In Poland, soccer and national identity have always been tightly stitched together. As a soccer-obsessed child in the early 1990s, I was subjected to emotional blackmail each time the Polish team played. My grandfather Zygmunt, a hard-boiled communist, supported Poland no matter what. Unless Poland was playing Russia. I was ordered to do the same. In reality, Zygmunt paid little attention to the game and usually spent the 90 minutes lecturing my father, an Englishman, on why Western soccer had no soul and was doomed to fail.
My main football companion was my great-uncle, Dudek, a Holocaust survivor. If the Polish team was playing we would tune in and cheer them on. Unless Poland was playing Israel. During these games I was urged to support Israel, my decision helped along by a bribe of Dudek’s oversweet vanilla halva. As a child with a sweet tooth and flexible morals, I always agreed.
My Dad was soccer mad as well and always took great interest when Poland was playing.
Brings back memories! :)
Related link: Poland’s Beautiful Victory