It’s been about a year and a half since I started watching the Ekstraklasa regularly and the competition has, over time, grown on me. I’ve mentioned many a time on the blog how maligned Polish football is, how people in this country have so little time for it, even those who are paid to be enthusiastic about the league. At the same time, there’s something enticing about following Polish football – perhaps it’s making the best out of a bad situation – we all know the football isn’t the greatest but sticking with it through thick and thin is actually quite rewarding.
I’ll give you an example. On a Friday night, while most of the Northern hemisphere is out carousing and seeking adventure, I normally tune in to watch the evening’s action in the Ekstraklasa. From one side of course there’s something exceedingly sad about all of this, perhaps I should be out causing mischief, but on the other the Ekstraklasa provides a comforting level of intimacy. There’s a select bunch of footballing aficionados on Twitter following the action – often making wisecracks about the poor football on show – and that’s it. By watching the Ekstraklasa on a Friday night you don’t have to deal with the sheer mass of people that flood through every pore of our existence in the fast-moving modern world. It is in other words a niche world, one for the initiated, and that’s actually quite nice.
Basically the Ekstraklasa’s a little rundown bar somewhere that you and your mates have discovered. It might not be the cleanest place in the world, the beer isn’t amazing, but it’s your own little place where the meaning is something you define. If the Ekstraklasa did suddenly become popular the bar would be filled to bursting with all the other people you know, and secretly despise, from the neighbourhood. The bar would make more money but spending time there wouldn’t be as much fun.
Of course it helps to know the background to all the characters in your chosen establishment, why the bar lady decided to open the place, who the slightly kooky regulars are, and why some people stopped coming and then suddenly came back. All of this takes time. But once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s your territory, and you can’t help but stay until closing time.
Or perhaps I should actually leave the house on a Friday night instead.