The saying is that “every cloud has a silver lining”. If you are anywhere around northern Warsaw, you would be struggling to find anything with the slightest bit of colour lining the enormous black cloud which currently hangs over Konwiktorską. Polonia Warszawa‘s owner Józef Wojciechowski has continually astounded everyone with his treatment of the club. But few could have predicted that when he finally did relinquish control of the capital’s second club, there would be no celebrations or even the slightest hint of happiness coming from the Czarne Koszule’s supporters.
Following his purchase of Polonia in 2006, Wojciechowski proceeded to make a laughing stock of the club at every opportunity. During his six-year reign at Konwiktorską, countless managers have been brought in and swiftly booted out – mostly for disagreements with the owner himself.
After Wojciechowski’s disappointing treatment of coach Jacek Zieliński during last season, his replacement Czesław Michniewicz seemingly only took the position out of desperation for a job – any job! Unsurprisingly, he only lasted until the summer.
And then there was Klub Kokos, or “the Coconut Club”…
Named after defender, and inaugural member, Daniel Kokosiński, the Coconut Club was the place where Wojciechowski would send the players that he disliked or had a problem with. Rather than try to sell them on to recoup some of the money lost, the mad-cap owner would force the player to train on his own, even suspending them from the first team squad entirely.
When Wojciechowski announced that he was ready to sell the club early in the summer, many Polonia fans felt that with a new owner, the glory days would begin to return to the capital’s second club. Instead, the near-death of their beloved club was imminent.
It feels almost instinctive to write that Monday 16th July 2012 is the darkest day in the 101-year history of Polonia Warszawa; In fact, it is much worse than that.
With Wojciechowski selling all of his shares in the club to the highest bidder, the club now finds itself moved 300 kilometres southwards and rebranded as Klub Piłkarski Katowice. Although there were possibilities for the construction magnate to secure a deal with investors willing to keep the club running in Warsaw, it was his decision to make the best deal for himself which was the final nail in the club’s coffin.
But whilst a new Polonia will emerge in the fifth-tier of the Polish League, fans of GKS Katowice won’t be that lucky. The hybrid club KP Katowice will effectively replace GieKSa, leaving the club’s supporters with an impossible choice – support the soulless new club, one of their rivals, or no-one at all.
For the Silesian club’s fans, many of whom supported the club when it was forced into the fourth tier thanks to financial troubles, this comes as a bitter pill to swallow. However much GieKSa’s fans had wanted Ekstraklasa football, this isn’t how they wanted to earn it. There was pride that, even with a struggling financial status and a rusting stadium, GKS Katowice had given everything to get back into the Pierwsza Liga. There was even a hope that they could achieve promotion by finishing in the top-two over the next few years. The purchase of Polonia by GieKSa’s owner Ireneusz Król has now ruined that hope. Katowice may now have an Ekstraklasa club, but all pride has quickly turned into a cocktail of disbelief, disgust and disappointment.
With some rival supporters claiming that the merger, andparticularly the loss of Polonia, is some sort of karma for their Wojciechowski-led takeover of the smaller Dyskobolia Grodzisk Wielkopolski back in 2008, the main thing to remember is that in these situations – no matter the clubs involved – it is always the fans who will suffer. Just like four years ago, the Polonia and GieKSa supporters had nothing to do with this merger, and now both find themselves victims of businessmen with too much money, playing with their toys. Businessmen caring more about their own wallets than tens-of-thousands of supporters, or a hundred years of history.