The Top Ten reasons we love the Poles and their football
10: Anything Paddy can do
Ireland, under the FAI banner, made their FIFA World Cup qualifying début for the 1934 tournament drawing 4-4 with Belgium at Dalymout Park. Paddy Moore scored all four of the Irish goals becoming the first player ever to score four in a World Cup game. In May 1938, the team travelled to Warsaw for a friendly with Poland in front of 25,000. The scorer of the Poles’ fourth goal Ernest Wilimowski would emulate the feat of Paddy Moore by scoring four against Brazil in a 5-6 loss the following month at the World Cup in France, Poland’s first appearance in the finals. Expected to lose against the South Americans, Poland’s display drew admiration around the world in a game regarded as one of the most memorable matches in the history of the tournament.
9: Third in the world
Olympic gold medalists in 1972, Poland again shook the football world by claiming third place in the World Cup two years later in Germany. Eliminating England in qualifying, at the finals Poland defeated Argentina, Haiti 7-0, Italy, Sweden, and Yugoslavia before losing out to eventual champions West Germany in the semi-finals. The Brazil team of 1970 is regarded as the greatest ever to play the game. In the third-place play-off four years later, Poland recorded a 1-0 win against the Selecao, the goal coming from Grzegorz Lato, his seventh of the tournament earning him the golden boot.
Zbigniew “Zibì” Boniek is considered one of Poland’s greatest ever players. In 80 international appearances, he scored 24 goals and played at three consecutive World Cups, helping Poland to third place in 1982 and making the Team of the Tournament. A European Cup winner with Juventus, he also won the Serie A title, Copa Italia, and European Cup Winners’ Cup with the ‘Old Lady’. He managed Poland in 2002, and is the current chairman of the Polish Football Association.
7: Praise the young, and they will flourish
Here’s how Lech Poznan fans support their Under 12 side. Under 12!
6: Good on Crosses
Our maiden pilgrimage to the World Cup in 1990, and a quarter-final meeting with Italy sent the Republic to Rome. As promised, manager Jack Charlton arranged an audience with a former Polish goalkeeper. At St Peter’s in the Vatican, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II received the Irish team. After a few words with Ireland’s own shot-stopping hero Packie Bonner, his Holiness turned to Saint Jack saying ‘I know you, you’re the boss.’ An urban legend says Irish fans even broke into ‘Come on you Boys in Green’ within the hallowed halls.
5: The Other Holy Goalie
Best known for his time at Celtic, Artur Boruc made 221 appearances for the Glasgow giants winning the Scottish Premier League three times. To describe his stay in Scotland as colourful is an understatement. Fined by the club and the SFA, he was also issued with a formal caution by Strathclyde Police. Celtic fans nicknamed Boruc, ‘The Holy Goalie’ for his propensity to bless himself during games, something that got him into trouble. Boruc has also borne the wrath of his international manager earning a three match suspension in 2008 for breaching curfew.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is the most in-form forward in world football right now. A second half-substitute as Bayern trailed 1-0 to Wolfsburg, the Polish frontman netted an astonishing 5 goals in nine minutes and has scored nine goals in his last three league games, 16 in all club comeptitions, and bagged a brace in Thursday’s draw with Scotland. Ireland have to stop him, but we can still admire him.
3: Polska Biało-czerwoni (Poland, the red and whites)
The anthem of the Polish fans was quickly adopted by the Green Army during Euro 2012, though often with loose translations, (We’re fairly sure it is not ‘Polska, on the trampoline’). Throughout Ireland’s adventure at the finals, the Republic supporters would break into the chant, noticeably at the games themselves, drawing sustained applause from the natives.
2. Kevin Kilbane as Vanilla Ice
If we never reached Poland for the European Championship, we never would have witnessed this
Video: Gary Ashe
And the number one reason we love the Poles and their football
1: Euro 2012 – Gone but not forgotten
Our first major tournament in a decade and Irish fans descended on Poland in their tens of thousands. Awaiting them was an astonishing welcome from the people of Poznan, Gdansk, Sopot and other cities where the Green Army landed. Town squares were taken over but the locals came out in their droves to have pictures taken with their children and generally join in the fun. The last campervan might have rolled out of Poznan at Euro 2012 but the visitors made a lasting impression. At the public screenings, Polish football fans flew Irish tricolours and scarves and even sang the Green Army anthems with the help of the local band. The football was terrible, but the memories will last a lifetime.