“Will Grigg’s on fire; your defence is terrified” – Wigan Athletic and Northern Ireland fans.
*and Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański players.
It was a truly crazy day yesterday as i headed back to the medieval Teutonic city of Malbork. This time, the reason was not to backpack the world’s largest brick castle but for a football match. Childhood football geekery stays forever and lingers long in my pilky noznic heart. Another post just in time for the World Cup kicking off at 17.00 today (Polish time) and perfect for my ongoing Śmieszne Historie o Piłce Nożnej w Polsce (football stories in Poland) series.
On my journeys around the world and through Poland’s pretty streets, this was another truly wacaday adventure. On the eve of the 2018 Russia World Cup it was time for another cup final. Down the years I have attended numerous cup finals including multiple Irish Cup Finals, Gold Cup Final, World Cup Final, Polish Cup Final and Polish Super Cup Final. This time the peculiarity of the last domestic trophy in Poland before the madness of Russia World Cup 2018 kicks off. This was the Pomorskie Province Polish Cup Final Play Off.
The Polish Cup is rather like the English FA Cup as it is dubbed “the cup of 1000 teams”. However the Polish system is split into regions, defined quite simply by the Voivodeships or Provinces. This was the final of the Pomorskie region. If you followed my football geekage, you might also remember I watched Kartofliska in the Polish Cup last year in Warszawa, as well as many Legia Warszawa matches.
If you followed my story since the halcyon Don’t Stop Living days you might remember I hung up my backpack in 2016 to settle in Gdańsk in Poland. Gdańsk is in the Pomorskie Province and while based there I visited a number of teams and stadiums including Lechia Gdańsk, Arka Gdynia and more tellingly Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański.
One night in July 2016 I was sleeping in the Noclegi Rekord Hotel in Starogard Gdański. This hotel is housed inside, and overlooks the town’s football stadium. The stadium is known as Stadion Miejski w Kazimierz Deyna. This is named after Polish World Cup hero, Olympic Gold Medal winner and local boy, Kazik Deyna. Straight away I decided this was to be my Polish team of choice. The team play in green and white and on an island so it also fitted my Northern Irishness till a tee.
I bought a club scarf (green and white of course) and watched matches in the stadium during 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 season. This coincided with the teams crazy rise into the lower professional leagues of the Polish football pyramid. You can read about some of my matches here:
Imagine my surprise when I found out that in this season’s Polish Cup, Bałtyk Gdynia had fielded an ineligible player in their semi final win over Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański. This meant an investigation and consequently Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański were reinstated and were now in the Pomorskie Cup Final!
The opponents would be GKS Przodkowo. To add to the twist, they are from a small village of only around 7,000 people. The match would be played on Wednesday 13th June 2018 in the Stadion Miejski in Malbork. Malbork is also the home of Grzegorz Lato, heroic 7 goal golden boot winner at the 1974 World Cup, where Poland were the best team on points and goal difference yet finished third. So I had to go back to medieval Malbork for this match!
My great friend and fellow football geek Rafał Kowalczyk pulled out at the last minute which meant I would travel to this one alone. I arrived in Malbork by train an hour and a half before kick off.
I had my usual zapiekanka and cappuccino on the train and because I know Malbork well, I could relax before kick off.
So now I had time for a quick walk by the river and castle and a beer. I chose to have a Warka beer in Rotatoria Malbork. The match kick off was to be 18.00 in the stadium near the Hotel Parkowy where I once slept.
The walk to the stadium was through the leafy park and was pleasant. I collected my match ticket and inside I went. Tickets were free for this event which was quite amazing. The attendance must have been around 800 – 1,000, but it’s hard to tell.
Despite being a small town club, GKS Przodkowo did have some fans but the stands were a dominant green and white army of Starogard Gdański loyal, including some club flags (flegs), shirts (taps) and scarves. I got my seat about 8 minutes before kick off. The stand had green seats and so the omens were good.
The teams came out and the game got underway in light rain. Today KP Starogard would be in green and black, but with my green and white scarf and the hardcore with their green and white flegs, it was still Green and White Army for me. It was a lively start for Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański with a few early chances. This pressure culminated in a 20th minute corner. From this corner, the ball found its way to Paweł Kowalczyk who unleashed a 30 yard bullet into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of the GKS Przodkowo goalkeeper. It was 1-0 and KP Starogard were in control. Further chances followed in the quest to go 2-0 up at half time, but without success. At the other end GKS Przodkowo tested the KPS goalkeeper and had a few headers and stray shots. I managed to get our Starogard wonder goal on video (the video is below!).
Half time it was 1-0 to KP Starogard and all good, if a nervous second half ahead. Then on came The Cranberries. The sounds of Dolores O’Riordan’s Irish voice echoing through a forest by a river and a castle was a tad dreamlike. It felt it was another omen for a KPS win. Half time and early second half brought a drop of rain in the Malbork sky. Taking the hardcore free ticket rather than the VIP under cover meant getting wet, just a bit. Starogard continued to push for a second but it was all in vain and after substitutes were introduced, there was a sweat all the way through.
As we reached injury time, the fourth official indicated a minimum of 5 minutes stoppage time. There was some sweat again with GKS pushing their goalkeeper up in search of the goal that would send us into either extra time or penalties. But the strong hold of the Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański defence held firm to keep out the villagers, and the fans celebrated at the final whistle at a marvellous achievement for the green and white (and black) army.
The team danced to “Will Grigg’s on Fire” AKA Gala Freed From Desire before being awarded the trophy and donning champions t-shirts. The buzz faded out in my Malbork sky as the reality that in less than 24 hours I’d be watching Saudi Arabia v. Russia on TV and the World Cup would be underway. Well done to Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański, I’ll be at another game soon, always welcome to meet fellow football fans for a pre or post match beer and chat in Polish or English.
Final score and teams:
GKS Przodkowo 0-1 Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański (Paweł Kowalczyk, 20)
GKS Przodkowo: Patryk Kamola: Piotr Robakowski (69’ Roman Załow), Mateusz Jagiełlo, Radosław Robakowski, Jacek Jadanowski: Damian Matys, Jakub Letniowski, Piotr Ruszkul (81’ Kacper Rapińczuk), Daniel Górski, Adam Gołuński (58’ Łukasz Cyruk): Tomasz Tuttas.
KP Starogard Gdański: Mateusz Polakowski: Paweł Kowalczyk, Maksym Adamenko, Bernard Powszuk, Jakub Wawszczyk: Daniel Katerla (56’ Karol Zieliński), Damian Rysiewski (89’ Michał Wohlert), Przemysław Kuss, Wojciech Zyska, Kacper Łazaj (67’ Tomasz Prejs): Dawid Retlewski (85’ Krzysztof Rzepa).
Congratulations, Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański!
I had a post-match beer in town before heading on the train home. I’m looking forward to the World Cup now.
Here are some links of the Pomorskie Cup Final between GKS Przodkowo and Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański:
Here are some videos of the Pomorskie Cup Final between GKS Przodkowo and Klub Piłkarski Starogard Gdański:
A previous meeting between the two clubs: