The Ekstraklasa, quite rightly, gets a lot of criticism for the quality of the matches, the fact that its clubs don’t succeed in European competitions and so on. Despite this I love the league, it’s mine now and I will defend it to the hilt. In this spirit I’ve decided to write a series of short posts in praise of certain aspects of the Ekstraklasa which I’ve observed over the years and which attract me to the league. The first in the series takes a look at my favourite species in the league – technical players with imperfections. Here goes nothing…
The quality of football in the Ekstraklasa is not the best. I’ve spent many afternoons watching games where nothing happens, where passes fly off of the pitch, shots hit the corner flag and people mis-control the ball. That’s why when someone actually has decent technique in the league, they’re like a shining diamond found in the rough and they deserve to be cherished.
The problem is that if a player is too good for the league, either technically, or more common these days, physically, or is young and has a grand future ahead of them, the time they spend in the Ekstraklasa is incredibly limited. I’ve oohed and aahed over players, only for them to leave the league after half a good season as agents have discovered the Ekstraklasa is a place where bargains can be found.
What you really need then is a player who’s good technically but has some kind of flaw which means that he really can’t make it outside of the league. Either he’s too slow, or too old, or carries too much weight. These players are perfect because they will always be here, and we can enjoy the continuity of seeing them season after season.
So I’d like to praise these specimens who have lit up match days over the last seven seasons or so. The list is long, including Filip Starzyński, a player who was excellent at Ruch Chorzów in 2014-5, attempted to make a go of it abroad, but came back when he didn’t fit in in the Belgian league. Starzyński came back to Zagłębie Lubin and his tricks, feints, dummies and perfect set-pieces are a joy to behold, but he’s probably too old (28 in May) to make another move abroad.
For a number of seasons another player in this mould was Konstantin Vassiljev, who came to the league at the age of 30 in 2014 and spent 4 seasons turning it on for Piast Gliwice and then Jagiellonia Białystok, where he became one of the league’s star players. Someone who was a bit slow, a bit old, but still was able to find space around the edge of the box in which he could create magic – his shots and passes were the highlight of many a drab weekend.
The latest in the series of players of this calibre is the Finnish midfield maestro Petteri Forsell who plies his trade for newly promoted Miedź Legnica. Forsell nearly signed for Cracovia a couple of seasons ago but Michał Probierz decided not to purchase him due to his weight. In short, Forsell is a pretty rotund character. But what a shot he has, his free-kicks and long shots dip and curl in all the right places. He’s a match-winner in a league where there is a lot of greyness.
So here’s to you, technical players with imperfections, may there be more of you to enrich our mundane weekends.