20 sty 2011

From trend to revolution?

Evidences are clear and for many obvious – Polish football over the last few years became a safe shelter for many overpaid pseudo professionals, unwilling to change the status quo, clearly hurting the future of the beautiful game in this country. You could read about it in previous post (‘Against Modern Footballers’) and even though that view remains unpopular among Polish sports journalists, the famous Gabrielle Marcotti confirmed that saddening trend exist and is visible in his interview with one of leading Polish newspapers. Is then football becoming a piece of art outside but a demoralized community on the closer look, inside?

The first to stop the mentioned trend are clubs and inverting it has started last year. Unwilling to match inappropriate expectations of Polish footballers, they turned to extended scouting and cooperation with Balkans clubs where lot of players are only looking for a chance to make a bigger career and financial reasons are the second for them. Matching the level of talent, skill of Polish spoiled ‘stars’, they certainly overcome them in terms work ethic and professionalism, focusing mainly on the right side of their work.

Evidenced are clear – Wisła is now working only on foreign markets to strengthen their team after getting rid of distracted Polish stars. We are yet to witness the final shape of the revolution in Krakow but most certainly the Dutch manager, Robert Maaskant, will leave in the team only those Poles who are willing to match his expectations, on the training pitch, not in contract negotiations. Arka Gdynia also turns international searching through different markets but not the Polish one, while Legia showed in the summer that if any transfers will be made, only foreigners will be heroes of those. 

The Warsaw club is the best example of the revolution I’m writing about. After few years of financing the team that never matched owners’ expectations, finally the board decided that it’s not the manager fault as they turned to disillusioned players. Maciej Iwański, Piotr Giza and several others are gone as Maciej Skorża wants that is less about money and more about football. The nationality of his players is something which he clearly doesn’t care about.

Foreigners are cheap, are equally talented, like to work hard, listen to the manager instructions and are hungry for success – what should clubs want more? Clearly, it’s up to good scouting and selection of clubs as Polish market is unarguably overloaded every transfer window with unknown players on trials here and there. Many mistakes have been made in that matter but there is less of them every year. Soon we may have our league with one of the highest percentages of foreigners in the squads and only a few Poles on the pitch will be rather unsurprising view but if clubs will overcome and stand up to the rising critique of fans and media, the positives will be noticed everywhere.

Why the league flooded by foreigners may be a good thing for Polish football? First of all, as for many years that was uncommon for clubs, everybody should look at the bigger picture. Every another generation of footballers was spoiled as soon as the bad habits of older players were quickly transferred to young heads within the months of their existence in the first team. Laziness, money-mined behaviors spread everywhere, even on those foreigners I was writing about. But if those bad personalities became the minority of the team, even needless, youngsters will turn to those who are actually giving something to the club, not only reaching for the goods from it.

For the trend to become successful revolution clubs must focus on the background, youth system and academies. Only they can rise the new, unspoiled generations that follow the right examples of professionals in the first squad. Then the foreigners advantage will become temporary as new talents will emerge and take their places. That’s idealistic plan but why shouldn’t that happen? On the evidences we have, only trusting in the long plan can pay off for Polish football – fans, media, players and everyone involved. It may not be the plan of every club in Ekstraklasa but from my point of view, the most important things are already happening – letting go older generations, signing foreigners, focusing on youth development.

Of course, the are dangers for this plan, as always. The institution of agents, greedy and messing with footballers heads, is the biggest threat but I can see the change even now – few of ex-players choose this path of their careers in football (Cezary Kucharski, Marek Citko), realizing their mistakes and not letting this to happen with footballers they work with. Also, the transfer market is still the problem as payments and amount of money paid for overrated (or rather overpriced) players are high but where that kind of situation is not an issue? The only solution to this is to make a move, follow different path, disagree with common willingness to overpay for unproven domestic talents.

What we all don’t want to happen is to have to different football realities – one for Ekstraklasa clubs, where TV-deals are high, gates as well and they simply can invest in something more than just the first team, and the other for lower leagues where money are already tight. Those clubs already count on their own background and profits from transfers of young players to bigger clubs – but what will happen when the market will be already cleared of the talents by richer clubs? What will be left for them?

The answer is not an easy one and I’m first to admit that if the plan can be turned into a success, then there must be some pain first. Apart from moaning and critique from media and fans that Polish league is (temporary!) overcrowded with foreigners, the national team may have the biggest problems with selection and results as the effect of this revolution. But if someone ever thought that every problem will find its solution with new stadiums, hosting EURO 2012, better marketing and higher gates, then surely that person knows nothing about football. After all those painful years, fulfilled with corruption and narrow-minded thinking, we have to suffer some more but with the hope that finally this is the right path to follow. Polish football now desperately need patience and believe in something more than three games we will play during EURO 2012. Despite what Nostradamus said the world will not end that year.

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