The History of Football in Poland: From the Beginnings to the Present

Football, the most popular sport in Poland, has a rich and vibrant history that dates back to the late 19th century. The sport’s popularity began to rise during a time when 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). These clubs played a pivotal role in the development of football in Poland, fostering a competitive spirit and promoting the sport among the youth. The Polish national federation, known as 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, marking Poland’s entry into the international football arena.

Football in Poland has been influenced by various historical events. During World War I, many 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 the 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. This was a significant milestone in the history of Polish football, as it marked the beginning of a new era of growth and development for the sport.

The early 20th century saw the establishment of numerous football clubs and the organization of several national and international competitions. The sport quickly gained popularity, with hundreds of professional and amateur football teams being formed under the auspices of 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.

Football in Poland has also faced challenges. In 2005, Polish authorities began an investigation into widespread corruption within Polish football. This led to a series of arrests, including referees, observers, coaches, players, and some high-ranking officials of the PZPN. Despite these challenges, the Polish football community has shown resilience and determination to uphold the integrity of the sport.

The Poland national football team has qualified for the finals on eight occasions, the last time in for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This is a testament to the talent and skill of Polish footballers, and the dedication and commitment of the coaches and support staff. Poland has also participated in four UEFA European Championships so far: Euro 2008, Euro 2012, Euro 2016, and Euro 2020. These international appearances have not only showcased the prowess of Polish football on the global stage, but have also brought the nation together in support of their team.

In conclusion, the history of football in Poland is a testament to the resilience and passion of the Polish people. From its humble beginnings in the late 19th century to its current status as the most popular sport in the country, football has played a significant role in shaping Polish culture and identity. It is a sport that has brought joy, pride, and unity to the nation, and will undoubtedly continue to do so for many years to come. The future of football in Poland looks promising, with the continued development of young talent and the ongoing support of the passionate Polish football community.