As third world countries cope with the ‘brain drain’ of their intellectual elite leaving their home countries for better opportunities abroad, I immediately draw the parallel to football of course. More specifically the situation in Poland seeing many of the countries talented young footballers heading abroad, predominantly to Turkey. (Though a humorous headline it would be “E.U. Citizens Head to Turkey for Employment Opportunity”, get it?)
Let’s take a look at the major migrant worker moves…err, Polish transfers so far this winter transfer window. The club that took the biggest hit was undoubtably Wisla Krakow. Goalkeeper Mariusz Pawelek has joined Konyaspor with the Brozek twins, Pioter and Pawel both going to ply their skills for Trabzonspor, the club of former Polish play-maker Miroslaw Szymkowiak.
Other major players who headed to Turkey were Kamil Grosicki who has made a great impression this fall for surprise Ekstraklasa leaders Jagiellonia Bialystok. Grosicki has made the somewhat baffling decision to leave first place for a relegation battle with his new club Sivasspor. Surely had he continued with Jagiellonia this spring, and won the Polish championship, he would have had his pick of clubs to move to, but apparently money talks, and it was saying, “Kamil come to Sivasspor.” Joining Pawelek in Konyaspor is former Widzew Lodz front-man Marcin Robak.
For non-Turkish destinations the major move was Lech Poznan winger Slawomir Peszko who has made his move to 1. FC Koeln in the German Bundesliga. Peszko also goes from playing in the Europa League to a relegation fight with the ‘Billy Goats’, but a significant pay hike.
Inevitably the dilemma with these transfers is who does it benefit in the long term. The Polish national team is better off having players who regularly play in stronger leagues, as was visible during the 3:1 win over Ivory Coast, where the Bundesliga contingent showed their considerable improvement. Players gain, ideally, massive experience, better coaching, and a level of professionalism that is often not seen in the Ekstraklasa. Yet the catch-22 being, how can the Ekstraklasa improve, if all the best people jump ship at the first opportunity? New stadiums and importing of foreign coaches who bring with them Western coaching methods has been a good start, but unfortunately for now Polish football fans will have to contend with the fact that our league will take time to build up. Until the proper pipeline of youth development is in place, it is better for these players to seek better conditions and wages abroad.