Football: Matysek Blocks out History Poland's Keeper Has No Time for Past Heroes as He Prepares to Bar England's Path to Euro 2000 Qualification

By Sinnott, John | The Independent (London, England), September 7, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Football: Matysek Blocks out History Poland's Keeper Has No Time for Past Heroes as He Prepares to Bar England's Path to Euro 2000 Qualification


Sinnott, John, The Independent (London, England)


JUST AS two plus two equals four, everyone knows that Poland plus goalkeeper equals Jan Tomaszewski - the man Brian Clough dubbed a "clown" but who nonetheless practically single-handedly denied England a place at the 1974 World Cup.

Everyone, that is, unless you are Adam Matysek, the present incumbent of the Polish No 1 spot who, tomorrow, will also be trying to deny England once again, though this time a Euro 2000 play-off place.

Matysek, when asked about the second most famous Polish goalkeeper - just behind Pope John Paul II, of course - suddenly clams up. "Can you ask me another question, please? Tomaszewski had great success with the national team but we are almost in the year 2000 and it's time to look to the future. What was then doesn't interest anyone."

Matysek, who plays his football in Germany for Bayer Leverkusen, is definitely one for talking about the future. Perhaps that is not altogether surprising - Poland have never qualified for the European Championship and the last major tournament the country participated in was the 1986 World Cup. Matysek agrees that it is no coincidence that those football wilderness years coincided with the political upheaval that Poland endured both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"Then everything was grey and dark and now things are much brighter," says the goalkeeper of the changes Poland has undergone. "Obviously a lot of people struggle for money. But things are much better. The government is more stable and given time I think everything will fall into place."

The nation's fragile state is reflected by the Polish football team. "Our problem is psychological. We sometimes don't believe that we can succeed," says Matysek. "Polish players who play in good leagues abroad, and who do well week-in and week-out, don't fulfil their full potential when they play for the national team.

"As a player I need to believe that we can be successful. The team and I need to believe that we can come second in the group. If we beat England then we will have taken a large step forward, not just for us as a group of players, but also for Polish football."

If Poland are potentially on the brink of a long overdue footballing revival, Matysek is less convinced about Kevin Keegan's England.

"England are in the middle of a massive crisis," he insists. "It's interesting to look at the success of Manchester United and the Premiership, but it seems to me that that success isn't reflected in the English national team. I think England have a lot of problems and that Poland have a great opportunity to come second in the group."

Matysek, more than most, has particular reason to relish tomorrow's encounter. Paul Scholes' sleight of hand, along with his hat-trick, meant that the Pole was at the sharp end of things during England's 3-1 demolition of Poland at Wembley back in March.

That defeat was a rare black spot in a season when the 31-year-old goalkeeper finally came of age after a decade-long struggle to establish himself both at club and international level.

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