Lewandowski must be careful. Important message from the new coach
– I don’t believe that Marek Papszun will want to give up Robert Lewandowski, but I know that Robert will have to adapt. There is one boss here – says Andrzej Niewulis, Miedź Legnica’s stopper, who worked with Marek Papszun for five and a half years, and previously for a year with Michał Probierz, the second candidate for the position of coach of the Polish national team.
There are basically two candidates for the new coach of the Polish national team. Michał Probierz, who currently leads the under-21 team, and Marek Papszun, who remains unemployed at the end of the previous season after leaving the championship team Raków. Some PZPN activists are still pushing for Jan Urban – currently the coach of Górnik Zabrze – for this position, but Cezary Kulesza is mainly considering Probierz and Papszun. Before the president of the Polish Football Association announces his decision , wants to know the opinion of the vice-presidents, PZPN sports director Marcin Dorna and the so-called barons, i.e. heads of provincial football associations. It may not be crucial, but it will definitely be important. Also for the president himself, who will officially introduce the new coach on Wednesday afternoon. However, this will be unofficially decided on Tuesday evening – in one of the Warsaw hotels, where Kulesza will meet with activists for dinner before the Wednesday PZPN management board.
Bartłomiej Kubiak: You worked with Marek Papszun and Michał Probierz, who do you think should be the new coach of the Polish national team?
Andrzej Niewulis: I worked with Michał for only a year, and a very long time ago, in the 2009/2010 season at Jagiellonia Białystok. With Marek, these memories are fresher and longer because we worked together for 5.5 years and only broke up in the winter. It was the best time of my career. I joined Raków Częstochowa after promotion to the first league. I saw how Papszun built this club, what kind of coach, psychologist and, above all, person he is. I would like him to become the new coach.
Or maybe you could see someone else in this position?
– A year and a half ago, when Paulo Sousa left the team, I said that Marek was the right person for this position. It was already a good time for him then, and it’s even better now. Someone may, of course, accuse me of a lack of objectivity, but I don’t think so only because we worked together, because we also experienced more difficult times in Raków.
Probably quite recently. I mean your departure from Raków, halfway through the championship season.
– Yes, it was definitely not an easy moment for me, because everything coincided with my injury – my return to the pitch was longer than we expected. But I had more such moments. I never talked about it, but I was close to leaving Raków twice before. And it was also related to my injuries. I gritted my teeth and fought, for which I am grateful to the coach, but also to the club and owner for giving me such a chance. That they played open cards with me and said: “Andrzej, it will be difficult, at the moment you are the last stopper in the game.” It was important to me that this message was clear, it was told to me directly. And it didn’t work out in January? The fact that I regularly struggled with injuries certainly didn’t help me. Just to make it clear: I don’t have any grudges against anyone now, because we said goodbye to class. Although it is known that these are not pleasant moments – in August, when Raków in Sosnowiec played for the Champions League, my heart sank a little – but such is the life of a footballer. This is what it looks like on a serious and professional level, where there is no sentimentality.
What does coach Papszun have that coach Probierz doesn’t?
– Don’t worry, although it is much easier for me to point out similarities in this case, because both of them have always managed the team well. And I have no doubt that the national team is currently lacking such a firm and strong hand. In a word: disciplines. I think that here you can only notice subtle differences between them. With Michał – although I must emphasize that I worked with him a long time ago – you could certainly allow yourself more jokes in the workplace. Maybe he was a slightly better motivator, although Marek could also do it, but in a different way. More calmly, constructively, substantively. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad. I just want to point out some differences. They are subtle in this field. More can be seen on the pitch itself, where I could point primarily to the style of play. Michał has certainly developed over the years – it is visible – but his teams have always been based on crosses and playing in the side sectors. In Raków it was just the opposite. Marek’s desire to play through the middle was always dominant, and the shuttles were only supposed to help when the middle was closed.
Papszun ever told you that he dreams of being a coach?
– If anything, he was more about it between the lines. The coach was always focused on the here and now. He focused on us, the team. Even when Marek was associated with Legia, he always told us that he was with us until the end. And outside he tried to keep these matters quiet, even though we knew that some talks were taking place. And here we can smoothly move on to the latest topics and the national team, because I don’t believe that under coach Papszun, any difficult issues would be discussed outside the locker room. And even if something came out of it, everyone else would know that it couldn’t happen again. This is what Papszun is like. Honest and very loyal to the players, but he demands the same from them. Either you accept it or there is no mercy.
Coach Papszun is famous for his iron discipline and strong hand. And what does it look like in the locker room?
– Looking at the expressive behavior of the coach during matches – the way he lives at the bench, the way he experiences matches, everyone probably thinks that it’s rough in the locker room too. And that’s not true. This was also a surprise for me, because at the beginning I thought that since Marek was shouting at us at the line, he would soon destroy us in the locker room. I’m not saying he never shouted at us, but he did it very rarely. And he knew exactly when, because team management – as I have already mentioned – is one of his greatest advantages. During breaks in matches – even when we were not doing well – Marek always remained calm. And he infected the players with this calmness. Then he only gave substantive comments, saying that we need to improve this or that, in this situation we need to go higher, and in another situation we need to move the ball faster. It was always these types of tips. If you listened to his advice, you would only do well.
It was like that in the locker room, but apart from that, Marek was perfectly able to separate it all from his free time, because when you met him outside of work, you always saw a smiling, gentle man with an optimistic attitude to life. One who will ask how things are at home, talk, sometimes even give advice and joke. He’s just a normal, cool guy. Only at work does he turn into a boss – there he is a general – but in Marek’s case these two spheres must be clearly separated.
Robert Lewandowski recently pointed out that the national team lacks personality. This is quite a serious accusation. Do you think Papszun would have no problem with this?
– No, because I think Marek can create such personalities. Even if they are not visible at first glance. I’m probably the best example, and it’s certainly easiest for me to talk about myself. I was never a football player, or even a child, with any super-developed leadership qualities. It is known that I was developing and working on myself, but only after I came to Raków, Marek built me up as a real leader. He developed it in me so much that I became the captain of the team. I remember it happened during a camp in Turkey, during one sparring match, when I took over the armband. Rafał Figiel was the captain then. Marek had told me earlier that he was counting on me – the link between him and the team was also mental coach Paweł Frelik – but it was still surprising to me. And it was encouraging, because it gave me even more motivation to continue working. Apparently he saw something in me and diagnosed it all well. And it wasn’t only with me, because in Raków the coach reached the point where we were the ones who demanded from ourselves first and foremost. I am convinced that it would be similar in the national team now. If he takes over the national team, before arriving at the first training camp, he will have a plan, worked out in every detail, of what he expects from each player. If that plan no longer exists. I suspect he does.
Will Papszun not be afraid of the stars in the national team?
– On the one hand, I am curious what it will be like, but on the other hand I am very calm that it will be fine. I have no doubts here. I don’t believe that Marek will want to give up Robert Lewandowski, but I know that Robert will have to adapt. I’m quite sure of it. It’s obvious that it’s a different scale, but that’s what happened in Raków with Ivi Lopez, who also turned up his nose a bit at the beginning of his stay and wasn’t convinced by the coach’s idea. However, when he saw that he was giving results and if he did not adapt, he would be benched, he finally adapted. This is how Marek works. There is only one boss here. The national team needs such a coach now, because the time for petting him has passed. Anyone who knows Marek knows that he is the right candidate for this position. A coach at the European level – perfectly prepared mentally, but also tactically. I’m sure it will work.