As a player, he was mesmeric, tantalising, a magician. As a coach...well...okay, not quite the same. But do you know, the world still needs Zbigniew Boniek. He's the saviour. Michal Zachodny has more.
To every follower that knows a thing or two about football, Zbigniew Boniek is the person to connect with Poland when asked. Not only fans do this. When (rarely) some big club plays against a Polish team, the coach goes to the press conference and is asked one of the most useless questions there is: ‘How many Polish footballers do You know?’
The answer is rather simple. After Dudek and his miracle saves for Liverpool in the Champions League final a few seasons ago, there is only one other name. Zbigniew Boniek.
You simply have to love him. His style of play, his ginger hair, and the goals he scored during World Cup in Spain in 1982.; His partnership on the pitch with Michel Platini, the things he did for Roma. He was great, no doubt about it. We even have a song about his hat-trick against Belgium in summer of 1982, where the ginger devil made the Red Devils look silly. But what did Boniek do after his career finished?
Apart from being a TV pundit on Italian TV, Zbigniew Boniek was also involved in…..harness racing. Yes, I had to check that on the Internet too.
But do you know that he managed the Polish national team? That he wanted to become the Polish FA chairman? That he tried to save both his beloved clubs? That he says many controversial things about football in Poland? Two months ago, Boniek said that our football is dying. That may be more true than controversial but let me take you through the years of Boniek’s life you might not be familiar with.
He had managerial spells in Lecce and Bari at the beginning of 1990’s, then in some less known (or to be honest – completely unknown) Italian clubs to become… national team coach of Poland.
How did he get there without working in Polish football, without knowledge and experience? That shows how ridiculous we are as a nation. Without any surprise but with big hopes coming from media and fans, Boniek lasted only five games at his post, winning two (San Marino, New Zealand), losing two (Latvia, Denmark) and drawing once (Belgium). He resigned by sending a letter to the Polish FA from his home in Italy – the only peaceful place for him during those days.
Boniek came back pretty quickly but in a different role. When he heard how deep in debts his beloved Widzew Łódź were, he decided to leave his comfort zone in Rome to come back and save them from it. He found an investor, but never stepped down from board role to manage his own team – probably for the clubs own good. He remained there for two years, right to the moment when he said that everything was fine in Łódź. Once again, he was wrong – the club was deeply involved in corruption due to the investor he brought to the club. Two years after he left, Łódź were relegated for match fixing and only he knows what he knows about that procedure in Widzew – he says that it was all done behind his back and that it was an unpleasant surprise for him.
After Łódź were relegated Boniek was brought back, but this time by a new investor to the club and he was in a newly created board role for more than a year. Right to the moment he realized that he may be the savior of Polish football.
The plan was to become Polish FA chairman, but Boniek struggled to beat another Polish legend, Grzegorz Lato. Despite promising a revolution, Boniek only picked up a paltry share of the vote.
And now he is back. After being a TV-pundit and sharing his thoughts about Polish football from his place in Rome, Boniek is returning…..to save another club in which he played years ago.
This time it’s Zawisza Bydgoszcz, playing in the third division. About a month ago, he gave himself fifty days to recognize the clubs potential, chances to become bigger and stronger, advance in our football ranks. He had his small holiday, when Zawisza was drawn with Widzew in Polish Cup. He invited potential investors, gathered the board and a few famous people on the stands… only for them to see how Zawisza and Widzew hooligans make complete hell at the stadium, fighting with police and each other. The stadium was closed; the investors are scared, the future of the club remains uncertain, as does the role of Zbigniew Boniek.
So who he is now? The person that cares about his beloved clubs and Polish football so much that he can put his word and name on the line? Or maybe just the controversial legend that says a lot but without much sense and from the distance between Warsaw and Rome?
As he was during his playing days, now he remains one of his kind, always making us expect something special to arrive. Without him, the Polish football scene would much poorer.
If you would like to read more from Michal, please visit his website Polish Football Scout.