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Football during the occupation. Polonia is the champion of Warsaw in underground competitions

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In July 1943, the Polonia football team won the underground Championship of Warsaw. Practicing sports was forbidden by the occupant. – But what is it for young Poles who loved football, and rebellion against the occupiers was in their blood, passed down from generation to generation – recalled the participant of the games Leszek Rylski.

The Germans did not apply a special gradation of penalties – breaking the ban was even punishable by death, and certainly sent to forced labor or to a concentration camp. This did not deter football lovers, and in the spring of 1940, clandestine football league games began. It was another form of social resistance. The clandestine games lasted in Warsaw until the outbreak of the Uprising in August 1944.

“They loved football, and rebellion against the occupiers was in their blood”

– In January 1940, I was invited to a social meeting with my friend who lived in Kolonia Staszica. There I met Mieczysław Szymkowiak (later a well-known sports journalist) and a number of other people who belonged to the student sports club Błysk before the war. Due to our common interests in football, we quickly found a common language – said 10 years ago to the Polish Press Agency in 2013, a football activist, a participant in underground games in Warsaw, Leszek Rylski.

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– We often met socially and ideas for playing football began to form in our heads. And it should be mentioned here that all cultural activities, including sports, were forbidden by the occupant. But what is it for young Poles who loved football, and rebellion against the occupiers was in their blood, passed down from generation to generation. We didn’t have to wait long for the effects – recalled Rylski.

– In the spring of 1940, on the initiative of our Błysk, the first social meeting took place at Pole Mokotowskie. We played with the Vir team then. It was in April, and in May regular games were organized – he said.

Eight teams participated in the first year. News of the matches spread by word of mouth. Much later we learned that a similar situation also took place in other major Polish cities. Everywhere people were rushing to play, despite German bans – said Rylski.

Historian Robert Gawkowki talked about the underground games in 2014 (archive videos):

Dr. Robert Gawkowski, curator of the exhibition Dawid Krysztofiński /tvnwarszawa.pl

Dr. Robert Gawkowski

Where were the matches played?Dawid Krysztofiński, tvnwarszawa.pl

Read about the exhibition devoted to underground games: Football in occupied Warsaw. A game that could have cost you your life

They played at Pole Mokotowskie, the names of the teams referred to history

The first tournament took place at Pole Mokotowskie, at the so-called the mound. The place was not chosen by chance. Here, in May 1935, after his death, Józef Piłsudski was said goodbye and this place in the minds of Varsovians was associated with the figure of the marshal and the ideas of independence.

Football games were supposed to be a kind of patriotic manifestation. In addition, the names of the teams referred to Polish history, including: Błysk, Pochodnia, Wawel, Placówka, Szczerbiec.

In the following years, the idea of ​​the games developed to such an extent that from 1942 the Warsaw Championships were organized under the auspices of the underground Warsaw Football Association District, which was established in the same year. Meetings of WOZPN, during which dates of matches, referees and regulations were set, were held in the premises of Stanisław Maszner (a pre-war activist of the Polish community) at ul. birds.

– The Germans often dispersed our matches, so we met and played wherever we could, as long as the conditions were favorable – a dimensional space for the pitch and good escape opportunities if the Germans appeared. At one time, it was hard to mask the matches, because several hundred spectators came to see them – recalled Leszek Rylski in 2013.

The fans tried to support the players and the clubs. Often, during the games, fundraisers were organized, which the clubs later used to buy shoes, kits, balls and travel fees.

Sometimes they played “in the countryside”, but such trips were dangerous

Most often, makeshift pitches were prepared on the following streets: Podskarbińska, Opaczewska, Wiśniowa, Rakowiecka, in Koło, Okęcie, Żoliborz and in the towns near Warsaw: Piaseczno, Mirków, Żaieniec, Jeziorna and Błonie. It also happened that due to the lack of pitches not all scheduled matches were played. This happened, for example, in 1940.

Trips “to the countryside”, as matches near Warsaw were called in the dialect of the players, were very dangerous, because the railway stations were the place of frequent German manhunts. During one of the trips in 1943, when Polonia was going to a match in Milanówek, the Germans surrounded the station and arrested all the men. Some of the Polonia players were released the next day, but not all, including Matusik and Dzierzbicki were sent to the Auschwitz camp, where they were murdered.

The match with the representation of Krakow, the representatives of Poland performed

An interesting sporting event was a friendly inter-city match between the teams of Warsaw (played by Polonia) and Krakow. It was scheduled for April 24 or 25, 1943. The outbreak of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto however, the arrival of several players from Kraków made it difficult, as the Germans increased the checks and manhunts at the stations. Nevertheless, the starting lineup arrived on time. The match was originally to be played at ul. Podskarbińska, but due to the fighting in the ghetto and the intensification of German activity throughout the city, it was decided that the meeting would take place in Piaseczno. On April 24 (it was the first day of Easter at that time) a preliminary match was played, which ended with the victory of the guests (3:1). The main match took place the next day and ended in a 1-1 draw.

The team from Krakow played: Gołębiowski, Serafin, Sochacki, Mordarski, Konopek, Waśko, Giergiel, Czeka, Artur, Cholewa, Cisowski. The representation of Warsaw featured: Burkacki, Szczepaniak, Gierwatowski, two players named Czapski, Brzozowski, Zieliński, Borowiecki, Odrowąż, Swicarz, Ochmański.

Many well-known players took part in the match, including two pre-war representatives of Poland and nine players who played for the national team after the war. This shows what level the match was.

Read also about the last match of the Polish national team before the outbreak of war: “The devil has entered the Poles.” Just before the war, we crushed the Hungarian power

The teams were often incomplete, because the young boys playing football were mostly also members of military underground organizations – they often died during the action. Others fell during street round-ups. There was no team that didn’t suffer such losses. After the end of the games, many players died during the Warsaw Uprising.

– Our game was treated by many as a release. We lived in a situation where no one was sure of tomorrow. You didn’t have to be a conspirator to be arrested during a street round-up and sent to work in Germany or a concentration camp. Sport gave us a bit of normalcy, fair competition and mental rest – explained Rylski.

– In the fall of 1942, for various reasons, Błysk was dissolved and the Marymont club appeared in its place. Most of the Błysk players, including me, became Marymont players – he added.

10 teams competed for the championship of Warsaw, Polonia won

On May 2, 1943, the next games of the Warsaw Championships began. This year, 10 teams competed. The results were announced in early July. The first place was won by Polonia from the capital, which lost only one point in the entire competition, drawing with Marymont 3:3.

The next places in the championship were taken by the following teams: Piaseczno, Marymont, Wawel, Olimpia, Okęcie, Gołków, Wir, Jutrzenka, Mirków. It was then Warsaw’s first football league. In addition, a tournament was held in the lower class, where 20 teams played.

It was the second such title for Polonia. A year earlier, she also won the Warsaw Championship. In the occupation games, the Warsaw “Black Shirts” were the leader. In the spring round of the games, in 1944, Polonia did not take part, because of the incompleteness of the main team.

Among the supporters of the underground matches of Polonia, one could often see the popular actor Adolf Dymsza, who had been faithful to this team for years. Dymsza, before he consolidated his position as an outstanding comedian, played in the Polonia club.

The games of the Warsaw football league lasted until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. In the summer of 1944, over 50 teams functioned in the underground conditions in Warsaw. Some clubs also had junior teams.

Leszek Rylski was a footballer, club president and activist

Leszek Rylski (1919–2015), after the end of his sports career, was the president of the Marymont club, and then in the years 1959-72 he was the secretary general of the Polish Football Association. In 1954, he was one of eight people who signed the founding act of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). In 1956-68 he was a member of the UEFA Executive Committee. In 2009, he was awarded the UEFA Ruby Order of Merit.

In the upcoming season, Black Shirts will play in the first league, i.e. at the back of the Ekstraklasa. Polonia Warszawa won the last Polish championship in 2000. See the archival material:

Polonia Warsaw is the champion of Poland

Polonia Warsaw is the champion of PolandTVN

Main photo source: National Digital Archive

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