Football in Poland

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Football in Poland
National Stadium Warsaw aerial view 1.jpg
The Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw.
Governing bodyPZPN
National team(s)Poland
First played1921
National competitions
  • FIFA World Cup
  • UEFA European Championship
  • UEFA Nations League
Club competitions
International competitions
Audience records
Single matchGórnik Z. vs. Austria W.
18 September 1963
Stadion Śląski
120,000 spectators

Football is the most popular sport in Poland. Over 400,000 Poles play football regularly, with millions more playing occasionally. The first professional clubs were founded in the early 1900s, and the Polish national football team played its first international match in 1921.

There are hundreds of professional and amateur football teams in Poland; which are organized into the national 1st league, 2nd level, 3rd level, 4 parallel divisions of 4th level, 20 regional parallel divisions of 5th level and a variety of other lower-level leagues. Additionally, there are the Polish Cup and Polish Supercup competitions.


Polish fans during the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

The history of football in Poland started in the late 19th century with the rising popularity of the new sport. At the time, the Polish state was partitioned. The first decades of Polish football are therefore connected with the history of Football in Austria and the Austrian Football Association, which was founded in 1904.

The first Polish football clubs were Lechia Lwów (1903), Czarni Lwów (1903), Pogoń Lwów (1904), KS Cracovia (1906) and Wisła Kraków (1906). The Polish national federation, called the Polish Football Union (Polski Związek Piłki Nożnej, PZPN), was founded on 20 December 1919, in Kraków when 31 delegates elected Edward Cetnarowski as the first president. The PZPN joined FIFA in 1923 and UEFA in 1955.

In a similar fashion to other European states, football appeared in Poland in the late 19th century. In 1888 Prof. Henryk Jordan, a court physician of the Habsburgs and the pioneer of sports in Poland, opened a sports park in Kraków's Błonia, a large open space surrounding the demolished city walls of that town. The park, along with the Sokół society founded in 1867, became the main centres to promote sports and healthy living in Poland. It was Jordan who began promoting football as a healthy sport in the open air; some sources also credit him with bringing the first football to Poland from his travels to Brunswick in 1890.[1] Other sources[2] mention Dr. as the one to bring the first ball and the one to translate The Cambridge Rules and parts of the International Football Association Board regulations to Polish language.

On 14 July 1894 during the Second Sokół Jamboree in Lwów a short football match was played between the Sokół members of Lwów and those from Kraków. It lasted only six minutes and was seen as a curiosity rather than a potentially popular sport. Nevertheless, it was the first recorded football match in Polish history.[a] It was won by the Lwów team after Włodzimierz Chomicki scored the only goal - the first known goal in Polish history.

This match precipitated the popularity of the new sport in Poland. Initially the rules and regulations were very simplified, with the size of the field and the ball varying greatly. Despite being discouraged by many educational societies and the state authorities, the new sport gained extreme popularity among pupils of various gymnasiums in Galicia. The first football teams were formed and in 1903–1904, four Lwów-based gymnasiums formed their own sport clubs: the IV Gymnasium for Boys formed a club later renamed to Pogoń Lwów, while the pupils of the I and II State Schools formed the Sława Lwów club, later renamed to Czarni Lwów. In the same season the Lechia Lwów was also formed. It is uncertain which of the clubs was created first as they were initially poorly organized; however, the Czarni Lwów are usually credited as being the first Polish professional football team. The following year, the popularity of the sport spread to nearby Rzeszów where Resovia Rzeszów was formed, while in the German-held part of Poland, the 1. FC Katowice and Warta Poznań were formed.

On 6 June 1906 a representation of Lwów youth came to Kraków for a repeat match, this time composed of two already organized teams, the Czarni and the team of the IV Gymnasium. Kraków's representation was badly beaten in both meetings (4-0 and 2-0 respectively). The same summer the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show set up camp at Kraków's Błonia, right outside of the traditional playground area and Jordan's garden. On 5 August 1906 the team of the Kraków-based Jan Sobieski Gymnasium played a match against the British and American members of Buffalo Bill's troupe, winning 1–0. The only goal scored by was also the first goal scored by a Polish team in an international meeting. The success led to the popularisation of football in Kraków and to creation of the first Kraków-based professional football team, KS Cracovia - initially composed primarily of students of the Jan Sobieski Gymnasium.[1] By the autumn of that year there were already 16 teams in Kraków, including Wisła Kraków (It is said that actually Wisła Kraków was the first professional football team and not Cracovia). In 1911, a Kraków-based was formed and entered the Austrian Football Association. The union inspired the creation of a number of teams.

After the outbreak of World War I, most of the Galician football players, many of them members of either Strzelec or Sokół, joined Piłsudski's Polish Legions. The unit, fighting alongside the Austro-Hungarian Army, fought mostly in various parts of Russian-held Poland, which led to popularisation of the new sport in other parts of Poland. After Poland regained her independence, on 21 December 1919 the Polish Football Association (PZPN) was formed. Headed by , it united most of the then-existent Polish football clubs. The league could not be formed due to the Polish-Bolshevik War, but in 1922 the PZPN published the rules of football[3] and the following year it joined FIFA. In 1921 the league was resumed and the first champions of Poland were KS Cracovia, followed by Pogoń Lwów in 1922, 1923, 1925 and 1926. As Poland was then a fully independent state, in 1921 the Polish national football team was formed. On 18 December 1921 it played its first international match in Budapest against the Hungarian team and was defeated 1–0. In the third international match in Stockholm on 28 May 1922 Poland defeated Sweden 2–1, scoring its first international victory.

During World War II, football in occupied Poland was subject to significant restrictions (see Football in occupied Poland (1939–1945)) for more.

In 1955 the PZPN became one of the founding members of UEFA.

Corruption in Polish football[]

In 2005, Polish authorities began an investigation into widespread corruption within Polish football.

In July 2006, the Polish sports minister criticized the PZPN (Polish Football Association) for failing to take adequate steps to fight corruption, and announced an audit of the organization. In January 2007, PZPN board member Wit Żelazko was arrested by Wrocław police. Shortly thereafter, the entire PZPN board was suspended by the sports ministry. This move displeased FIFA which announced that the principle of autonomy of football associations was of utmost importance. The Polish sports ministry, Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, and most fans felt that the battle against corruption was more important,[4] but when FIFA threatened sanctions, the sports ministry backed down and agreed to re-instate the PZPN board.

In September 2008, the Polish Olympic Committee made a request to the Polish Arbitration Tribunal to suspend the management of the PZPN a second time, stating that the PZPN was guilty of "[violating] its statutes in a continuous and flagrant fashion."[5] This request was granted and Robert Zawłocki was named as temporary administrator. However, FIFA again threatened to suspend Polish teams from international competition.

On 15 April 2009, the total number of arrests reached 200, including referees, observers, coaches, players as well as some high-ranking officials of the PZPN.[6][7] By the end of April 2009, only 15 referees remained who were allowed to preside over top-flight matches.[8]

World Cup[]

Poland national football team have qualified for the finals on eight occasions, the last time in for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Host Nation(s) – Year Result GP W D* L GS GA
Uruguay 1930 Did not Enter - - - - - -
Italy 1934 Withdraw - - - - - -
France 1938 Round 1 1 0 0 1 5 6
Brazil 1950 Did not Enter - - - - - -
Switzerland 1954 Withdraw - - - - - -
Sweden 1958 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
Chile 1962 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
England 1966 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
Mexico 1970 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
West Germany 1974 Third place 7 6 0 1 16 5
Argentina 1978 Round 2 6 3 1 2 6 6
Spain 1982 Third place 7 3 3 1 11 5
Mexico 1986 Round of 16 4 1 1 2 1 7
Italy 1990 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
United States 1994 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
France 1998 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
South KoreaJapan 2002 Round 1 3 1 0 2 3 7
Germany 2006 Round 1 3 1 0 2 2 4
South Africa 2010 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
Brazil 2014 Did not Qualify - - - - - -
Russia 2018 Round 1 3 1 0 2 2 5
Qatar 2022 - - - - - - -
Total 8/20 34 16 5 13 46 45

European Competitions[]

UEFA Champions League[]

The following teams have qualified at least to 1/2 finals in old European Champion Clubs' Cup format and, since 1992/93 season, at least group stage in the UEFA Champions League:

UEFA Europa League[]

The following teams have qualified for elimination rounds in the UEFA Europa League.

UEFA Euro[]

Poland have participated in three UEFA European Championships so far: Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.

On 18 April 2007 the President of UEFA, Michel Platini, announced that the hosts of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship would be Poland and Ukraine. Both countries automatically qualified for the event.


UEFA European Championship record
Year Round Position GP W D* L GS GA
France 1960 Did Not Qualify
Spain 1964
Italy 1968
Belgium 1972
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1976
Italy 1980
France 1984
West Germany 1988
Sweden 1992
England 1996
Belgium Netherlands 2000
Portugal 2004
Austria Switzerland 2008 Group Stage 14th 3 0 1 2 1 4
Poland Ukraine 2012 Group Stage 14th 3 0 2 1 2 3
France 2016 Quarter-finals 5th 5 2 3 0 4 2
European Union 2020 Group Stage 14th 3 0 1 2 4 6
Germany 2024 - - - - - - - -
Total - - 14 2 7 5 11 15

See also[]


  1. ^ In fact there was a previous meeting mentioned by the press in Kraków in 1892, though no details are known


  1. ^ a b Leszek Mazan (2006). "Buffalo Bill na Błoniach". Polityka (in Polish). 2544 (9): 82–84.
  2. ^ Zbigniew Chmielewski (2003). "Obok Czarnych znak Pogoni". Polityka (in Polish). 2414 (33).
  3. ^ ; Rudolf Wacek (1922). Teorja piłki nożnej (football); praktyczny i teoretyczny przewodnik gry wraz z prawidłami Polskiego Związku Piłki Nożnej (in Polish). Lwów: M. Bodek. p. 96.
  4. ^ Sparre, Kirsten (2007-01-31). "Poland sets fighting corruption higher than football interests". Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  5. ^ "Administrator taking over scandal-hit Polish federation". AFP. 2008-09-29. Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  6. ^ "Dwie osoby zatrzymane w sprawie korupcji". (in Polish). 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  7. ^ Pakulniewicz, Michał (2007-01-22). "Red card for PZPN". Warsaw Business Journal. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  8. ^ Patryk Wasilewski and Gabriela Baczynska (2009-04-27). "More arrests likely in Polish corruption probe". Reuters. Archived from the original on June 19, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-29.

External links[]

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