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Football in Warsaw

Ten-time Polish champions Legia Warszawa dominate Warsaw's footballing landscape but they are not the capital's only side and UEFA EURO 2012, too, left an indelible mark.
Football in Warsaw
Kazimierz Deyna in action for Legia ©Eugeniusz Warmiński/Archiwum Nasza Legia

Football in Warsaw

Ten-time Polish champions Legia Warszawa dominate Warsaw's footballing landscape but they are not the capital's only side and UEFA EURO 2012, too, left an indelible mark.

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.

Knockout specialists Legia stormed to their 14th Polish Cup and have won it twice more since – 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 Warszawa

Legia lift the league trophy in 2013

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 four more followed in 1994, 1996, 2004 and 2006. Back-to-back championships in the past two seasons have taken their tally into double figures, 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, before a series of off-the-field problems saw them relegated to the fifth tier of Polish football in 2013. They won the title and promotion in their first season.

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.

©Getty Images

Poland played two EURO 2012 games in Warsaw

Warsaw's football landscape also features the stunning National Stadium, which opened in 2011 on the site of the former Tenth Anniversary Stadium and hosted five matches at UEFA EURO 2012. It was the stage for the tournament curtain-raiser between Poland and Greece, the first of three group games, then Portugal's quarter-final victory and Mario Balotelli's last-four demolition of Germany.

Footballing alumni
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 FC Bayern München. Polonia club favourite Władysław Szczepaniak was a Poland regular either side of World War Two.

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.

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