It all started with a photo posted on Sandecja Nowy Sącz’s twitter feed on Monday morning. In it stand two men posing outside of an airport terminal, the small, rather well-built man on the right of the picture is draped in Sandecja’s flag with a wide grin on his face. The small club from the South of Poland, who are debutants in the Polish top tier the Ekstraklasa, were announcing to the world that they were preparing to sign the 28 year old American former wonderkid, once dubbed the ‘new Pelé’, Freddy Adu.
Within minutes of the announcement on social media, an interview with Sandecja’s coach Radosław Mroczkowski, was published. A furious Mroczkowski explained that he had not been informed of the decision to offer Adu a trial, and that:
It seems like the decision to approach Adu was taken by the club’s sporting director Arkadiusz Aleksander and its main aim had been to put Sandecja on the map. In that respect the move has worked, articles have appeared on ESPN FC, Daily Mail, L’Équipe among others. At the same time the move has backfired both on the domestic and international stage, Polish comments under the original tweet criticised Adu’s physique, one stating that ‘the guy on the left is more fit than Adu, sign him!’ and the move was panned by Polish football journalists seeing through the obvious publicity stunt behind it. On the international stage almost every article quoted Mroczkowski’s opinions about Adu. To this extent the transfer feels like the airing of dirty linen not just to the domestic public but to the onlooking world.
The decision could also have a negative knock-on effect at Sandecja itself, their coach, who did so well to guide the club to the Ekstraklasa, has obviously been alienated by Adu’s arrival. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Mroczkowski leaves or is fired by the club in the near future. It also comes at a strange moment, the club has not been pulling up trees in its first three matches in the league – not scoring a goal and looking very toothless in attack. Sandecja clearly need signings but approaching Adu, someone who has failed in Finland and Serbia, makes them look like a joke club which cannot be taken seriously.
Polish domestic football gets very little attention outside of the country’s boundaries, the only things that break through to a wider footballing consciousness are normally stories about hooliganism (or the exaggerated fear of it), racism (ditto) and corruption (which has mostly been taken care of). The Adu story has in this respect achieved quite a feat, to make the world’s media take notice of a much derided league, but most Poles would prefer the world’s attention for true achievements rather than for the messy internal politics of a club desperate to be written about.
If Freddy does sign for Sandecja it’s very likely that he will not play very much. Although the league is seen very negatively in Poland, the standard is almost certainly not bad enough for Adu to thrive here. Will all the fuss around the Adu move be worth it? I’d say not, but it will be quite entertaining while it lasts.