From Poland to Naples: Piotr Zieliński, a matter of details

In one of the best reportages of the 20th century Polish reporter ad writer Ryszard Kapuściński narrated the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini‘s rise to power in 1979. He wrote several memorable pages (they were collected in a book published under the title Shah-in-Shah) and some passages take your breath away bringing you directly to Iran. In one of these superb pages, Kapuściński reported the escape of a group of protesters during a demonstration against Reza Pahlavi‘s regime. The Polish journalist focused on a man on a wheelchair, who was involved in the fight. Someone in a crowd that ran, escaped, shouted. A detail, the detail.

Because reading Kapuściński’s articles you notice that details could explain the world and a drop, choosen methodically and carefully, could describe an ocean.

So he reported in a unique way the most important events of the 20h century. Starting from a small and the then-Polish village. Even if this little town is now in Belarus, because Poland is one of the countries in the world whose borders have changed the most. Not far from this border but further south than Kapuściński’s birthplace, in Ząbkowice Śląskie, Piotr Sebastian Zieliński was born. Another man, like the Polish reporter, who pays special attention to every single detail. And in football you live on details.

Also Maurizio Sarri noticed these little details as that young Polish guy, who used to play as attacking midfielder, came to Empoli, in Tuscany, signed from Udinese.

Zielinski’s hometown is located on the so-called Königstraße (King’s Road) between Prague and Breslau. It’s a well-known tourist city due to its medieval fortresses and its leaning tower. Also for this reason Ząbkowice Śląskie has been nicknamed the “Silesian Pisa”. So, Tuscany. There Piotr’s career has changed direction under Sarri and then Marco Giampaolo‘s guidance. Thanks to his physical and technical skills Zieliński has earned an important role at Napoli, maybe the team that play the best football in Italy and in the next future Piotr could become one of the most valuable Serie A midfielders.

It’s a matter of detail, noticed also by Sparta Prague scouts, as in July 2004 they organised a youth tournament in Trutnov in the Hradec Králové region. These little things also shocked Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler. The young footballer has been recommended to the German club in 2006 and “the flying German”, as AS Roma fans had nicknamed the former international, got in touch with Zieliński’s family also offering a job to Piotr’s father, who had been the first son’s coach at Orzeł Ząbkowice Śląskie.

That crucial detail didn’t happen: without work for his father, Piotr didn’t go to Germany. Dutch clubs, who would want to sign the guy, weren’t successful: among them, for sure there were Feyenoord, very interested in the kid, but the Zielinski family opted for a Polish club to facilitate Piotr’s grow. His talent was universally acknowledged, but like another Rudi (Nureyev), the greatest ballet dancer of all time, said:

Talent is only 10%, the rest is about consistency.

And that consistency, those muscles which today make the difference, quality-orientated, Piotr has cultivated them since he was 13 years-old, as he joined Zagłębie Lubin, after rejecting both Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan, also due to logistical reasons. In the city located in Lower Silesia, Zielinski met Franciszek Smuda, one of the greatest Polish football legends (three titles and two national cups in his career). He would have come back to Zagłębie Lubin just in time to make Zielinski debut, before leaving the club to coach Poland, led by Smuda at UEFA EURO 2012 played as host.

Maybe that European Championship came too early, because looking at today’s squad and their quality, Poland came back to be competitive just like in the 70s and 80s. And in this squad, captained by Robert Lewandowski, Zieliński seems a perfect fit, since everyone in Poland calls him with his nickname Piotrek: it seems like a Brazilian baptism, suited for his skills and technique, compared to South American ones. Latitudes, nations, humans adored by Kapuściński, who by travelling in the entire Subcontinent filled a huge amount of copybooks with notes, some of them meaningless, which though somehow found space in his reportages.

It is always a matter of details. In Poland, they pay attention to them, but now they are doing it also on the pitch.

In collaboration with Stefano Tomada

Cover photo © LaPresse
Zieliński’s identification card ©
Zieliński’s photo with Rudi Völler ©
Zieliński’s photo with Poland shirt © Lukasz Laskowski / PressFocus