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Euros legends: Meet Zbigniew Boniek, the Poland iconoclast who is now FA president

Zbigniew Boniek Euros legend Poland
(Image credit: PA)

Who is the greatest Polish forward ever? It may sound a silly question while that Munich-based goal machine keeps hitting headlines, but there is another contender: the bloke who currently runs Polish football. 

If you look at international achievements in particular, Zbigniew Boniek is definitely the main man, although the Euros did get away from him. Sporting a suave moustache and never shy to start a row, he troubled Europe’s defences for a decade, and a good few managers. And his own FA. 

Boniek initially blipped on global radars at Widzew Lodz, who knocked both Manchester clubs out of Europe, scoring twice at Maine Road in 1977. He made a two-goal cameo at the 1978 World Cup but really shone at Spain 82, although Poland’s third-place finish was bittersweet. Should they have won the whole thing? 

Boniek became a global star, scoring one of the greatest World Cup hat-tricks against Belgium; unfortunately an 88th-minute yellow against the Soviets ruled him out of the semi, where they lost to Italy. If Zbigniew had played, Dino Zoff might never have lifted that trophy.

That might have hampered the club career, however, as Boniek moved to Juventus that summer. In Turin his deep-lying pace and power proved a potent target for Michel Platini, and they won everything. Eventually things soured with the Old Lady, though, after he was replaced by Michael Laudrup. 

He also burned some bridges with his own FA, earning a year’s suspension after the Okecie Airport Incident in 1980: several players protested when their drunk keeper was dropped (dissent was not encouraged).  

Post-retirement Boniek has thrived in modern Poland – in business, briefly managing the national team and now as president of the FA, which would have seemed pretty unlikely back in 1980. And yes, the moustache is still intact.

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