"The contrast is like heaven and hell," said KS Lechia Gdańsk's Tomasz Dawidowski of the change undergone in a city to which his footballing life is inextricably linked.
Article top media content
For KS Lechia Gdańsk forward Tomasz Dawidowski, witnessing the changing face of the city he grew up in has been both wonderful and astonishing. With a UEFA EURO 2012 encounter between Spain and Italy taking place on Sunday at the new Arena Gdansk, the 34-year-old said locals and a worldwide audience were in for a treat.
Born in the port of Gdynia on Poland's Baltic coast, Dawidowski joined Lechia at aged ten in 1988. A decade later, after breaking into the first team, he left, enjoying successful spells at KS Amica Wronki, where he twice lifted the Polish Cup, and Wisla Kraków, with whom he won the league. In 2009, however, he returned to his first love and was granted the privilege of leading the team out at the inauguration of the magnificent Arena Gdansk last August.
"When I wake up in the morning I have to pinch myself to see if it's really true, that the EUROs are being held in Poland and in Gdansk and that the first game here will be between the last two world champions," Dawidowski told UEFA.com. "It's hard to believe what's happening in front of our eyes right now."
Surrounded by some of the city's many famous sights around the Royal Way, Dawidowski recounted with fondness his days as a child in the former shipbuilding hub. "I remember when I started like it was yesterday," he explained. "I was ten when I first came to a Lechia training session. As there was something of a population boom at the time, we played 45-a-side on half a pitch. I use 'pitch' in the loosest sense. It wasn't really a pitch at all, just sand. We called it Sahara.
"There are new fans coming now to support Lechia. They say they're impressed, but with all due respect they have no clue. They didn't see the place before and they certainly didn't see the old ground – the contrast is like heaven and hell. In the area where the new ground stands now there used to be nothing, so it's even more amazing."