The president of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), Zbigniew Boniek, has visited the House of European Football in Nyon.
Boniek, who enjoyed an outstanding career as a player in the 1970s and 1980s, held talks with UEFA President Michel Platini – a former team-mate at Italian club Juventus – and senior UEFA officials about developments in Polish football, the PZPN's excellent relationship with UEFA, and this summer's resoundingly successful UEFA EURO 2012 tournament, co-hosted by Poland with Ukraine.
The new PZPN president played in three FIFA World Cups for Poland, in 1978, 1982 and 1986. He scored 24 goals in 80 games for his country, helping them to third place in the 1982 World Cup in Spain – and, together with Michel Platini at Juventus, won the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1985, the European Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 1984, the Serie A title in 1984 and the Italian Cup in 1983. After moving to AS Roma, he lifted another Italian Cup in 1986 before ending his career and moving into coaching, including a spell with the Polish national team.
"This is my first visit to UEFA as Polish FA president, and I'm very happy, because I know I'm coming to see friends, beginning with the President, who I played with," Boniek, who took the PZPN helm in October, told UEFA.com. "I would never have thought, playing together for Juventus those years ago, that we would meet again here – [Michel Platini] as UEFA President, and myself as Polish FA president.
"Today is a working meeting where we speak about many things," he added. "We're looking at the EURO and the work that was done together, and at the help that UEFA gives to the Polish association. Without UEFA's help, our association would be much less effective, because UEFA assists us with the HatTrick programme and other things, and these help us grow."
Together with his countrymen, Boniek looks back with pride at UEFA EURO 2012, which saw Poland act as splendid co-hosts of a competition that provided a wealth of memorable moments. "I must say that EURO was impressive," he reflected. "It involved all of Poland – it was an extraordinary, fantastic tournament. It was a shame that Poland were unable to give a great sporting performance, we hoped for more.
"However, I must say that [EURO] has left us many things – it was not only a sporting event, but also a cultural event. EURO left us with many new stadiums, new motorways and airports. This is an important development for our country."
Boniek also remembers in particular the positive atmosphere and fan celebrations that made UEFA EURO 2012 an unforgettable spectacle on and off the field. "Football should bring people together," he emphasised.
Looking ahead, Boniek aims to foster continual positive developments within the PZPN, and is confident that his reputation as a Polish footballing great – and the level of respect this brings – will stand him in good stead as he and his colleagues set the course for the future. A specific objective is to nurture Poland's young generation: to produce and develop footballers who will perform on the international youth stage and beyond. "We want to instill in [young] heads to love football, play football, train, and spend every free moment watching or playing football."
Another priority is to see the Polish side qualify for UEFA EURO 2016 in France – while at the same time obviously not ruling out an adventure at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At club level, Boniek yearns for progress, as all of Poland's football enthusiasts do. "I would like to see more Polish teams go further in the Champions League and Europa League," he said.
Given the triumph of UEFA EURO 2012, and the infrastructures in place as a result, the PZPN president is hopeful the country will stage further great football occasions in the future. The fire that burned inside Zbigniew Boniek as a player continues to glow brightly as he leads Polish football forward.
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