UEFA President hails Poland’s football centenary

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has shared in the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) – and highlighted Poland’s proud football history and contribution to the European and world game.

Aleksander Čeferin makes a presentation to PZPN President Zbigniew Boniek
Aleksander Čeferin makes a presentation to PZPN President Zbigniew Boniek ©PZPN

Mr Čeferin attended Friday’s gala event at the Double Tree conference centre in Warsaw to mark 100 years since 31 delegates from various clubs and districts gathered in the Polish capital to establish the country’s national football body.

Aleksander Čeferin speaks with Andrzej Duda (right)
Aleksander Čeferin speaks with Andrzej Duda (right)©PZPN

“Happy birthday to the Polish Football Federation,” he told the audience, which also included Poland’s president Andrzej Duda. “And long live Polish football.”

“Poland has become impressively strong,” Mr Čeferin added. “It’s thanks to passion, hard work and a love of football in your country that you now have magnificent stadiums, loyal fans and a national team that commands respect across the football planet.”

Major achievements

Poland’s national association joined the world body FIFA in 1923 and became a member of UEFA soon after its foundation in 1954.

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski (arm raised) celebrates a goal in the latest European Qualifiers
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski (arm raised) celebrates a goal in the latest European Qualifiers©AFP/Getty Images

The Polish national team, which played its first official match in 1921, finished third in the 1974 and 1982 FIFA World Cups and won the 1972 Olympic football gold medal, as well as silver in 1976 and 1992. Recently, Poland qualified for UEFA EURO 2020 and their fourth successive appearance in the EURO finals.

Poland also successfully co-hosted UEFA EURO 2012 with Ukraine, and next year’s UEFA Europa League final will take place in the northern Polish city of Gdańsk. The National Stadium in Warsaw staged the final of the same competition in 2015, while the European Under-21 Championship finals were held in Poland in 2017. “If you want a successful football event, Poland is one of the places to come to,” said Mr Čeferin.

The UEFA President congratulates Zbigniew Boniek
The UEFA President congratulates Zbigniew Boniek©PZPN

 “The Polish Football Federation has used the success of EURO 2012, which was organised superbly, as a springboard to develop football in Poland,” Mr Čeferin went on. “Under the presidency of [former Poland football star] Zbigniew Boniek, their budget has trebled and massive investment has been made.”

The UEFA President praised leaders and officials who had served the PZPN over the years in creating and reinforcing Poland’s football structures. “Thanks must also go to all the volunteers who look after children on pitches in villages, towns and cities all over the country,” he added. “They too have helped to build these strong foundations.”

“This is a celebration of 100 years of wonderful history that we all have created,” said Zbigniew Boniek. “There is so much to remember, moments we witnessed and were part of. I have great pleasure in saying that the whole football family was involved: clubs, coaches, fans, players, doctors, members.”

“Sport and football in particular helped to bring us together,” he added. “I would like to thank all of those who created our history. We know how much we can still improve, but we are doing everything we can to make it happen.”

Close relationship

Aleksander Čeferin speaks at the gala event in Warsaw
Aleksander Čeferin speaks at the gala event in Warsaw©PZPN

Mr Čeferin underlined the excellent relations between UEFA and the PZPN in the drive to further develop the country’s football. “The decision to stage next year’s UEFA Europa League final in the beautiful city of Gdańsk” he reflected, “demonstrates the closeness of the Polish national association and UEFA.”

One of several PZPN projects for the future is the Football Unites Us scheme, which aims to increase participation levels across the country, helped by funding from UEFA’s HatTrick assistance programme.

The PZPN has also embraced UEFA's GROW initiative which, among other things, aims to help member associations expand both grassroots participation and financial revenues.

Among others, GROW provided the association with access to independent market research showing that football interest and the PZPN’s image had improved considerably in the last few years. The PZPN are currently also using UEFA’s Football Federations of the Future framework to develop their new organisational strategy, and ongoing commercial strategy support has helped the PZPN to double its income from sponsorship.

“We are working together to develop football in Poland and throughout Europe,” said Mr Čeferin. “And we will continue to do so for the next 100 years.”

Grzegorz Lato was a key figure in Poland's fine teams of the 1970s and 1980s.
Grzegorz Lato was a key figure in Poland's fine teams of the 1970s and 1980s.©Getty Images

The PZPN Team of the Centenary was unveiled at the gala event, following an online poll which invited fans to choose from 100 nominated players, along with choices made by a special jury of Polish personalities..

A star-studded team of great Polish players of the past and present was revealed: Józef Młynarczyk, Łukasz Piszczek, Władysław Żmuda, Jerzy Gorgoń, Antoni Szymanowski, Henryk Kasperczak, Kazimierz Deyna, Zbigniew Boniek, Grzegorz Lato, Robert Lewandowski and Włodzimierz Lubański.