Tomorrow, when Śląsk Wroclaw will play with Wisła in Krakow, the Polish title will be decided. Visitors need only a win that will end their 35-years long championship wait, without looking at what happens in Łódź (Widzew vs Lech), Chorzów (Ruch vs Lechia) or Warsaw (Legia vs Korona). But it is not the first time Śląsk plays with Wisła to clinch the title. Thirty years ago the situation was very similar, yet the end quite different, unwelcomed in Wrocław.
Some say it was the most dramatic end to the league that Polish fans have ever seen. Others, or the majority of those who remember the game, simply note that it was the peak of corruption and domestic football at its worst. To understand tensions, worries and conspiracy theories of Polish supporters, it is best to look at what happened almost exactly thirty years ago, on the last Sunday of the season. 9th May 1982, that date is still well remembered in Wroclaw. And cursed at.
This happened back in times where the win gave you two points instead of three and Śląsk was league revelation. Youth combined with experience in the team of only 33-year-old Jan Caliński had an unbelievably good season, and before the last league game, they had an advantage of one point over Widzew but they still needed a win. Śląsk played at home with Wisła, Widzew visited Ruch. But both matches have started long before kick off.
Back in those days, footballers, authorities were not keen to count on what happens on the pitch. That is why Śląsk offered the money to Wisła to make sure they will not make any problems in Wrocław, while Widzew tried to motivate Krakow’s team with dollars earned from selling Zbigniew Boniek to Juventus.
On the day of the games, it was still unknown which option was picked by Wisła. As Andrzej Iwan, back then one of Krakow’s leaders, wrote in his autobiography “Spalony” (“Offside”) his interest was to win the game for Widzew, as he was about to change the club and take the place of Boniek in Łódź. But the discussions went on and other Wisła player, Zdzisław Kapka, was given some amount of money in Wrocław by Tadeusz Pawłowski, then Śląsk midfielder.
The bidding went on and when the news broke out that Widzew had the higher offer, Śląsk tried to collect the money on the match day. As the legend says, wife of one of the hosts handed the additional sum in the toilet in the club building just before the kick off. It was all set up for the champions celebration in Wrocław. The referee Alojzy Jarguz was also paid to make sure the result is right for Śląsk.
Despite the capacity of only 15,000, the Oporowska stadium was packed by 25,000 fans demanding the title. With all set up, it was decided that the penalty will be given to Śląsk by Jarguz, Pawłowski will take it and with Wisła’s keeper Janusz Adamczyk also involved in the plot, that should clinch the title. But much earlier than that things got confusing.
During the first half, Wisła was very competitive, almost scoring on several occasions, making Śląsk stunned as they thought this game will be a walk in the park. They ran around the pitch asking their rivals “What’s going on?!” and “What are you doing?!”. Unable to focus on the game itself, they went off at half time with still goalless draw, that was enough to give them the title, as Ruch was winning with Widzew. But it was Widzew who controlled the situation – their game started eight minutes later than the one in Wrocław, they knew what is going on and could score any minute to react at events at Oporowska.
The half-time in Śląsk’s changing room was tense, with several players claiming that everything is alright, the deal is on – one of them was Tadeusz Pawłowski, who was convinced that Kapka shared the money and the score will be good for Śląsk. Others, led by Caliński, were not so sure, arguing that they have to win it themselves – among them Ryszard Tarasiewicz, one of the younger players, cheeky and brave enough to voice his opinion about the case.
After the years have passed, Tarasiewicz claimed: “I felt from the very first moment that something is not right, that Wisła is not in it, that someone - someone from our team – has made the money his.”
The second half started with a shock as Wisła scored, defender Piotr Skrobowski taking advantage of a corner scramble in Śląsk box with a fine volley. This was not in the script. “They were running after each of us, begging us to give up the game” – Iwan wrote – “I joked to one of them that they should bring all the gold, goods they have to our bench and only then we will do so!”
But finally, in the 83rd minute, a very dubious penalty was given to Śląsk and Tadeusz Pawłowski took it. As he claimed, the deal he clinched with Kapka also agreed to how the penalty will look like – Adamczyk should go left, no matter what. Pawłowski, despite the way Wisła played so far, was quite sure the deal is on. Kapka whispered into Adamczyk’s ear what should happen, Pawłowski nodded before the penalty, keeper nodded back. He shoot into the right corner.
Adamczyk went right. He saved Pawłowski’s weak shot. Wisła won in Wrocław. Widzew drew in Chorzow, winning the title.
“This penalty showed that Pawłowski believed in the arrangement” – said Caliński.
“That was humiliating. I just wanted to walk on the pitch and fight for the title. But not everyone had the same motivation. After the game some of them bought new cars. But they lost the place in the history forever” – Tarasiewicz claimed.
The stories regarding this game differ, even today. In one of the interviews the referee Jarguz claimed, that it was the Śląsk players that didn’t want to win, asking why the penalty to them was given. That Pawłowski shoot over the bar.
Andrzej Iwan claims in his autobiography that the penalty took place at first, only then Wisła scored.
Pawłowski moans that he was made guilty, that his career suffered because of the penalty incident. And that he was simply unlucky with that shot…
This was the pathology at the highest rate, the symbol of what Polish football once was. All players involved in the criminal plot – some of them still involved in the game! – never cared, never thought that this could be win on the pitch, rather than by money they exchanged in the deal involving four clubs and different interests of players. They never had to pay for it, were never sentenced or accused for anything. One of the loudest and the most obvious corruption scandals in Polish football history remains a story, not even the one whispered, but widely discussed before tomorrow’s finish to the league.