Since I’m in Macedonia and I love it, but still I’m truly Polish, I wanted to write about something that unites different nations and in the same time it gives them „food” for rivalry. Sports. Any kind. But because Polish-Macedonian battle in Euro qualifying is coming, it’s all about football now.
I have always been into sports. Since my early childhood I have been following ski jumping, later on I have gone completely insane about volleyball. With every next year I was adding another sports to my personal list of must-watch sports. Handball, tennis, figure skating, speed skating, snowboarding… Sometimes I was even putting TV and two laptops on, watching different sports and games at the same time because I didn’t want to miss anything. Surprisingly, being here and now in Macedonia I started to follow ice hockey! I wasn’t following football that much though, until a big event was held in my country.
The summer was close to come when European Football Championship 2012 started in Poland and Ukraine as hosting countries. I remember myself watching first Polish match against Greece. I was sitting in front of the TV, quite indifferent about it, since that time our team wasn’t considered as a strong one – so I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t expect also that from this day on I will become such a football lover. Since the moment when Robert Lewandowski scored a goal, the real madness started. It was just such a beautiful beginning of the tournament for us. Of course, we failed big time later on, not even advancing from the group stage. But once planted love in my heart started to grow.
Throughout the next years I was watching ups and downs of my team, supporting them in good and bad always though. I started to have favourites among the other teams and players. I discovered Premier League, catching up with all the fantastic stories about Manchester United or F.C. Liverpool. I fell in love with Spain’s national team. I was watching Brazil’s national team games with Brazilian people to finally become real “canarinha”. And I was messing with Spanish people, who were always fans either of Real Madrid or F.C. Barcelona, as I chose to root for Atletico Madrid.
It’s a totally different level of experiencing sports if you experience it live. You’re in the stadium, arena (or where ever), and suddenly everything that was behind the glass of TV screen is now in front of your eyes. For some reason I was always a big fan of the Bulgarian volleyball team and I just love watching all of the encounters between Poles and Bulgarians. One of my dreams was to see it live once. Finally it happened last summer in Varna where the World Championship was taking place with Italy as co-hosting country. I was spending my summer in Bulgaria and before that, luckily for me, Poland was drawn into the same group as Bulgaria. I went there with my Bulgarian friend, so we had interesting confrontation between friends also. My team won and all we could do after is to go to eat banica and drink ayran, as I was celebrating and him not really, but still accepting the superiority of my team and simply being happy for me and for the experience that we have shared.
One year later I’m here, in Macedonia, waiting for the match between the Polish and Macedonian national teams in football. The draw was lucky for me this time also. I was watching the drawing ceremony before coming to Macedonia and suddenly both teams ended up in the same group. I thought that it will be a nice opportunity to watch the match there since I would be there soon. Still, after following football for so many years, I hadn’t seen a match on the international level live. Two months ago for the first time I saw such a game. We went to the national stadium in Skopje to watch Macedonia against Latvia in Euro 2020 qualifying tournament. Even without full stadium, the atmosphere was still amazing. I found my inner Macedonian, singing randomly played “Slusham kaj shumat shumite” during the break, cheering for Macedonians like crazy and finally celebrating “our” victory. This match wasn’t a high-level one, in some moments I even dare to say that it was just boring. But for experience, for this atmosphere and for friends it was still worth to go!
Only a few days to go. My Polish team, stronger than during Euro 2012, is coming here to Skopje. I have never seen my own team playing live. Also I can hardly remember any matches we played against Macedonia. The last encounter between Poland and Macedonia was back in winter 2012 after a European Championship that was heartbreaking for us, when we played a friendly match. The score was 4:1 for Polish team and the only scorer from this game that is gonna play against Macedonia now is Arkadiusz Milik.
Our team has changed a lot during the past years. Polish players even before were considered as stars in their clubs, but somehow we couldn’t manage to create a team from the constellation of stars. We were changing coaches after every next failure and then came Mr Nawałka put all of the stars together and finally it worked. As much as we failed again during last year World Championships the qualifying tournament was just spectacular for us. Earlier we had fantastic run during Euro 2016 being defeated only after penalties in the quarterfinal by Portugal that eventually became European champion! The match that I will never forget though was the one we played against Germany in qualifying tournament for Euro 2016. It was the 11th October 2014, Warsaw, when we faced the always strong German team and World champion back then. After so many football battles we fought and so many battles we lost – we won for the first time in history that day! It doesn’t matter to the world, but for Polish football fans that one became legendary.
Now, before another qualifying match, this time against Macedonia, we can already find a lot of articles, previews and statistics in the media. Polish team is still bleeding after devastating loss in last year World Championship. Even though, our players are rising from their knees being more or less successful in clubs that they play. The focus is mainly on our fantastic trio of forwards. For all of them club season just finished. Robert Lewandowski won Bundesliga with FC Bayern München and was crowned as top scorer again, scoring 40 goals overall this season, both in German Bundesliga and Champions League. Arkadiusz Milik scored 20 goals for S.S.C. Napoli which secured 2nd rank in Serie A. And last but not least – Krzysztof Piątek – who came to new club this year and mesmerized AC Milan fans. Newbie in one of the old giants of Italian league soon gained a nickname „Il Pistolero” by scoring 30 goals in 42 games, what gave him 3rd rank on the top scorers list just in front of Cristiano Ronaldo!
Numbers look impressive but it’s not numbers playing on the pitch. Poland needs to stand up strong as a team to face both Macedonian team and its fans. I will be just a Polish drop in the ocean of amazing Macedonian audience, yet still I will support my team strongly, expecting good game to feed my heart of a die-hard fan.