Column by Kamil Drąg: Three chances for European cup finals –
If Projekt Warsaw wins the Challenge Cup, we really should appreciate this success, because how many winning cups do our volleyball teams have? Quite a lot, so can we dismiss the triumph in the least prestigious European competition?
inquires rhetorically in the column “Drągiem po głowie” Kamil Drąg. ZAKSA spoiled us three times in a row by winning the Champions League and, in the process, distorting the image of Polish teams’ performances in European cups.
Because before the era of the great team from Kędzierzyn-Koźle, it wasn’t so rosy. The successes could be counted on the fingers of one hand because only two men’s teams had previously won trophies – Płomień Milowice won the Club Champions Cup (today’s Champions League) in 1978, and 34 years later AZS Częstochowa won the Challenge Cup, maliciously called the trash cup, because it’s the least prestigious of the European competitions.
We also had a few memorable finals. For example, Skra Bełchatów’s battle in 2012 with Zenit Kazan lost in Łódź by just one ball after a mistake by referee Dejan Jovanovic.
There was also a final of Resovia in Berlin three years later, more decisively lost to the same Zenit, led to triumph by Wilfredo Leon. Or in the distant past, Resovia’s second place in the European Cup in 1973 after a defeat to the then dominator CSKA Moscow.
In total, our men’s teams have appeared fourteen times in the finals of various European cups, taking the main prize five times. Last year we had the first Polish final in the history of the Champions League and we could feel like powerhouses at the European table.
We were bursting with pride after years of defeats, humiliations, and unfulfilled hopes. Only once in 64 years has there been a season where Polish men’s teams appeared in the finals of all three cups.
In 2012, in addition to the memorable defeat of Skra by Zenit, we also had the final of the CEV Cup with the participation of Resovia, who lost the two-match against Dinamo Moscow and the Polish final of the Challenge Cup, in which AZS Częstochowa defeated Warsaw’s Politechnika. “Someone used the phrase that the Challenge Cup is a trash cup.
I would like that person to go out on the field and play all those matches that we and the Warsaw team had to play to reach the final. I think we deserve respect for what we have done, especially since things are not very good in Warsaw or Częstochowa.
We don’t have big budgets or strong lineups, yet we have defeated several good European rivals. I am sorry that not everyone respects us,” said Dawid Murek, one of the leaders of the unfortunately already extinct AZS Częstochowa, 12 years ago.
Dawid hoped that success in the Challenge Cup would help the struggling club to rise. Unfortunately, it didn’t help because the deserved club collapsed a few years later.
I quote Murek’s words because the defeated Warsaw team in the final is close this year to winning the cup that slipped through their fingers in 2012. And again complaints are heard, about the nature of the competition and the ridiculous opponents along the way.
Indeed, the opponents were not top-notch, but if Projekt eliminates the Finnish AKAA Volley on Wednesday (no one probably imagines a different scenario), in the final they will probably face the team from Monza. The same team that recently played in the Italian Cup final after eliminating Trentino and challenged Perugia.
This is already a classy rival and beating them will be a big challenge for Projekt. And if Piotr Graban’s team ultimately wins the trophy, we really should appreciate this success, because how many winning cups do our volleyball teams have?
I have already mentioned five men’s cups, let’s add to that the CEV Cup won by the women from Muszyna in 2013. Quite a lot, can we disdain Projekt’s potential triumph?
I hope Projekt’s success will be the first European cup final for Poland this year. In the CEV Cup, Resovia or Aluron Zawiercie will advance to the semi-finals and regardless of who wins this Polish-Polish battle, the winner will be the favorite to win the trophy.
And the Champions League? Jastrzębie is marching from victory to victory and is capable of defeating any opponent.
ZAKSA? I don’t know if they will recover after another blow, the virus, which after the match with Halkbank knocked down half of the team, including two of its leaders.
Even if ZAKSA drops out on Wednesday in Ankara from the Champions League, this can still be the best European cup season for Poland in history, although it started very poorly with Resovia’s defeats and ZAKSA’s great trouble… Bad beginnings have happy endings? Hopefully!
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