Ekstraklasa: Ruch Chorzów Experiment Succeeds Only Partially –
The Chorzów Football Experiment only succeeded partially [OPINION COLUMN]
Before the start of the spring season in the Polish PKO BP Ekstraklasa, an important event needs to be noted – Ruch Chorzów, who is preparing for a tough battle to avoid relegation, has stopped being a team that relies almost exclusively on Polish players. However, this direction proved to be incorrect, and the change is so significant that the club even hired its first-ever Spaniard in history.
In the autumn, only one foreign player appeared in the Blue team, but not only did the Czech midfielder Jan Sedlak only play 40 minutes in two league matches, he was also a player with assimilated background in the Chorzów environment, without language barriers, and familiar with the local climate. Apart from him, there were only Polish players.
It was not about fulfilling the club’s statute, which strictly requires relying on players with Polish passports. It just happened that Ruch assembled a squad of Polish players, as if they wanted to show contrary to popular belief that it is possible to play in the Ekstraklasa without foreigners.
The experiment succeeded only partially: indeed, it is possible to play, but it is more challenging to keep up with the rivals who heavily rely on foreign players. This should not be seen as solid evidence refuting the patriotic belief that a Pole can play.
The problem here was more about the quality of the players, their experience, optimal utilization of their potential, and integration into the team. The sports department is responsible for the first two, those who have a decisive influence on the transfer policy and scouting.
The last point falls on the shoulders of the coach. All three aspects failed in Chorzów in the autumn, and the tangible consequences – as always the easiest solution – were borne by the coaches, Jarosław Skrobacz, and then his collaborator and short-lived successor, Jan Woś.
Ruch Chorzów hires foreign football players
Apparently, Janusz Niedźwiedź does not intend to meekly accept their fate. Since he has undertaken a very difficult mission (some call it a lost cause), it means that he has weighed the risk and it has worked out that it might succeed.
He was not desperate, he could have waited for better offers, but he is ambitious, he knows perfectly well that if he saves the 14-time Polish champion, he will be able to walk with his head held high and his chest puffed out not only on the streets of Chorzów. To make his plan succeed, changes were needed in the team’s squad, and these changes went beyond the borders of our country.
The arrival of Dante Stipica is nothing special, as he has been in Poland for almost five years. A reliable goalkeeper was needed for Ruch, and if there are not enough impressive funds in the bank account, a person with experience who was once the best goalkeeper in the Ekstraklasa at Pogoń had to be hired.
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Adam Vlkanova does not have to be the “typical Czech.” A player who scored a goal against Bayern Munich while playing for Viktoria Plzeň in the group stage of the Champions League, and also played in the starting lineup at Camp Nou against Barcelona and at San Siro against Inter Milan, in the scale of the Ekstraklasa, cannot be considered average.
This is what the creators of Ruch thought and quickly brought in the Czech representative before the competition had the same idea. And then defender Jose Manuel Sanchez Guillen, known as Josema, appeared.
He played 35 matches in LaLiga for Elche, with his last elite match in May 2021 against Athletic Bilbao. His last autumn with CD Leganés was wasted, he did not play in LaLiga 2 at all, and his only visible activity was limited to two appearances in the Copa del Rey.
For Ruch, these recommendations had to be sufficient. Probably not only the coach decided that he prefers to have such a defender at his disposal rather than Konrad Kasolik, who moved to Wieczysta Kraków.
And in passing, Ruch now has its first Spaniard in over a hundred years of history. However, this is a sign of the times, even Cicha Street must react to reality.
Adam Vlkanova is one of the foreign players contracted in the winter by Ruch. Coach Janusz Niedźwiedź fights with Ruch to stay in the PKO BP Ekstraklasa
The change of course in Chorzów will also cause other clubs to draw conclusions from their example.
The supply of cheap and useful Polish players is so limited that it is impossible to rely on it. Strategies based on “we only take Poles” or “we only take foreigners” are highly restrictive and it is unclear what they really serve.
In forming a squad, healthy common sense and pragmatism will always be the most important. It is obvious that investing in young Poles makes profound sense, but this cannot be treated dogmatically.
If there is a lack of players meeting the minimum expectations in the domestic market, then it is difficult, a foreign player must be chosen. People particularly concerned about the development of Polish football may resent this and complain, but they usually do not bear the consequences of sporting failures because they do not spend the money.
In the spring, in Ruch – if things go according to plan – there should be three foreign players in the team, and these are not bad proportions. If the team stays in the Ekstraklasa, it will be possible to announce that the realistic plan of Ruch’s renewal has succeeded, and bringing in imports was a wise decision.
And even today, one can argue that insisting on a Polish eleven just because it is cheaper, easier, and… more patriotic would have been a much worse idea. Thank you for reading our article to the end.
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