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Football in ... Warsaw

Published: Monday 2 January 2012, 12.38CET
The Polish capital's oldest club, KSP Polonia Warszawa celebrated their centenary in 2011 only for rivals Legia Warszawa to hog the limelight – they have for much of the past 55 years.
Football in ... Warsaw
Dariusz Dziekanowski, who played for each of Warsaw's big three, in action for Poland against Brazil at the 1986 World Cup ©Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Published: Monday 2 January 2012, 12.38CET

Football in ... Warsaw

The Polish capital's oldest club, KSP Polonia Warszawa celebrated their centenary in 2011 only for rivals Legia Warszawa to hog the limelight – they have for much of the past 55 years.

The Polish capital's oldest club KSP Polonia Warszawa celebrated their centenary in 2011 but, not for the first time, neighbours Legia Warszawa hogged the limelight.

Unable to make an impression in a disappointing league campaign, knockout specialists Legia stormed to their 14th Polish Cup – no other side has managed more than six. It continued their dominance of the football scene in Warsaw, stretching back to the mid-1950s when they went from being also-rans to back-to-back double winners.

Legia trace their origins to a World War One Polish Legion based in Volyn, Ukraine, and were linked to the army until 1990 as they stole a march on their city rivals. A side based around Kazimierz Deyna (whose No10 shirt has been retired by the club) seized titles in 1969 and 1970, and that tally has doubled since the mid-1990s making Legia Poland's fourth most successful league side.

Polonia, Warsaw's oldest club, are ninth in that list. They were runners-up in the first nationwide competition in 1921, joint champions five years later, then cemented their place as the capital's most popular side by taking the first post-war title. The final took place at Legia's stadium because Polonia's ground, close to the Jewish ghetto, was reduced to rubble.

Linked with the railway workers during the Soviet era, Polonia won the 1952 Polish Cup but were relegated that same year and spent the next four decades out of the top flight. The Black Shirts stepped out of Legia's shadow at the turn of the century, winning their second league title in 2000 and then the cup the following year. They have since retreated, narrowly escaping relegation in 2009/10 thanks to their first home derby win in ten years.

WKS Gwardia Warszawa, the 1954 Polish Cup winners, have slipped further since their heyday but enjoy the distinction of being the first side to represent Poland in continental competition, in the inaugural European Champion Clubs' Cup.

Notable names
Dariusz Dziekanowski
and Dariusz Wdowczyk share the rare distinction of representing Polonia, Gwardia and Legia (not to mention Celtic FC). Both won over half a century of caps, too, though Michał Żewłakow stands alone in Poland's 100 club. Twin brother Marcin managed 25 internationals in a career that took him to Belgium, France and Cyprus while striker Robert Lewandowski is now in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. Polonia club favourite Władysław Szczepaniak was a Poland regular either side of World War Two.

Other sports
European Capital of Sport in 2008, Warsaw has been at the heart of the nation's sporting success since 1932 when athlete Janusz Kusociński won Poland's first ever Olympic gold in the 10,000m. The city has subsequently provided individual gold medallists in long jump, high jump, judo, sailing, hammer, rowing, modern pentathlon, fencing and boxing. Having produced so many stars, events have snowballed in Warsaw over the past decade. It hosted the 2002 World Weightlifting Championship, 2006 Women's European Amateur Boxing Championship, 2007 European Figure Skating Championship and was one of seven venues for EuroBasket 2009, won by Spain.

Did you know?
Legia became the first Polish team to participate in the UEFA Champions League in 1995/96, reaching the quarter-finals. It was not their first memorable run in Europe, having reached the last four of the 1970 European Champion Clubs' Cup and 1991 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Last updated: 11/01/12 16.01CET

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