Soccer

Waldemar Fornalik tabbed to coach Poland's soccer squad

Waldemar Fornalik was appointed the national coach by the Polish Football Association on Tuesday, replacing Franciszek Smuda, whose contract ends next month.
Waldemar Fornalik was named head coach of the Polish squad on Tuesday. (Janek Skarzynski/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

Waldemar Fornalik was appointed the national coach by the Polish Football Association on Tuesday, replacing Franciszek Smuda, whose contract ends next month.

The 49-year-old Fornalik has coached Ruch Chorzow since 2009, and played in the Polish league as a defender in the 1980s and early 90s. As a coach he won respect for taking a group of unexceptional players in Ruch Chorzow and guiding the team in three years to second place in the Polish Cup last season.

Ruch Chorzow leader Dariusz Smagorowicz said Fornalik was "very loved and respected by fans" and that "he built a great team that was in a position to challenge the best teams in the league."

Now Poles will be watching to see if Waldemar Fornalik — nicknamed "Waldek King" by fans — can work similar magic with a national team that has underperformed for years.

Antoni Piechniczek, the vice-president of the association, described Fornalik as a passionate trainer.

"Diligence, modesty and conscientiousness: These qualities describe him not only as a coach but also as a person," Piechniczek said.

In a news conference, Fornalik thanked those who placed trust him and said he hopes he will bring satisfaction to Poland fans.

"I think my work will give satisfaction to the people who believe in me," he said.

Under Smuda's guidance at the European Championship, co-host Poland played well at times, but ultimately failed to live up to its own expectations, and didn't advance out of the group stage. Poland drew with Greece and Russia and lost to the Czech Republic.

The election of Fornalik was announced by Grzegorz Lato, the association president who has been under pressure to step aside due to dissatisfaction with the national team.

"We were aware that time was short because in September we start World Cup qualifications," Lato said at a news conference.

Lato said there were two other candidates, Jerzy Engel, who coached the national team in the 2002 World Cup, and Jacek Zielinski, Smuda's assistant.

He said Fornalik received 11 votes, Engel three and Zielinski none. There was one abstention.

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