The Warsaw ‘B’ Klasa up close: KS Bednarska

Most people await the coming of the New Year with bad television and party preparations, not at Rightbankwarsaw.  I welcome in the New Year by writing a blogpost about the lowest level of Warsaw’s pyramid system, the ‘B’ Klasa.  I’m not sure if this is a good omen for 2013 or not.  The focus this week will be on KS Bednarska, which plays its home games on pitches  just outside Polonia Warsaw’s ground Konwiktorska 6.  To get a closer look at the club I spoke to Bednarska’s manager (and ex-Polonia coach) Antoni Giedrys and their striker Mikołaj Wojciechowski.

KS Bednarska

KS Bednarska

All photos courtesy of Mikołaj Wojciechowski

KS Bednarska are a bit of an anomaly in the world of Warsaw football as they are the only team in the area which have a close relationship with Polonia Warsaw.  Fans of almost all Warsaw’s local teams support Polonia’s rivals Legia Warsaw as well as their own clubs.  This at times creates an aggressive atmosphere around Bednarska’s matches which belies the low level at which they play.  Indeed during the autumn round of games Bednarska were so worried by threats of fan violence in the build up to their match against Hutnik Warsaw that they switched the game to their opponents’ ground.  Bednarska simply did not possess the funds to pay for a police presence at the game and they went on to lose 9-0.  (It was no shame to lose to Hutnik, they are the highest scorers in European football, scoring a hefty 119 goals and letting in 0 in the autumn round of matches).

Bednarska as a club were set up as recently as 2009 on the initiative of their manager Antoni Giedrys and the students of the Warsaw secondary school Bednarska I SLO.  (Fascinatingly the school is named after an Indian diplomat K. S. Digvijaysinhji who helped Polish exiled children during the Second World War).  There had been discussions about the running of a club before but finally in 2009 Bednarska got permission to join the Warsaw ‘B’ klasa.  Giedrys would become its manager and the team was initially made up of the school’s pupils.

Giedrys was the ideal man to run the newly-established club.  Born in 1954, as a player Giedrys plied his trade as a striker in the lower Polish leagues.  His most successful spell was at Sarmata Warszawa who at the time played in the Polish third league (now liga II).  After  his playing career finished he decided to go into coaching, initially doing a degree at Warsaw’s Academy of  Physical Education, and then taking his coaching badges.  In 1985 at the age of 31 he got his chance as a football coach at the then third tier Polonia Warsaw.  The club was looking for someone to develop their youth system and football academy and he fit the bill.  As the Communist system came to an end Polonia rose up through the league system and made the I liga (first tier) in 1993 for the first time in 40 years.  Due to complications surrounding the ownership of the club Giedrys became Polonia’s manager in the 1993-4 season.  Things unfortunately didn’t turn out very well for Giedrys and Polonia that season and, after a series of bad results, he was sacked in April 1994.

After leaving the club Giedrys went on to take charge of several third and fourth tier Mazovian province clubs including Mazur Karczew, Świt Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki and Hutnik Warsaw.  In 2003 Giedrys was re-employed by Polonia to coach its youngsters, unfortunately due to unexplained circumstances he was kicked out of Polonia in 2008.  He then found a job as the PE teacher at Bednarska I SLO and went on to coach KS Bednarska.  It’s very uncommon for a ‘B’ Klasa manager to have the weight of experience and football knowledge that Giedrys has.

Antoni Giedrys

Antoni Giedrys

Despite the unclear reasons for his departure from Polonia, Giedrys’ connections with the club have not soured and have provided especially helpful for KS Bednarska.  Polonia allow Bednarska to use the pitches that line the outside of their Konwiktorska stadium for training purposes and as their home turf.  Bednarska players often socialise in Polonia’s cafe in Konwiktorska and sometimes receive free tickets to the ekstraklasa side’s games.  This close link with Polonia can also be problematic for Bednarska.  In addition to the game against Hutnik referred to earlier Wojciechowski, a former student at Bednarska I SLO, told me how Bednarska’s players sometimes encounter very hostile receptions from opposition fans.  Wojciechowski explained how full-backs and wingers have the worst of it as aggressive supporters often harangue Bednarska players from the touchlines.  He even stated that some players cannot take the tension around matches and have thus stopped playing for the club.

Mikolaj Wojciechowski in action

Mikołaj Wojciechowski in action

Despite the presence of such an esteemed coach as Giedrys the early days of KS Bednarska were rather difficult.  They lost the first eight competitive games that they played in the 2009-10 season.  The turning point came for the team in its 9th game when they came away with a creditable 3-3 draw at PUG Bielany.  After this the team believed in itself more.  It was still a tough first season for Bednarska though as they finished next to last in Warsaw’s ‘B’ Klasa group 1.  Giedrys admitted it was an inauspicious start for the club but it was to be expected considering most of the players were secondary school pupils at the time.   Season 2010-11 was not all that much better for Bednarska, they finished bottom of the league but had a much more improved goal difference.  Last season finally saw a marked improvement for the club, when they came 8th in the 12 team division.  This year has been even better, at the end of the autumn round of games Bednarska are 4th in the table and have the opportunity to reach second place which would mean promotion to the ‘A’ Klasa.

Giedrys has clearly had a profound impact on the players at the club.  Wojciechowski told me how professional training sessions are at Bednarska and how sometimes players from higher level teams come along to pick up tips from their experienced trainer.  Giedrys is an affable man and it’s clear that Wojciechowski feels honoured to have such a trainer at ‘B’ Klasa level.  Wojciechowski explained how great the atmosphere is at the club and why Giedrys is such a good coach:

‘I’ve worked with him for many years and he’s able to build a team out of nothing.  He’s created a team that’s able to win against clubs who are two tiers higher than us.  He can really spot a player and knows where everyone should play.  At Polonia he discovered Michał and Marcin Żewłakow who went on to play for the Polish national team.  With Bednarska he’s discovered a couple of really good players – well for ‘B’ Klasa level anyway.’

What does Giedrys think of managing a team at such a level?  When asked what was different about managing clubs at the top and bottom of the Polish game Giedrys stated:

‘The level of professionalism.  Professional clubs train 8-10 times a week.  At Bednarska the players have jobs or have to study so we can only train twice a week.  Sometimes due to other commitments the players can only come along once a week.  In addition the club is run on a shoe-string budget, we’re supported by Bednarska I SLO but apart from that the club is run by players’ contributions.’

He seems to be enjoying it though, as does Wojciechowski.  Both of them believe the club can eventually make it up to the Liga Okręgowa (6th tier).  With Giedrys at the helm anything is possible.

Thanks go to Antoni Giedrys and Mikołaj Wojciechowski for speaking to me.  KS Bednarska’s website is http://bednarska.futbolowo.pl/

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