Today is a day of national mourning for the people of Poland. Their neighbours Germany sit smugly in the winter sun of Bloemfontein whilst the Polish national team’s attempts to enjoy their summer break are disrupted by casting envious glances in the direction of the television screen. For Poland the story could have been different, had two strikers, born in Gliwice and Opole, not chosen to represent the Germans.
Born into remarkably similar family’s Podolski and Klose can each claim to have sporting excellence running through their veins. Klose’s Mother, Barbara Jez, was a member of the Polish national women’s handball team and his Father, Josef Klose, played for local side Odra Opole. 1978 signalled the end of Josef’s time in Poland as he refused to be a part of the Communist regime and took the escape route offered to him by AJ Auxerre of France. The family later settled in West Germany, granted Aussiedler status due to the fact that Josef hailed from an ethnic German heritage. Miroslav himself claims to be “neither German nor Polish” and instead follows the rather diplomatic line of declaring himself a European. His Father, however, remains less diplomatic by stating that he does not want to be regarded as Polish, claiming that the family’s success is down to Germany and Germany alone. Poor Poland!
Podolski’s life is remarkably quite similar to his German/Polish/European counterpart. Born to Krystyna Podolska and Waldemar Podolski, the first two years of Lukas’ life were spent in Poland before his handball playing Mother and footballing Father decided to emigrate to West Germany, claiming Aussiedler status, just like the Kloses!
The matter came to a head in 2006 when Klose and Podolski were both in the German starting line-up to face Poland. The two players both refused to sing either national anthem and, out of a mark of respect for their country of origin, the players decided against communicating in their usual Polish during the match. Podolski, who visits his Polish Grandmother several times a year, has spoken of his pride and love for the two country’s stating that he “feels at home in both countries.”
Poland, meanwhile, remain envious. After all, would you rather have Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose leading the line or Pavel Brozek and Ireneusz Jelen? The 2010 World Cup qualification was their worst to date, finishing second bottom, only ahead of minnows San Marino, in their group. Ending on a more optimistic note, Poland are joint hosts of Euro 2012 with Ukraine, an event giving them a chance to, possibly, exact revenge on thier German counterparts.