When foreigners consider Poles in international soccer, they most often think about the ones who don’t play for Poland. Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have teased Polish fans with their impressive performances for the German national team. Along with Piotr Trochowski, they formed a three-man Polish contingent within Die Mannschaft at the 2010 World Cup. All three reportedly were willing (or even preferred) to play for Poland; but PZPN ignored them. Polish fans can’t change these mistakes, but they can take comfort in the fact that PZPN is reversing its stance regarding the Polish diaspora. Perhaps more importantly, these young players themselves haven’t forgotten their parents’ homeland.
In 2012 alone, no fewer than five dual-nationality players declared their allegiance to Poland. German-born Martin Kobylański, Kacper Przybyłko and Vincent Rabiega, French-born Julien Tadrowski, and Italian-raised Patryk Parol all publicly dismissed the possibility of playing for a national team other than Poland. Kobylański is the jewel of this group and for years was subject to a tug-of-war between the Polish and German federations. The Polish national team finally seems to be winning the battles for talent that it so painfully has lost in the past.
In another notable trend, players of the Polish diaspora are cultivating connections to Poland even stronger than the national team shirt—they actually are playing and living in Poland. Julien Tadrowski, born to Polish parents in France and trained in the Lille OSC youth system, was the first notable player to take this step when he signed with Arka Gdynia this year. After a standout fall season, the defender secured a transfer to Pogoń Szczecin of the Ekstraklasa. German-born winger Vincent Rabiega, another son of Polish immigrants, is set to jump straight from the Hertha Berlin U-19 team to the Ekstraklasa. At least half of the teams in the league have expressed their aim to sign him.
These are not cases of players settling for Polish clubs or the Polish national team. Both Tadrowski and Rabiega have been Polish youth national team regulars from a very young age. Tadrowski’s perfection of his Polish language skills and identification with Poland are well-documented. According to reports, Rabiega takes his commitment to the national team so seriously that he jeopardized his standing at Hertha in order to play for the Biało-czerwoni. Finally, Polish fans should note that neither player is pursuing a mere late-career adventure to an exotic land. Tadrowski is only 19; Rabiega, 17. These players have planted firm roots in their parents’ homeland, and others are likely to follow.
Some players—like Ludovic Obraniak and Damien Perquis—have parlayed distant Polish roots into a spot on the senior national team. By contrast, these new dual-nationality players invariably come from Polish families and speak the Polish language. Now they are rising through the ranks of the Polish youth national teams. Every youth national team from the U-17 level up contains at least one dual-nationality player. This year’s version of the U-19 team will include no fewer than six.
As PZPN continues to scout Europe for Polish players, this trend likely will continue. The new year will see even more dual-nationality players introduce themselves to the Polish setup. U-19 manager Janusz Białek has promised spring call-ups to Paweł Cibicki, Maciej Szewczyk and Adrian Wójcik, born and raised in Sweden, Germany and Spain, respectively. All three boast impressive on-field accomplishments in their countries of birth and will boost a Polish youth talent pool that already is stronger than it has been in decades.
This new crop of foreign-trained dual-nationality players likely won’t make up for the losses of Klose or Podolski, but it will bring a valuable element in its own right. While players like Klose, Podolski, Trochowski, Eugen Polański and Sebastian Boenisch were born in Poland and left, this new, foreign-born, generation of players will have played youth soccer as Polish national team members. That fact gives these players something Klose, Podolski and the others never had—a true soccer connection to Poland.
Notable Youth National Team Dual-nationality Players
1992: Daniel Dziwniel (Kickers Offenbach – Germany)
1993: Kacper Przybyłko (FC Köln – Germany); Julien Tadrowski (Pogoń Szczecin)
1994: Steven Bentka (VfL Osnabrück – Germany); Paweł Cibicki (Malmö FF – Sweden); Patrick Dytko (Borussia Dortmund – Germany); Martin Kobylański (Werder Bremen – Germany); Maciej Szewczyk (Alemannia Aachen – Germany); Adrian Wójcik (Real Betis – Spain)
1995: Mateusz Miazga (Red Bulls New York – United States); Vincent Rabiega (to Ekstraklasa, currently Hertha Berlin – Germany)
1996: Patryk Parol (Chievo Verona – Italy)
Thanks to Roman Lewandowski for the article. FanZone is a new segment on the blog where Polish soccer fans summit articles. If anyone wants to write about anything referring to Polish soccer, please contact me at email@example.com.