Holy wars, miners and underdogs: The A-Z of Polish football

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As Euro 2012 draws ever closer,'s Eastern European expert Mark Gilbey tells us more about the football history of the two host nations. First, Poland...

A - Lech Poznań’s Artjoms Rudņevs was top scorer in Poland this season with 22 goals. Hamburg recently parted with €3.5m for the 24-year-old striker, who becomes the first Latvian to play in the Bundesliga.

B - Zbigniew Boniek is arguably Poland’s best-ever footballer. Playmaker “Zibi” left Widzew Lodz to sign for Juventus in 1982 where he earned the nickname “il Bello di Notte” (the Beauty of the Night). A quick, intelligent player with an eye for a pass, Boniek spent six years in Italy with Juve and Roma.

C - The country’s first professional football club were Czarni Lwów, founded in 1903. Then a part of Poland, what is now western Ukraine was absorbed by the USSR during World War Two and the side were disbanded. Lwów, or Lviv, to use its Ukrainian name, is one of the eight host cities for Euro 2012.

D - The big derby in Poland is between Legia Warszawa and Lech Poznań.

E - E is for Ekstraklasa, the 16-team topflight. Śląsk Wroclaw won only their second league title this season, 35 years after the club’s first.

F - Górnik Zabrze and Wisła Kraków have both won the Ekstraklasa a record fourteen times.

G - The only Polish side to reach a major European final are Górnik Zabrze. They were beaten 2-1 by Manchester City in the final of the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup.

H - Holy War (Święta Wojna): the name given to the Kraków derby between Wisła and Cracovia.

Police interrogate Wisla fans following a typically fiery Krakow derby

I - I is for imports. The likes of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski represent Germany at international level, but Poland do have a couple of imports of their own. National team coach Franciszek Smuda has named Damien Perquis and Ludovic Obraniak Ã¢Â€Â“ both from France – in his 23-man squad for Euro 2012.

J - Former Bolton Wanderers defender James Sinclair plays for Polonia Bytom, who were relegated to Poland’s third tier this season.

K - Fans were left outraged by the decision to remove from Poland’s kit the white eagle, the country’s oldest national symbol. After much pressure it was finally returned to the shirts.

L - Aside from Czarni Lwów, the city of Lviv is home to a number of other football firsts for Poland. The Polish Football Federation was founded there and the national team played their first three matches in the city. Lviv was also where an official copy of the rules were first translated into Polish.

M - Former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek almost became a miner instead of a footballer. Growing up in the mining town of Knurow, he went down the pits twice a week as a 17-year-old until receiving an offer from a team in the third division.

N - N is for nomad. Polish national team boss Franciszek Smuda played for 13 sides and has coached at a further 15.

O - Poland won the gold medal for football at the 1972 Olympic Games, beating Hungary 2-1 in the Munich final thanks to Kazimierz Deyna’s brace.

P - Górnik Zabrze’s stadium is named after their former player Ernest Pohl, the league’s record scorer who netted 186 times during his career.

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Q - Poland have only previously qualified for one European Championships (Euro 2008), although they failed to make it out of the group stages and picked up just one point. Howard Webb became something of a hate figure among Poles after awarding Austria an injury-time penalty that denied them victory in their second game.

R - Borussia Dortmund’s 23-year-old forward Robert Lewandowski is the star of the national team. One of three Poles at the club, “Lewy” scored 22 league goals as Borussia were crowned champions of Germany.

S - In 1980 Śląsk Wrocław lost 7-2 on aggregate to Dundee United in the UEFA Cup. It took a few years, but they finally got their revenge this season, beating Peter Houston’s side on away goals in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

T - Famously described as a “circus clown in gloves” by Brian Clough, goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski starred during a World Cup qualifier in 1973 at Wembley, denying England a victory that ensured Poland went to the finals at the Three Lions’ expense. He went on to become the first goalkeeper to save two penalties at a World Cup finals.

U - At 65th place, Poland are the lowest-ranked team at Euro 2012, making them underdogs.

V - Violence has decreased since at games. Ustawka is the name for an organised meet between hooligans away from the stadium.

X - We’re open to suggestions on this one…

Y - Poland’s Youth League is known as the Młoda Ekstraklasa.

Z - Michał Żewłakow is Poland’s most capped player. The 36-year-old defender made 102 appearances for the national team before retiring last year.

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