Champions League has its doors closed for Polish teams since 1996/1997 season when Widzew Łódź impressed... and got into financial problems. How? Everybody wanted to earn from their success and especially sponsors that loaned them money not gave. Never mind about that story, this one will be about Polish players in Champions League. Players, not clubs. It will get dirty and pathetic.
Time passed since Jerzy Dudek showed his dancing skills on the line and lifted Champions League trophy with Liverpool. No player matched his contribution although Tomasz Kuszczak was in Manchester United squad when they won it in Moscow. And still, if You ask anybody about Polish player doing something special in Champions League, I bet that the name will be one of our keepers'. Fabiański had a nightmare last season in Arsenal, Boruc saved penalty against MU...
We have outfield players that contributed in Champions League, although maybe not in the biggest manner. Żewłakow twin brothers had arguably good run in last season (Michał was solid defender for Olympiakos and Marcin appeared as striker for Cyprian APOEL, scored against Chelsea), Rafał Murawski played some time in Rubin Kazan in the group stage, Kamil Kosowski impressed on wing in APOEL... and that is it. Pathetic?
Wait for the better, as situation will not change in current season. It is still about keepers, and the same one that You already heard about. Dudek, Fabiański, Szczęsny, Kuszczak... what do they have in common, apart from playing for the big clubs? They are all warming benches and only Szczęsny can really count that this situation may change in the future. Fabiański had horrendous pre-season, Dudek has no chance of being the number one when Casillias is even 10% fit, Kuszczak seems to be forever the number two while the roumors spread about other possible replacement in MU goal.
How it will be on the field for Polish players? Hopefully better - not in numbers, but in quality. Ireneusz Jeleń has everything (apart from skills to learn other languages than Polish) to make his mark in Champions League. Rafał Murawski may not get the minutes he wish for but Rubin can make a surprise in this edition of the Cup. In Auxerre there is also Dariusz Dudka but he will play only if there will be large injury crisis in the French side. Sebastian Boenisch is about to make a debut for Polish national side after agreeing to play for Franciszek Smuda. How his Werder will perform in the group stage?
Believe it or not, but that's it. Four goalkeepers, four outfield players, and it is not even the smallest number of Polish players in the Champions League in last five years. Despite changing the rules of qualifications to the group stage, making it far easier for sides from that part of Europe, Lech Poznań struggled to get past Sparta Prague. Maybe just before the EURO 2012 one of our teams will make it?
What are the reasons? It is easy to say our league is so weak that nobody from European top wants to buy them here. Also, looking at football in Poland I could (and one day I will) write about dozens of reasons why when everybody move forward we are still in the same place we were five years ago. But the players must understand that something also lies in their heads - they think they are professionals, they earn really big money in Poland, they don't need to make special effort, stay longer after training session, learn something else. It is about tactics, it is about development, it is about skills and it is about mentality. For one I'm sure, it is not about talent. Maybe cause that is my last hope for Polish football.