This weekend I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to get to Polonia’s game with Podbeskidzkie Bielsko Biała due to teaching commitments. I still haven’t watched a Polonia victory live and it was thus sod’s law that they took the opportunity to record their first win in nine games. To get my fix of live football I decided once more to head along to a Gwardia Warszawa game. Gwardia are quickly becoming my second team in Warsaw and this was my third home match in a row.
My trips to Gwardia have coincided with an upturn in form for the Harpagony. Before yesterday’s game Gwardia had won four consecutive games, not bad for a team with a 24 year old manager and a stadium surrounded by a perimeter fence. Gwardia’s victories have seen them rise up the Warsaw Klasa A III table, giving them an outside chance of promotion. Their opponents in yesterday’s match were Walka Kosów a club from the village of Wólka Kosowska, 20 kilometres South-West of Warsaw. Walka had helped Gwardia out recently by taking points off their promotion rivals RKS Sarmata. Sarmata lost on Saturday, meaning a Gwardia win would take them to within five points of a promotion place with a game in hand.
Gwardia had bad news in the build-up to yesterday’s match. The Police owners of their stadium have once more threatened to prevent the side from playing home games if they do not pay extortionate rental costs. I thus headed to Racławicka 132 not sure if the game would go ahead or not. Getting off the bus I moved along the path to the ground and was happy to see Gwardia and Walka players warming up on the side of the pitch.
I met up with Norbert who runs a Gwardia blog to, as he says, ‘show that Gwardia is still alive.’ It was great to have a chat to someone who’s followed the club for a long time. Norbert started watching Gwardia games when they were still playing in the Polish second division. He regaled me with stories of Gwardia away trips, experiences of relegation and promotion and memories of when over 2,000 people went to Harpagony games. He also told me of the ridiculous demands the Police are making of Gwardia and the slow death of the club over the last couple of years. It was a really nice experience and Norbert and other Gwardia fans made me feel most welcome with a series of hearty hand-shakes.
As to the match itself Gwardia started off the stronger and in the 4th minute their combative striker Widelski scored a quite wonderful goal. A cross came over from the left wing and Widelski, with his back to goal, somehow managed to produce a back-heel lob which looped over the keeper and nestled in the far corner. It was quite a goal for the 7th tier of Polish football.
The goal was however not representative of Gwardia’s performance on the day, perhaps they felt they couldn’t live up to their striker’s audacious bit of skill. The rest of the first half was relatively even with both Gwardia and Walka attacking in equal measure. The most interesting thing in the first half were things happening off the pitch. The Police had sent several security guards out to make sure no-one climbed over the perimeter fence and sit in the stands. Several times these guards headed off to get Gwardia fans who had climbed the fence to come back to the ‘legal’ side. The irony was a lot of other fans got into the stadium from another side and were not bothered whatsoever. It was all very surreal and we got to half-time with the score 1-0 to Gwardia.
The second half was unfortunately dominated by Walka who had most of the ball with Gwardia dropping way too deep. The entire half we had the sneaking feeling that Walka would get the equaliser and if that happened I’m sure they’d have gone on and got the win. The team from Wólka Kosowska must have had seven or eight free-kicks close to Gwardia’s goal but every time a Harpagon defender got it clear or their goalkeeper claimed the ball bravely. At one point the Walka manager got so annoyed with the lack of a breakthrough he bawled at the referee who had no choice but give him a yellow card.
With Walka putting everything into attack Gwardia had several chances on the break and almost extended their lead. In one last attempt to equalise Walka sent up their rather plump goalkeeper for a free-kick, fortunately for Gwardia the delivery was poor.
So the Harpagony came away with a 1-0 win, their fifth in a row, giving them continued hope of an unlikely promotion to the Liga Okręgowa (6th tier). Norbert, basking in the rosy glow of victory, was nice enough to give me a lift home afterwards. It might have been overcast in Warsaw but a little bit of sunshine found its way to Norbert and Gwardia yesterday.
Warsaw Klasa A III table from 90minut.pl
If anyone feels they can help Gwardia financially get in touch and I’ll pass your details on to Norbert.