Zdzisław Kręcina: Polish football’s Smooth Operator

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A familiar, and rather comedic-looking, face has come back to the Polish football scene in the last couple of days, prompting much sneering and mickey-taking, however Zdzisław Kręcina (pictured above) is actually a much smarter operator than his appearance suggests.  In another guest post on RightbankWarsaw, Mikołaj Wojciechowski profiles Kręcina and finds out there’s a lot more to the man than meets the eye.

Do you enjoy watching the Polish national football team? Let’s be honest, at the moment not many people do.  Adam Nawałka’s side is not doing well and that’s why the Polish FA (PZPN) has received much criticism.

The strongest part of the national team set-up is product advertising – the art of building and maintaining product awareness with potential buyers (sponsors,fans,business partners).  Despite the poor quality of play provided by the first team, the PZPN has been very successful at promoting the national team abroad.  This achievement could not have been possible without the work of one man – Zdzisław Kręcina.

Zdzisław Kręcina is one of the most powerful personalities that the Polish football world has ever seen.  After receiving a PhD from the renowned Academy of Physical Education (AWF) in Katowice, he began working for the PZPN in 1983.  Kręcina went on to work for the organisation for the next 28 years – with short breaks while he lived abroad.

Those short breaks became essential steps for his future career.  In the late 1980s, Zdzisiek (as he is affectionately known) emigrated to Germany in order to work and help his wife who was facing health problems. This was not the end of Kręcina’s international travels however. After a short period of living in Germany, Kręcina moved to Canada.

While in North America in 1991 he became the first Pole to obtain the official FIFA Management Licence and became a Licensed FIFA Match Agent. In addition he developed his language skills.

The Great Comeback: In 1991, the well-educated and multilingual Zdzisław Kręcina returned to Poland and started to work once more at the PZPN. He very quickly became a powerful person and was promoted many times.  Initially, he worked as a marketing and event manager and then became the vice-chancellor of the PZPN.  In 1999 he became the Secretary-General of the PZPN (the second most powerful person in the organisation) and remained in that position until November 2011. From 2002 on, Kręcina was also the director of the Polish National Football Team, which meant organising a whole host of administrative affairs linked to the national side.  In addition for two years he worked on a number of UEFA commissions.

As a successful match agent, Kręcina become a famous person in the world of European Football.  From Jerzy Engel’s Futbol na tak book, we know that Kręcina was very successful at organising international friendly games.  He built up a strong coalition with smaller ‘weaker’ national football sides who were then able to organise matches against more famous footballing nations.  He is said to be good friends with delegates from post-Soviet states. As an accomplished Match Agent, Kręcina helped our national team to promote itself before the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2008 European Championships.

Zdzisław Kręcina was also very successful in talks with PZPN sponsors, UEFA and… the Football Federation of Ukraine.  Indeed he was one of the key players in the Polish road to organising Euro 2012.  Partly as a result of his work Poland and Ukraine provided clear plans for the event and were eventually chosen as co-hosts.

Kręcina does not like to stand in front of the cameras.  He prefers to work behind the scenes.  This is mainly due to his somewhat comical physical appearance.  Zdzisław Kręcina is a jovial person who likes to eat a lot and sometimes also likes to indulge with alcohol (something that is normal in the work of football officials). He is not a media star and that is why he has often been an easy ‘target’ for newspapers looking for cheap thrills.

In one famous episode in 2011 Kręcina snored so loudly during a flight he had to be escorted off the plane.  Unfortunately, this was due to drinking a few too many.  After this he became a bit of a laughing stock in the polish media and he found it very difficult to avoid the attention of the press.

Finally in late 2011, Zdzisław Kręcina was expelled from the PZPN after being accused of corruption.  The details are rather hazy but it was linked to an investigation surrounding the PZPN’s new headquarters. However afterwards he was exonerated from the charges and it was proved that he had not done anything illegal.

As a result in 2012 Kręcina was a candidate in the PZPN presidential elections – an election that Zbigniew Boniek eventually won. Since that time, Kręcina has been working at his family business, which deals with property management and real estate.

The Second Great Comeback:  Zdzisiek is finally back in the football business after being appointed as the sporting director of current Ekstraklasa side Piast Gliwice.  This is great news for ZK fans! A lot has changed since Kręcina’s last great comeback in 1991. He is much more experienced and… he is not an unknown personality anymore.

Will Kręcina’s organisational and managerial skills help Piast to achieve better results in the Polish Ekstraklasa?  Only time will tell.

Thanks once more to Mikołaj, you can follow him on Twitter here

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