Germany national Football team News

English footballer Colin Bell beats Poland's Jerzy Gorgon in 1973 matchBy Adam Easton BBC News, Warsaw

Poland is making much of its team's glory days during the communist era - but can they repeat it?

Euro 2012 championship co-host Poland's glory days on the pitch appear to be firmly stuck in the past. Can the tournament revive the fortunes of a once-great footballing nation?

A recent TV commercial for a Polish bank showed three men sat on a couch watching a match in a scene from contemporary Polish life. The game they were watching was from October 1973.

The footage on their flat-screen TV showed Polish striker, Jan Domarski, scoring at Wembley in a match which prevented England from qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.

Poland finished third in those championships, a triumph they repeated in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. After second-round elimination in the 1986 World Cup, Poland did not qualify for a major tournament until 2002. They currently lie 65th in the Fifa world rankings, below the likes of Honduras (61st) and Sierra Leone (63rd).

Abandoned

The game, as elsewhere in Europe, has also been dogged by widespread corruption, which has been tackled since 2003, and hooliganism, which is still a problem, although the government is trying to clamp down on it ahead of the tournament.

When Poland was behind the Iron Curtain football was backed by the communist state. State-owned companies or towns owned clubs, and players and coaches were officially amateurs who earned salaries and social benefits as steelworkers or coalminers. But they didn't actually have to work down the mines; they could concentrate on their football careers.

When the communist system ended in 1989, football was, in many ways, abandoned.

"In the '90s there were huge changes in Poland not only politically, but economically, so everything changed. Unfortunately when you have such strong changes in a country it's very difficult to develop something like sport. Sport is always one of the last things because there are more important things to develop, " Jerzy Engel, sports director for the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and former national team coach, tells the BBC.

The clubs lost their state sponsors and they had to start renting the city centre grounds from the local authorities which owned them.

"We lost a lot of stadiums and a lot of coaches because they lost their jobs, there was no money for them so they started to look for new jobs in schools or different sports or they went abroad like I did. We lost a lot of very talented young kids because they didn't have a chance to be trained properly in the clubs and they didn't have places to play football, " says Mr Engel, who left Poland to coach in Cyprus in the late 1980s.

Miroslav Klose was born in Poland but plays for Germany

Most clubs neglected the development of young players.

"Basically our problem is the lack of a system for training young players. The national team coach has such a small pool to choose from. You can see the difference already at Legia Warsaw. They started an academy 10 years ago and they now have some fruits from this, " Piotr Wierzbicki, a journalist for the sports daily, Przeglad Sportowy, says.


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