NIECIECZA, Poland: It had all the makings of fairytale, with a Polish village’s team on course for the top flight, until they came crashing down to earth in a tight season-end race in the Euro 2012 host nation.
Hailing from a community of just 726 in southern Poland, and playing in a stadium tucked among cornfields on the River Dunajec floodplain, minnows Termalica Bruk-Bet Nieciecza won hearts this season as they came to within an inch of glory.
But in the space of just two weeks, they found their fate out of their hands as they suffered a run of four defeats, with Sunday’s 2-1 home loss to Kolejarz Stroze denying them promotion.
Along the way, however, the motley crew of career-enders from Poland’s Ekstraklasa top flight, younger players squeezed out of that division and those tapped from the lower leagues claimed the scalps of big city sides.
Manager Dusan Radolsky was unfazed by the failure to earn an unprecedented berth in Poland’s 16-club first division, putting his side’s run into perspective.
“This club has made a massive leap over the past six or seven years,” the 61-year-old Slovak told AFP. “How many teams do you know who have climbed so far in Polish football history? That’s a success in itself. It’s been a case of promotion, promotion and promotion again,” said Radolsky, who has a long coaching record in Slovakia and Poland.
The club is known by the more manageable name of Termalica, a wing of its overall sponsor, concrete company Bruk-Bet which is based in Nieciecza and first got involved a decade ago.
“Bruk-Bet’s a local firm, and wanted to do something for its community,” club spokesman Andrzej Mizera, 35, told AFP.