For the Polish women’s national beach soccer team, the performance at the European Games Krakow – Małopolska 2023 will be a debut. Although the cadre was formed only last year, the players have plenty of experience from club performances on the national and international stage. – I believe in our national team. I know these players very well and I know that their skills are not less than the best in the world – assures Jaroslaw Jagielski, coach of the most successful Polish team – Lady Grembach Lodz.
Women’s beach soccer is a fairly young sport in Poland. The first time the ladies was competed for the Polish Championship in 2005, but then only two teams entered the tournament. In 2009 there was the first attempt to create a Polish national team. On paper, the national team was even formed, call-ups were sent out, but no games were played and it ceased to exist. For the next 13 years it was not possible to create a female national team. However, with the upcoming European Games 2023 Kraków-Malopolska, the idea has been revived. In the summer of 2022, the women’s national beach soccer team was established, and Mateusz Sroka, the current coach of Pogoń Tczew, became its coach.
Meanwhile, club beach soccer as performed by the ladies has begun to develop. More and more teams began to compete in the Polish Championships, then the Polish Cup competition was added. As a result, the women’s beach soccer competition in Poland is one of the best developed in Europe. One of the promoters is Jaroslaw Jagielski, coach of Lady Grembach Lodz, five-time Polish champions, two-time Polish Cup triumphers. The Lodz women have also excelled on the international stage – last year they won the club world championship.
When did the development of women’s beach soccer in Poland begin?
It gained momentum in 2013. That’s when teams began to get more serious about competing on the sand. It was no just an attractive vacation trip. Clubs felt that during summer tournaments you can not only have fun, but also compete. An important moment was the opportunity to compete in the Euro Winners Cup (the equivalent of the Champions League). This was an additional incentive. First, futsal-derived teams such as UAM Poznan and Red Devils Chojnice led the way in women’s beach soccer. Then more joined in. In 2016, the idea of forming a Grembach women’s team was proposed by players from the grass-playing team themselves. Without much preparation, we competed in the Polish championship. At that time we were successful with the men’s team of Grembach [the name of a neighborhood in Lodz]. I decided that it was worth trying to take women’s beach soccer seriously. We started to create a professional women’s section at the club.
You have quickly become the dominant player in Poland.
In the first national championship we finished sixth, and a year later we won and then repeated this success four more times in a row. As I mentioned, an important incentive was the opportunity to go to the European Championships in Portugal. We played them for the first time in 2018 and took fifth place. We aroused a lot of interest from other teams with our play. With our game we aroused a lot of interest in other teams. I have always been interested in the development of beach soccer in Poland. Whether in the men’s or women’s edition. I knew that without contact with teams and players of the best in the world, the road to success for Polish beach soccer would become much longer. In addition to competing with the best European teams, I have invited outstanding athletes from abroad to Lady Grembach. Molly Clark and Adriele Rocha, among others, have played for us. Both have been nominated several times for the title of best player in the world. Adri was chosen as the best for 2022, and Moly in 2021. In this way, as a club we had an impact on the development of Polish women’s beach soccer, because other teams did not want to be still in our shadow. They intensified training, made progress and began to invite good foreign players. Tournaments began to be at a more even level. Coaches who had a track record of success as players or coaches of men’s teams also began to join the women’s teams. More attention began to be paid to beach soccer technique and tactics. The first steps toward professionalism have been taken. The women’s clubs also proposed to the Polish Football Association to expand the competition with an additional tournament, the Polish Cup. Lady Grembach Lodz won the first edition.
Jaroslaw Jagielski: The European Games will be a debut for the national team, but the players have plenty of experience from domestic and international performances.
Still, there was no Polish women’s national team.
We did a lot to get the cadre established. There was the collection of signatures and petitions to the president of the Polish Football Association. At every opportunity, the girls showered union representatives with questions about when the national team would be formed. In club competitions, Polish teams have long shown that they can compete as equals with the best players from Europe and the world. In 2019, we finished second in the club world championships, and last year we won a gold medal. The title of world champion is the biggest success in the history of Polish beach soccer. It finally happened… Last summer, the Polish women’s national team was established, which I am very happy about. The biggest motivator, however, was not the mere desire to create a team and fulfill the dreams of hundreds of girls playing beach soccer in our country, but rather the fact that in June 2023 Poland will host the European Games, where beach soccer will be one of the disciplines. It was inappropriate for the beach soccer competition to lack a host team.
So the European Games will be a debut for the Polish women’s national beach soccer team, but the players have a lot of experience. Can we make a surprise?
We have a lot of grounds for this. Our players have been invited to clubs from Italy, Spain, or France. With the level of competition and organization we are ahead of many European countries. The competition is fierce, and the most important thing is that the girls are desirous of the sport. The European Games will be a debut for the national team, but the players have plenty of experience from domestic and international performances.
Behind the national team are already two training camps and successful matches against the Czech women.
The national team gathered for the first time last September. It was a so-called selection grouping. Appointments were given to 30 players. The next one was held in December and differed in that it ended with two control matches against the Czech national team. The first match our girls won quite high. In the second, the Czechs came out more motivated and the Polish girls had a more difficult task, but they also won. So the first two games of our national team were successful. This is a successful start for the national team.
The European Games will feature six women’s national teams. Who is the favorite?
Spain and England are the two most experienced and successful teams. It is in these two teams that one should look for the favorite. However, let’s remember that this is beach soccer and the disposition of the day and a fraction of luck will matter. Probably the Italian women will be dangerous, although at the World Winners Cup we won high against the Italian champion team, which was made up of most of that country’s representatives. This is a very physically strong team, just a little bit off technically from the Spanish women. The black horse may turn out to be the Portuguese women, who are making great progress, plus they can count on the help of the legendary beach soccer player and my friend who once played in the colors of Grembach – Madjer. However, I believe in our national team. I know the players very well and I know that their skills and experience are not inferior to the best in the world. If they prepare intensively physically and tactically over the coming weeks or months, I am sure they will bring us much joy and pride. I am not worried about the commitment of the Polish players. I know how important it is for them to play with the eagle on their chest. They will leave their hearts on the field in Tarnow. The key will be to start training now, in the winter. I saw that the English women are already practicing. For now in smaller groups, but soon the rest will join. I think female athletes from other countries have also started individual preparations. In order to play well in June at EG 2023, you need to start intensive training now.
Why come to beach soccer games during the European Games and beyond?
It’s the most spectacular sport I’ve ever experienced. Beach soccer quickly found a place in my heart. It was in 2004. The beach, the sea, the sun, the music and the sportsmanship of the players can create spectacles of the highest level. During the recent Polish Cup, Ewelina Kamczyk, Poland’s representative in grassroots soccer, visited us. She was delighted with the girls’ technique. She said that she would have to train a lot more to play as effectively and efficiently as her beach friends, but who knows, maybe someday? A beach soccer player at a high level can amaze many with his technique. It is necessary to be able to strike into the air, fold up for a knockdown shot and fall so as not to hurt yourself. The knockdown shot is a basic stroke in beach soccer. I remember how much trouble it was to teach this technique to my girls. Now, a goal scored from a knockdown has become the norm for them, but indeed the beginnings were difficult. It’s also not so easy to learn other basic beach soccer techniques, such as shots from a toss or striking from a ball rolling over beach bumps. It requires a lot of training and some predisposition. On top of that, you need to have ironclad fitness, because running in the full sun, in the quicksand, quickly gives you a hard time. Although there is a fierce battle on the fields, it is a tradition for entire teams to meet after the games. We are one big sports family. That’s why I’ve loved beach soccer for 20 years and I encourage you to visit the beach arenas during EG 2023 in Tarnow.