympic gold for Górski’s team. The Mu-nich Olympiastadion, located in the central part of the Olympic Park, was considered a revolu-tionary project at the time, for the first time ever such large areas of glass were supported by steel columns. The 40-year-old still looks good and can be enjoyed by the eye.
… and at the World Cup 1974
The second match is a meeting which, like no other, defines Polish football and is almost equiva-lent to the heroic defense of the monastery on Jasna Góra. The winning draw at Wembley, Do-marski’s goal, but first and foremost the phenomenal interventions of Jan Tomaszewski, who after this meeting became a national hero. Poland was recognized as a team playing very mod-ern football and we went to the championship from the position of a strong team rather than just a boy to beat.
At the World Championships in Germany we reached the semi-finals, where we faced the hosts. The Waldstadion in Frankfurt had no roof, so we played the famous “Match on the Water”. After heavy rain, the pitch was like a pond, the ball slid on the field more than it rolled, several times it seemed that a goal was coming, but the ball stopped in place. We lost to the to-be world champi-ons 0-1. Ultimately after the victory over Brazil in the lucky Olympiastadion, we finished the tournament in 3rd place, and Grzegorz Lato became the top scorer of the tournament.