Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When the Brazilian failures were packing to go home, a historic East European transfer took place – in the summer of 1975 Wlodzimierz Lubanski joined KSC Lokeren. Why ‘historic’, since East Europeans, and Poles in particular, were playing for foreign clubs for years? Because this transfer was no longer hush-hush affair, but officially announced in the Eastern European media. The reports were fantastic – I remember an article on the subject: Lubanski was allowed to play professional football in gratitude. Because of his long service to Polish football. But he was severely injured and missed the 1974 World Cup – he was not expected to recover fully and return to his previous form. Some gratitude… a player, who is considered no longer able to play, given to the Capitalist ‘wolves’. To the wolves, because the ideological point was not omitted at all – the Capitalists exploited players mercilessly and discarded them as soon as a player was no longer profitable. Which seemed to be the case of Lubanski… except he looked like no longer profitable to Communist Poland. There was also a little sneer at the buyers, which made the whole transfer looking like plain cheating – giving the West some second-hand goods. Ha-ha! The weirdness of the commentary led to strange conclusions: it was ‘fair’ Communism which discarded players mercilessly and the greedy cheaters were also Communists, not Capitalists. ‘Gratitude’ – did not look like it. As for business, it was more likely that player had no real value anymore, for he was sold to small Belgian club – whoever was willing to pay whatever hard currency, that is. Yet, on the other hand there was something else: the first ‘official’ transfers were like tasting ideological waters – it was carefully and fearfully done, always with some aging star sold to some obscure club. Too bad Lubanski was chosen for the experiment.
Lubanski with KSC Lokeren’s shirt and having the last laugh – he played 34 games (not missing one during the season!) and scored 17 goals in his first year in Belgium. He also stayed with Lokeren until 1982 and then moved to France, adding a couple more seasons and clubs. And he was to make history yet – Lubanski became the first officially professional and foreign based player included in the Communist Poland’s national team: in the 1978 World Cup. The guy who was not supposed to play high level football anymore…
After him Polish (and soon not only Polish) transfers were casually announced in the East European media – Robert Gadocha was the next and there was no fuss. He also got much better transfer, moving to Nantes (France) in the summer of 1975.
Robert Gadocha, first row, far right, posing with his new club Nantes. His transfer was announced casually in Eastern Europe – as if such transfers were the most normal thing in the world. Better club surely, but Gadocha never played for Poland again, unlike Lubanski.
Transfers are still one of the biggest thrills in football – the media, the fans, the clubs, everybody frets and hopes; enjoys and cries for players coming or going. But that is for summer (or was back in the 70s), when football is not played and hopes for the next season are forged. The real salt is the season itself, though, so enough with transfers and back to the game.
Only the season tells the worth of new players and who and how wise was in the sleepy summer – was it ambitious Nantes, acquiring one of the best players of the 1974 World Cup, Gadocha (left), or the modest Belgian outfit RWD Molenbeek, investing in anonymous Dane – Bjerre (right).