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Eye on Poland: How football is intertwined with international economics

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802   //    10 Jul 2011, 19:00 IST

A nation with a proud past and promising future — Poland‘s influence on the global stage is growing. A driving force in the new Europe with a skilled workforce spreading its influence beyond its borders and an economy increasingly attractive to foreign investors — Poland is making its mark – CNN

Polish Flag flying high like the economy

As our good old Mother Earth moves gradually but steadily from an era of colonization to a golden period of globalization, one thing that has remained ever constant amidst the chaotic change of unification of an ideologically divided world is the love for the beautiful game. Here in Sportskeeda, we might not have the expertise and infrastructure of the likes of CNN or BBC but what we have in abundance is our passion for football and of course sports as a whole. This article is the beginning of a series of pieces through which we will humbly try to point to the fact how football is closely related to the political and economic development of a nation. Why not we try our hand on a nation that have come a full circle over the past half a century in terms of the existence of its national and ethnic identity!

Poland are set to co-host the European Championships along with another of Sportskeeda’s ‘watch-out for countries’ the Ukraine in 2012 and undoubtedly the world’s attention would be on the Polish people who are desperate to shed the reclusive years of the Cold War for good. Not so long ago Warsaw was the seat of a powerful Communist nation which although not integrated fully into the Soviet Union but was one of the Union’s most trusted brotherhood of socialistic and communist nations. It was through this country that the fall of communism started like fire in the Eastern Bloc as the Poles finally woke up to nationalistic calls of ethnic identity through the Solidarity Movement and were instrumental in motivating fellow Europeans like the Czechs, Hungarians and Germans to launch a revolution that would go on to end the tumultuous Cold War period and give a new Europe which is united as ever and Poland lead the list of the former communist or Soviet states that make up what we call now the ‘New Europe’.

Poland leads New Europe

The 4th of June, 1989 marked a decisive victory for democracy in Poland and, ultimately, across Eastern Europe.”- Angela Merkel, German Chancellor.

So, where does football stand in the so called New Europe or many of our esteemed readers might just think what has football to do in this article of Poland’s fight for ideological independence and European identification?

The co-hosting of the European Championships in June, 2012 is the answer to the probable questions. It has been a long and arduous journey for the whole nation of Poland from the war torn days of the second World War to the oppression of the Polish society by the men and bureaucrats that formed the People’s Republic of Poland in 1952 to the uncertainty of a revolutionary change in 1989 from the socialistic economy to a market economy. Unlike many other former Soviet states Poland grew stronger both economically and politically. The sheer strength of the Polish people and the help of the western world, in particular the United States of America, enabled Poland to become the first post-communist nation to achieve the pre-1989 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) levels within six years of the Solidarity Movement of 1989. Hosting of the world’s third largest sporting event is not only a challenge itself but it speaks volumes of the endeavour and will of the host nation to welcome the world to its doorstep. Who could have thought at the start of the new millennium that UEFA would have the strength and force to award a major football event to Poland which was considered to be a pariah state just two decades back?

GDP growth in Poland

Considered one of the success stories among modern transition economies, Poland have embraced the beautiful game not just for the sake of changing the face of Polish society in this fast track age of information, communication and modernization but also for football to test new frontiers that hold the future of global football. Hosting of the Olympics or a football World Cup or a European Championship is not only a proud moment for the host country but awarding of the sport extravaganza is itself a recognition of the political and economic achievements of that particular nation. Many critics have questioned the pace of the construction of stadiums in the country and with the main stadium in the capital Warsaw not yet ready for the big occasion, doubts persist about UEFA’s decision making policy although the four main cities of Gdansk, Wroclow, Poznan and Warsaw have made hosting of EURO 2012 a dream of a lifetime. The country’s economy is booming and since entering the European Union in 2004, Poland is the final frontier of an extended European family that separates Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine from the rest of Western Europe.

Through football, Poland have the chance to prove how far they have come along from the days of the oppressive communist regimes of Wladyslaw Gomulka and Edward Gierek.

According to Danish football expert Frits Ahlstrom, being a host to a major sporting event has immense benefits and opportunities and the positive ripples of EURO 2012 would be felt by both Poland and the Ukraine for many years to come. Consultancy giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers has revealed the major economic impacts felt by Portugal after EURO 2004 and has predicted the same scenario for Poland in the years following the European Championships. Poland can attribute to its success to the currency. Being out of the euro zone has brought advantages. The Polish Zloty has fallen in value against the euro and the dollar. Polish products have therefore become cheaper abroad. Many people in the EU are pushing Poland to accept the Euro as the official currency but the Zloty is there to stay until atleast 2015.

We all love to watch and play football and the world’s most popular game gives us more than what we anticipate, not only in football terms but most importantly from the point of view of economics. Portugal attracted over a million fans to the small Iberian country and imagine the result in the subsequent years! Portugal’s tourism industry recorded an annual growth of 5%. Poland face the same situation and the motivation is there to attract record numbers of foreigners for the big occasion. The investment related to staging of the tournament would provide and extra growth in GDP of up to 1.5% in the period between 2009 and 2012.

Under Communist role Poland was an Olympic power but not a football power by any means compared to the erstwhile Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia or Hungary. Although the Poles have managed to keep the European tradition of maintaining a professional football league and a competent national side, interest in the beautiful game would increase two-fold after EURO 2012. Frits Ahlstrom was quoted as saying, “We have observed the previous championships and what we have noticed was a 10 percent increase in the number of active football players in almost every host country.”

There are many nations that are following the path of Poland and through football and sports as a whole are trying to draw the attention of the wider world which speaks of the start of a new global dimension and one thing that has replaced the various dictatorial regimes that used to keep our Mother Earth on tenterhooks is the love for the beautiful game. Football rules everything!

A banker yet lives football and for that reason loves to share my football passion with the world. Aim is to be a professional football writer.
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