It’s a very sad day to be a Polonia Warsaw fan. The famous old club, whose history goes back to 1911, has been denied a licence to play in the Polish top-flight, the Ekstraklasa, next season due to the horrendous financial management of their owner Ireneusz Król. As a result Polonia will fall down the league structure, possibly as far as the eighth tier, an ignominious demise for a club that has won the Polish league title twice, including the first title played after the Second World War when Warsaw still lay in ruins. But it’s not all bad news for Polonia fans, Warsaw’s lower leagues are an entertaining mixture of the eccentric and the banal. What can Polonia fans look forward to next season?
1) Crumbling stadiums
Warsaw has a vast array of clubs spread across the city and its surrounding area. Some of these clubs have reached the very height of the Polish league system and even played in Europe. Unfortunately these clubs have fallen far from their Communist era heydays but many still possess stadiums which speak of past successes. If Polonia end up in the Klasa A (7th tier) next season their fans will be able to watch games at Gwardia or Hutnik Warszawa, in vast domes built for much higher levels and now lying in neglect. More interesting to visit than spanking new stadiums like Legia anyday.
Gwardia Warszawa’s stadium at Racławicka 132
2) Being able to get to every match
The joy of Warsaw area lower league football is that every game is a short car or tram ride away. For the loyal Polonia fan then next season will mean the opportunity to watch more live games than any time in the last twenty years. Of course this will mean the end of those long exciting away trips but think of the joy your significant other will feel when you make it home in time to eat their wonderfully prepared pork chops.
Rediscover the joy of the Warsaw transport system as you head to another live match
3) Derbies every week
Lower league games are by their very essence regional, meaning that Polonia fans can look forward to the prospect of local derbies every week of the season against teams such as Pogoń Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Viktoria Sulejówek and the like. Remember the atmosphere at Legia-Polonia matches? Good, well now you get to experience something of the same at every game. In addition almost all clubs in the Warsaw area are Legia fan-clubs so you can expect a hearty welcome from assembled smiley chaps in green, white and red scarves. Lucky aren’t we?
Cheery chaps just waiting for your arrival
4) Cheap matches
Lower league football in the Warsaw area is a cheap and cheerful proposition. Liga III (4th tier) matches often have entrance fees of around 5-10 zlotys. Below the 4th tier matches are often entirely free, meaning all you need to do is get yourself a bag of crisps and a beverage of choice from a local shop and you can take in a match of your beloved Polonia. And to be honest who cares for fancy seats when you have to pay a fortune to sit in them?
5) The chance to prove you’re a real fan
These days there are many ways of showing how committed you are to the club you love, you can buy the shirt, the scarf, set up a twitter account or even a blog. All these things pale into insignificance compared to the chance that lies ahead of you. For what better way to illustrate your integrity as a fan by supporting Polonia from the Warsaw regional leagues back up to the Ekstraklasa? Admittedly this thought might not be that much comfort as you freeze to death on a Saturday morning surrounded by cows in Wółka Kosowska, but in future years you can always say you were there when a mighty old club was reborn.
Photo courtesty of kartofliska.pl
So keep that head up, the next couple of seasons may actually end up being quite fun. After all the Ekstraklasa isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it? Good, I’ll see you at Sparta (Jazgarzew not Praha) in August then.