Spotlight On Staszkówka and Jelna

Staszkówka and Jelna are two villages, separated by 23 km in a straight line, but by car the distance to go between them is about 36 km. They are laid at the feet of Beskidy mountains. Probably very few in Poland have ever heard of them – in fact there is little interest in those villages but together they’ve created a wonderful Cinderella-like story in the Polish women’s football.

In 2010 Michał Bąk from Staszkówka, entered his school team to the national Grassroots tournament, Tymbark Cup the U-8 team reached fourth place in the semi-final of a national stage. That was the impulse to build a girl’s club, based on the Staszkówka and Jelna schools, where Bąk and Wojciech Mróz, the head coach of the team, are the PE teacher.

That was just a decade ago. The development of a club is seen with players raised by the club (not from the two schools anymore, but from the whole region) being called to the national teams in all age categories – including the A-Team as Paulina Tomasiak got the chance to train with the top players in the country during the EURO 2022 qualifications, although is still waiting for the first cap.

The club has debuted in the first League (second-tier) this year and is holding tenth place finish out of twelve teams, but having a safe advantage over the relegation zone and just two points of loss to the top half with four legs to go. But the biggest success of the team is this year’s Polish Cup.

Trójka (named after the School No. 3 in Jelna) started the tournament with a 3-2 win over Sokół Kolbuszowa Dolna – a third-tier team, relegated last year due to league reform, making just one second-tier group instead of two. In the round of 32 Trójka took revenge on Polonia Środa Wielkopolska, just a month after a league loss 1-2, by defeating the rival 3-0. With more and more low-tier teams dropping out of the Cup, Trójka had a luck to draw a third-tier Unifreeze Górzno – and eventually defeated them 8-4.

Photo: @uks_3_staszkowkajelna

Along with Tarnovia Tarnów and Rekord Bielsko-Biała – the top teams of the league, having a chance for a promotion to the top-tier Ekstraliga – Trójka was one of the three 1st League teams in the Cup quarterfinals. Once again they can say about the luck – when Rekord played against the titleholder and Champions League participant, Górnik Łęczna, and Tarnovia battled against championship contender, Ekstraliga leader Czarni Sosnowiec, the team from Staszkówka and Jelna had drawn Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz as a rival. A team from the middle of the Ekstraliga table, additionally having quite a few injured players. With 2-2 after the full-time, the extra-time brought a huge thriller, finished with 4-3 victory of Trójka.

The semifinal, which took place last Wednesday, is the end of the Cinderella-like story – with the 0-4 defeat against the UKS SMS Łódź – another team based on school, yet the sports school from one of the biggest cities in Poland, the vice-leader of the Ekstraliga table. With a few players from both teams reaching the pitch after writing a national school-finishing exam („matura”), the top level experience of the rival in connection with the absence of the head coach Mróz and team captain Tomasiak (both suspended after yellow cards) was on the side of Łódź team.

The end of one story is however just the beginning of the another. Or maybe the continuation of the one going on – with the gold medal of National Futsal Championships (in a roster similar to the 11-a-side first team’s), the national team players and a lot of work enthusiasm, Trójka goes on the way to become an even better team, bringing the top football in the country not only to their home cities but to the whole region.