As the 'King of Polish Football Fans', Andrzej Bobowski has seen more football than most and it is worth listening to the Warsaw resident when he says his country has good reason to be proud of how UEFA EURO 2012 has unfolded.
At 72, 'Bobo' is Poland's most-travelled football fan so has plenty of reference points when he assesses the co-hosts' EURO effort. "In total, I have been to 16 major final tournaments," he told UEFA.com. "I have been to nine World Cups, seeing 127 matches live. UEFA EURO 2012 is my sixth European Championship, and I have seen 48 games live.
"Add to that list the Sydney Olympics, where I saw three matches, including the men's and women's finals. Altogether it's 180 games at the top level. Sometimes I laugh that no one is better than Bobowski."
Poland, he feels, had a good EURO as a nation. "When it comes to Polish fans, I give them a very positive assessment," he said. "Everything was in order. Our fans behaved well at the stadiums as well as on the streets and in the fan zones. Organisationally, almost everything was fine as well, especially when you consider that this is our first time staging such a big event and we have been learning a lot."
Bobo was less impressed by the national team's performance, noting that he agreed with coach Franciszek Smuda when he said his team had "played too conservatively, too defensively". For him, the true stars of the tournament so far have been the Republic of Ireland fans. "Once English fans were the best in Europe – now I think the No1 fans come from Ireland," Bobowski said. "Even when they were 4-0 down they had a great time in the stands. That would be unthinkable for Polish supporters."
Bobowski certainly knows the habits of Polish fans well. "Overall, I've seen more than 2,000 games in the flesh," recalled the Warsaw-born enthusiast. "I saw more than 500 of those matches as a referee in the lower divisions and more than 1,000 games of my favourite club, Legia Warszawa. The first time I went to Legia's stadium was back in 1955 when I was 15. Then the club were known as CWKS [Central Military Sports Club]."
Despite all those games, Bobowski's passion remains undiminished. "I have no intention of ending my adventures as a football fan," he said. "I can't wait to see my tenth World Cup. I was in Argentina in 1978, and that was amazing. I hope that in two years, in Brazil, it will be the same. Football is a religion there. Thanks to my passion I have got to meet Pelé, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer, Eusébio and João Havelange, as well as great Polish stars like the unforgettable Kazimierz Deyna."
Knowing that he has had no financial assistance in making all these journeys makes 'Bobo' even more proud. "When the media talks about the most famous fans, most gets written about Manolo from Spain, but he has it easier than me because his national federation has been helping him for a long time," said Bobowski. "I have to finance everything myself, though occasionally someone will give me a ticket.
I don't count how much time all these trips take me or how much it costs. It's my whole life."
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