After all the waiting I finally got to go to my first Ekstraklasa game when I visited Konwiktorska yesterday for Polonia Warsaw’s match against Górnik Zabrze. In the build-up to the match I cast my net wide trying to get people to come along with me. It wasn’t an easy task to convince people but in the end I got a couple of friends to come. I’m not sure they’ll be thanking me that much though as they lie in their beds nursing the inevitable colds that come from spending four and a half hours in Siberian conditions.
Yes, yesterday was not a typical match for a number of reasons. For a Polish league game there was an incredible amount of hype in the build-up to the match. On show were two of the most exciting attacking teams in the Ekstraklasa, sitting at the time of the game in 2nd and 4th in the league respectively. Polonia have been led by the dashing winger Pawel Wszołek and their free-scoring attacker Łukasz Teodorczyk, whereas all eyes have been on Górnik’s attacking duo, Arkadiusz Milik and Prejuce Nakoulma. There have been a growing number of scouts from foreign leagues following the progress of this quartet. Proof of this attention could be seen at the match yesterday, with scouts from some of the world’s largest club sides present, including the two Milan sides, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United. These scouts would end up being disappointed in the end.
We met up before the game in the centre of town and took the tram up to Konwiktorska. It was a bitterly cold day but our spirits were relatively bright regarding the upcoming spectacle. I purchased the obligatory club scarf, took some photos of the ground, we had a cup of tea and settled down to watch the match. Unfortunately the match took a long time to come. It was scheduled to kick off at 18:00 Polish time but Polonia’s PA announcer soon told us all the match would be delayed by fifteen minutes due to unspecified technical problems. Fine we thought, 15 minutes is ok, this was however only the start of our wait. To our horror we heard further announcements that the game would be delayed by 30 and then 45 minutes.
Maybe I haven’t mentioned the fact it was freezing? Well it was. And by 18.45 there was considerable irritation from the fans in the ground. People paced around, asked questions, swore, started singing offensive chants against the Polish football association and even the Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. We discovered that the game was delayed due to technical problems from the broadcasting company helping to show the game live, Live Park. So basically the fans in the ground were being forced to wait in sub-zero conditions due to television money. The thought of other fans sitting at home having another cup of tea, maybe browsing the internet while we freezed our behinds off didn’t fill one with glee.
In the meantime we tried to cope as best we could, but the club was obviously not prepared for such a long delay. Massive queues lined the stadium as fans tried to get their hands on something to warm them up. However once we arrived at the end of queues we found that the wonderfully smelling sausages had run out and there was no hot chocolate. Great. Our mood was not helped by the announcement that the game would start a whole one hour and a half late. How were we supposed to survive this devastating blow? The little kids around us had the best idea, playing an exciting tag game which involved squeezing between each others’ legs. I felt like joining in. I also enjoyed the sight of the club’s mascot a Jaguar named Beata Konwiktorska
The match finally got under way at about 19.45, after an incredible one hour and forty five minute delay. Unfortunately by the time it did my spirits, and the spirits of most of the people in the ground, had been considerably dampened. The first half was a pretty poor affair, with too many misplaced passes on show from both sides. I’d say that Górnik just about shaded the half and had the best opportunities but there was nothing which overly troubled either goalkeeper. It certainly didn’t feel like a top-of-the-table encounter. The most appealing thing about the half was probably the wonderfully aesthetic flags being waved by the Górnik fans away to our left. At half-time it was 0-0.
Thankfully the second half was a more entertaining affair. This was helped by Górnik taking the lead in the 51st minute through a bizarre own goal which looped in off the foot of Polonia defender Adam Kokoszka after a cross by Paweł Olkowski. Polonia however hit back quickly when in the 56th minute a free-kick from Tomasz Brzyski was nodded down by Kokoszka and expertly fired home by the Georgian striker Vladimir Dvalishvilli. Polonia really upped the tempo after the goal and had the perfect opportunity to win the match when Tomasz Brzyski was brought down in the box by Mariusz Magiera in the 65th minute. The ground held its breath as Teodorczyk stepped up to take the resulting penalty. Unfortunately Teo took a weak spot-kick which Górnik goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski saved easily. An obviously annoyed Teodorczyk was subbed soon afterwards and he showed his displeasure by hitting the back of the substitute bench.
Polonia had the better of the final exchanges but were not able to break through and the match ended 1-1. The crowd quickly scuttled off in search of something warm to eat.
So what conclusions can be made after what we experienced? Firstly the wait before the match ruined in some respects the spectacle which came later. It seems that television is able to dictate far too many things in the Polish game, and the fans were seriously inconvenienced by the cold. Secondly the scouts will have been disappointed by the players they had come to watch. Wszołek had one of his worst games of the season and was generally ineffective. Teodorczyk was more involved but his penalty miss suggests he is not ready to make the move to a bigger club at the moment. For Górnik I was not impressed with Milik who seemed slow and unfocused. Of the four Prejuce Nakooulma had the best game and looked dangerous but still didn’t make a great impact. My Man of the Match was Polonia’s Dvalishvilli, who did a superb job of linking play and Górnik found it difficult to deal with his physical strength. His goal was also finished with aplomb.
As for me, I will be back at Konwiktorska next week to take in the Polonia-Zagłębie Lubin game. I’ll make sure to take some proper boots this time!