The cultural revolution of Adam Nawałka on the road to the World Cup

What goes around, comes around. At 1978 World Cup 20-year-old Polish midfielder Adam Nawałka was considered one of the best young talents of the tournament due to his dynamism and personality. Almost forty years later Nawałka, who has been appointed as national team coach in 2014, would want to lead Poland to 2018 World Cup.

A new goal for a man whose football career has been made of ups and down.

Nawałka, who was born in 1957 in Kraków in Lesser Poland but lives since his birth in Rudawa, a small village not far from former Polish capital, played most of his career for Wisła Kraków winning two youth national championships (in 1975 and in 1976) and Polish league in 1978, in addition to one Ekstraklasa title as manager in 2001. A quite successful football life at Wisła that could have been even better. Since 1978 Nawałka’s career was plagued by recurrent injures that forced him to leave the club at 29 in 1985.

nawalka2In that same year Adam emigrated to United States with his wife Katarzyna. They looked for wealth like many others Pole who decided to leave their country during that period. In the U.S Kraków-born former midfielder performed manual labor jobs (like for example trimming trees) while on Sundays he played for Polish-American Eagles, a semi-professional soccer club. After the fall of Communism, Nawałka returned to Poland in 1990. Before earning his coach license Adam started two businesses: a jeans shop with his wife and a car dealership, selling former East German automotives Trabant. However since 1995 former national team midfielder began to breath again football every day being appointed as manager of Polish third league team Swit Krzeszowice, That was the first step of a long journey. He managed several Polish side, among them Wisła Kraków, Jagiellonia Białystok, GKS Katowice, Górnik Zabrze.

When Nawałka was on the top of Polish first division with his latter club, he received an offer from former Juventus star and current head of the Polish Football Association Zbigniew Boniek. Former Widzew Łódź legend would want to appoint his team mate at 1978 World Cup as national team manager. Kraków-born coach accepted on 26 October, 2013. Nawałka had the assignment to lead Reprezentacja after a disappointing Euro championship played at home and a mediocre 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

His start wasn’t easy, Polish media and insiders weren’t convinced that Boniek’s choice wasn’t the right one

tells to MondoFutbol Przegląd Sportowy reporter Dominik Mucha. “The first matches seemed to confirm their point of view, but game by game they began to gain self-confidence and awareness of their means” Polish journalist added.

For example Robert Lewandowski was already a well-known player at international level, but he provided disappointing performances with Poland. Under Nawałka’s guidance he has become a leader

Mucha concluded. Intelligent, hardworking and perfectionist. So Polish media describe now Kraków-born midfielder. As he was appointed as national team coach, football federation gave him carte blanche and Adam established few but clear rules.

Soccer - UEFA European Championship Qualifying - Group D - Poland v Republic of Ireland - National StadiumFirst of all he asked to sign former Poland midfielder Tomasz Iwan. What players regard, Nawałka put as fundamental condition to be called-up by him the willingness of every player to place the team interest above his own interest. A rule for everyone, even for stars who played in European top leagues. This new patriotic team spirit forced Polish Football Federation not to call up foreign-born footballers of Polish descent (Damien Perquis and Ludovic Obraniak for example). Even if it was difficult not to persuade young star Paulo Dybala. On this new basis in September 2014 Poland began his 2016 Euro qualifying campaign in the best way, beating also world champions Germany at Narodowy Stadium in Krakow. The Eagles’ qualification to Euro 2016 was a logical consequence of Nawalka’s work. Former Górnik Zabrze manager built his own squad, that has been a mix between Ekstraklasa players and footballers who competed in the best European leagues.

Since his appointment Nawałka said that he would consider local league players

Przegląd Sportowy journalist and author of a book on current Polish national team coach Łukasz Olkowicz said.

He was a man of his word. Thanks to their performances at Euro 2016 a young talent like Bartosz Kapustka was called by Premier League club Leicester City and other two youngsters like Karol Linetty and Mariusz Stępiński left Poland to join respectively Sampdoria and Nantes

Olkowicz added. However the most important change that Nawałka is trying to realize regards tactics. He is transforming Poland into a modern and organised team with a clear football idea, while during his recent history “The Eagles” showed a defensive style of play based on counterattacks. A kind of play that Nawałka knows well also as footballer, but he is trying to change.

nawalka6Nawałka’s new deal is bearing fruit also during 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. Poland are on the top of Group E with 10 points ahead of Montenegro, defeated 2-1 on 26th March. After an unexpected draw with Kazakhstan The White and Reds” defeated Denmark, Armenia and Romania. The absolute star of these first qualifying matches is Robert Lewandowski who scored seven goals in four games.

And just in Russia, Poland could make another qualitative leap, because Nawałka’s “Cultural Revolution” is not over yet.

Cover photo and Nawałka-Boniek ©LaPresse
1978 World Cup photo ©DPA
Nawałka-Lewandowski photo ©Getty Images