Following on from yesterday’s trip to Upper Silesia to see Górnik Zabrze take on Lechia Gdańsk, EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk editor Ryan Hubbard spent a not-so-relaxing day in the Lower Silesian city of Wrocław…
Trying to fall asleep on a train isn’t easy. It is especially difficult when you know that you really need to fall asleep to stand any chance of staying awake long enough to last a night out. Me? I try for 2 hours to sleep, and then resign myself to the fact that it will only be energy drinks that keep me up through the evening.
A combination of said lack of sleep and the six litres of beer consumed at Wrocław’s Bierhalle meant that upon waking on Sunday morning with a severe headache, my only clear memories of the night involve myself and Michał laughing when Real Betis stick one past Real Madrid, and singing Phil Collins with a taxi driver on the way back to my hotel.
Even though a 9am start allowed for some extra rest, the headphone volume was on low for the tram journey to the city centre, ahead of an 11am kick-off for the A Klasa Grupa Wrocław III (Sixth-tier) tie between Wratislavia Wrocław and Widawa Stradomia. And as Mr Zachodny’s car pulled into the suburban housing estate housing the ground (Michał would normally be playing, but for a torn knee ligament), the game was just getting underway.
With the home side trailing 1-0 at half-time, I realised that this was Sunday morning football like I haven’t witnessed in England. There were no players comically falling over drunk, and there was a flat (although grass-less in parts) surface lending itself nicely to an attempted passing game a million miles from the “long-ball, stuck in the mud”style of play usually seen on the parks of Leicester, London, or wherever, every Sunday morning.
With Wratislavia’s second half equaliser cancelled-out within 20 seconds of the restart, it took a long-distance free-kick and a freak gust of wind to deceive the Widawa goalkeeper, allowing the home side’s number 9 to nod in from close range.
With the points shared, the obligatory floodlight photographs snapped, and a quick chat with a friend of Michał’s – whose Grandmother apparently lives around the corner from myself in Leicester – a journey back to the hotel via the Stadion Olimpijski, and Centenary Hall was needed to prepare for the evening’s game between Śląsk Wrocław and Korona Kielce.
No public transport was needed to reach Wrocław’s new Stadion Miejski – although the hotel was a 20-minute journey to the city centre, it was only a mere 200 metres from the new Euro 2012 venue. I was met outside of the hotel by Michał, as well as Andrzej Gomołysek – editor of the fantastic Taktycznie.net website (Think Zonal Marking for the Ekstraklasa).
The short walk to the stadium was made slightly more difficult than it could have been, with the Media Accreditation collection area on the opposite side to the Media entrance; but once the stadium is fully completed this will surely be rectified.
Loaded up on free refreshments and with the team-sheets tweeted, it was off to our desks for the evening – and boy was it a fantastic view.
Although the pitch wasn’t in the best condition (I think the Wratislavia surface earlier in the day looked a little better), the stadium is even more impressive from the inside than outside. Although there were only 18,000 Śląsk supporters inside the ground (less than half-full), the design of the ground -as well as the fantastic support of the fans who had turned out – made it feel like twice as many. When the European Championships come around in June, the noise will be incredible. The Śląsk supporters seemed intent on displaying their new stadium’s acoustics from the start as the moment’s silence for Smolarek turned into a rapturous applause.
Śląsk had gone into the game without a win in 2012; but although their passing wasn’t great, they got off to a decent start with Łukasz Madej smashing home from a tight angle – leaving the Korona keeper Małkowski with absolutely no chance. With a clear air of relief spreading around the stadium, the Śląsk fans were starting to believe that their title challenge had reignited. But despite taking the lead, it was Korona who looked more likely to score next – and after 20 minutes, that’s exactly what they did. Slack marking from a corner allowed Lithuanian defender Tadas Kijanskas to smash home from close range, and Śląsk never really recovered from the setback.
Every passing movement which the home side tried to start off seemed to be easily intercepted by the Korona midfield, but despite their dominance they failed to take the lead before the half-time whistle blew.
As the half-time entertainment at the Stadion Miejski was set-up, the rules were explained over the PA system. With my limited Polish I didn’t quite catch the rules, but I needn’t have worried as it seemed that the contestants had no idea what they were supposed to do either. After numerous slips and falls trying to manoeuvre a football through a set course, it was back to the all-important game to see whether Orest Lenczyk had delivered a rollocking to his Śląsk side during the break. If he had, it hadn’t really done the desired job.
Śląsk again struggled to string more than a few passes together, and even though their opponents weren’t much better, they continued to have the better grasp of the scrappy game.
Just after the hour mark, the Śląsk supporters behind the goal started their massive display – a huge banner with a Śląsk supporter in the cross-hairs of a gun, with the words “Fanatical Public Enemy” along the bottom. And even though they knew the club would be punished (Śląsk were later fined 10,000zł), some home fans proceeded to compliment the display with a number of flares being waved from the top of the stand.
By the time that the display was packed away, and the smoke had drifted outside of the stadium, the visitors had gone two-one up. An inspired substitution by Leszek Ojrzyński – bringing Piotr Malarczyk on for captain Kamil Kuzera – paid of instantly; with his first touch, Malarczyk headed home from a Sobolewski corner kick with fourteen minutes remaining on the clock.
Only a last-minute free-kick from former Derby County and Porto midfielder Przemysław Kazmierczak came close to earning Śląsk a point, but he saw his free-kick rebound off of the crossbar.
With the press-conference out of the way (I couldn’t understand a word either Lenczyk or Ojrzyński said, but pretended like I knew what was going on anyway), it was back to the media zone to watch the ŚLĄSKnet.com team in full swing – uploading interviews, match reactions and photographs, it really is a sight to behold.
Then finally, with pleasantries and goodbyes dispensed with, it was time for the short walk back to the hotel to relax with a couple of episodes of The Ricky Gervais Show and a takeaway pizza ahead of the morning’s trip back to Blighty.
Dzięki Polska, I’ve had a wonderful time…