With almost a quarter of the season gone, the Polish Ekstraklasa continues to live up to its reputation as being open and competitive – if nothing else. Only eight points separate the top 13 teams, which means that only the bottom three cannot be taken seriously as championship contenders.
This interesting situation seems to have reawakened some interest in football following the debacles suffered by Ruch Chorzow, Slask Wroclaw and Lech Poznan in Europe. And it is probably the main reason why a British TV channel, ‘Sports Tonight Live’, has decided to show three live Ekstraklasa matches every week, though they can only be received via the internet or British Freeview which is internet-connected. These games are on Friday night, Sunday and Monday night when, as well as full commentary in English, there is an excellent studio analysis by presenter Ed Draper and Robert Blaszczak. This is a good opportunity for Polish football to start capitalising on the worldwide publicity it received through co-hosting Euro 2012.
So far it has not done too badly, most of the matches shown have been good with plenty of goals. If anything they must make some viewers wonder why Ekstraklasa teams do so poorly in the European club competitions.
Lechia Gdansk have provided the most entertaining viewing, playing quick football with skilful flair. Their passing is crisp in the style of some South American sides and with their vertical green stripe, they even look like one. Coach Boguslaw Kaczmarek had an unspectacular career as a player and has not done much more as manager so far. However, if he can hold this team together, the 52-year-old may bring the Portsiders their first ever Polish championship; one solitary Polish Cup win in 1983 is all that they have on display in their trophy cabinet to date.
In midfielder Abdou Razack Traore, Lechia have a bundle of tricks who scored one of the finest goals that will be seen anywhere on the planet this season, with a stunning bicycle kick in a 2-0 win against Lech Poznan. Then in the following 2-0 victory at Jagiellonia Bialystok, his brilliant pinpoint long cross fell to the feet of Brazilian Ricardinho, who prodded it into the net with the timing of a natural-born talent.
The only worry with this Lechia team is whether the Portsiders will be able to stop the 23-year-old, who previously played for Norwegian giants Rosenborg, heading off to greener pastures before the season ends next May. The same might be said for Ricardinho; both are still in their early twenties and with the financial problems that every Polish football club is faced with, it will not take a great foreign club to tempt them away.
Another team who can be classed as dark horses and who also play with the same verve and confidence in attack, are the club who once ruled the roost of Polish football. Gornik Zabrze won the last of their 14 titles way back in 1988 and are currently sitting in third place just two points off their former rivals Legia Warsaw. These are the only two sides who are still unbeaten.
Being able to call upon 18-year-old striker Arkadiusz Milik, Gornik could have the revelation of the season – the teenager has scored five goals in seven games. His undoubted promise has been recognised by the much-criticised Poland Selekcjoner Waldemar Fornalik, who called him up to replace the injured Marek Saganowski in the squad for the friendly against South Africa.
All in all this promises to be an interesting and exciting season following a start that many Polish football fans will want to forget.