The Polish Cup has its own problems, arguably the biggest being the people who are running it from Polish FA, but it’s hard to run away from the usual romance stuff each year when domestic biggest clubs have to face minnows from lower divisions. And knowing how the image of the competition suffers with stupid decision of the federation, I can only fall into these interesting stories and bring them out, to make it a bit more interesting, when the coverage of the Cup is so poor that people will simply miss out on them.
Ridiculous hours of the games in the midweek, clubs looking at the possibility to run away from the responsibility of hosting matches, hooligans making themselves noticed once again and the usual elimination of those teams that should easily go through. Yes, even latest games brought many problems and evidences that this competition is rather failing to reach even average European standards, while it seems that Polish FA just looks at the easiest way to get through with another season of it, without making much fuss. As I said, at least romance is there.
Four teams from Ekstraklasa have been eliminated by the minnows and the biggest achievement was when Limanovia from fourth tier of Polish football won at home with Lechia Gdansk with a single goal. Fantastic story? Listen to this – when Gryf Wejherowo (3rd tier) have beaten current Ekstraklasa leaders Korona Kielce 3-1, their chairman stepped down from makeshift VIP section to enter the celebrating changing room of the home side and just take fifty thousand Zlotys from his pocket to give to the team. Very generous man he is but he may be paying more of his pocket money as players already stated their ambition to beat another giants, whoever they will be drawn against.
There are also the consequences of defeats when the biggest clubs are beaten. Zagłębie Lubin lost to MKS Kluczbork in (almost) local derby as Jan Urban is just one step closer to get sacked from the club. On the other hand, Cracovia won at Piast Gliwice and even that did not convince their coach Jurij Szatałow not to walk away from the club (more about it here). But the most interesting consequence of the defeat was the one Jagiellonia players had to face two days after losing to Ruch Zdzieszowice.
Embarrassment was the word that surrounded them on the training pitch where their manager, Czesław Michniewicz, ordered them to stand exactly on the positions they were during that match for ninety minutes – just looking at themselves, not moving, not touching a ball, as he walked around pointing out mistakes and bollocking each and every one of them for what happened in the Cup tie. “These players, next year or two, will be playing in different clubs and they will remember this embarrassing defeat, not wanting to repeat history” – said Michniewicz after he made his players train hard for next four hours and watch the match against Ruch once again.
Even when top team wins, there can be a situation that makes people smile. Jose Mari Bakero praised his Cup rivals, Chrobry Głogów, despite his Lech won with them fairly easily. But the surroundings, the biggest crowd of the week and how minnows from third tier played made him promise that there might be a future meeting between two sides, as the Spaniard thinks that Chrobry plays the right way and may be attractive enough for his team as a test-match rivals. Certainly the history of Rozwój Katowice reserves, team full of miners that were only supported by players from the first squad, that had to face Legia Warszawa was most interesting one and when they equalized just before the break the romance was on – but the quality of Legia was enough to put them through easily in the second half.
Yes, there are problems. Łódzki KS had no ground to play at so they had to ask Ruch Chorzów, their rivals, to play away but with them as hosts. Piast Gliwice is still waiting for their new stadium to be opened and moved their cup tie with Cracovia to smaller town – they were losing and match was stopped in the added time when one of hooligans threw a petard at linesman and hurt him. Crowds were not big again this round, early kick-offs stopped many of them coming to a midweek games…
But there are such great and heartwarming stories that make me, personally still believe in the magic of the cup. Probably that has nothing to do with a fact, that local amateur side that I play for produced one of the biggest shocks in the regional edition of the cup, beating a team from fourth tier as we are almost at the bottom of our group in seventh division. It is really long journey still, with this being only qualifications to next season’s proper edition but when we cheered after last whistle of the 3-0 epic cup win, you could see in our eyes that the dream of us in the final, at Warsaw's National Stadium, May 2013, lives on…