Is it worth the effort to take teams to foreign and international tournaments? What should you pay attention to before deciding on such a trip? What can he give the young boys? Are there also strong tournaments of international rank in Poland? What are the characteristics of a well-organized tournament? We talk to Łukasz Matusik, current president of MKS Fablok Chrzanów, organizer of tournaments for children and young people, as well as a coach who often and densely participated in various competitions..
Foreign and international tournaments for children and young people – you recommend to everyone and even encourage other coaches to try hard for such trips by looking for sponsors, funding, etc.? Isn’t it worth all the effort and it’s better to look for tournaments in Poland that are well attended, where there is also a nice level of sportsmanship?.
Being a coach of the 2006 yearbook of MKS Fablok Chrzanów, I spent a lot of time at various tournaments. I was in many places in Poland, and I was also tempted to go abroad. I was a bit disappointed, as I think there are many tournaments in Poland that are better organized than those outside our country. Yet this picture of mine may be heavily curved, because in the domestic backyard I have participated in countless tournaments, and abroad it is only an episode. However, it is certainly worth traveling and checking what level, in terms of organization, a given tournament is at.
After several trips around Poland, it’s easy to come to conclusions about which tournaments are worth going to and which ones to avoid by a wide margin.
And what about foreign tournaments?.
As for foreign tournaments, I recommend them as much as possible, but I would base the choice of tournaments on proven organizers and opinions of people who have already been there, at least once. I would also recommend taking an interpreter on such a trip, if we ourselves do not know well the language of the country to which we are going. Because through this language barrier, misunderstandings, shortcomings and additional communication problems arise later. We were at the International Carnival Cup in Spain, and I must admit that I am disappointed. Because it cost us a lot of trouble and money, where we had high hopes for this competition, and I will say on my behalf that I was disappointed. There were many shortcomings on the part of the organizer that shouldn’t have happened.
What was wrong with this tournament, which, every year, features many teams from all over the world and among them are also big brands, i.e. Manchester City, FC Barcelona or Real Madrid?.
The first thing is the mentality of the Spaniards. When a Pole first collides with it is difficult for him to understand certain things and get used to it. What I mean is that they have time for everything, they do not rush, although sometimes, even the situation demands it. We have 30 minutes until the match, and the guy who is responsible for getting us to the field from under the hotel lights up a cigarette, because he thinks he will make it in time. Okay, but, where’s the time for the players to change, warm-up, briefing, etc.? You get off the bus and have to change quickly to be in time for the first whistle of the referee. I didn’t like this very much. On top of that, the boys didn’t play too much for themselves in terms of the number of minutes. Comparing this with other tournaments in Poland, the young players did not manage to enjoy the game.
I’m already leaving aside the fact that in Spain in the U-13 category they play in teams of eleven, on a bigger field and goals, while we competed in teams of nine on a daily basis. It was difficult for us to jump over this during this tournament, where our rivals have been training and competing in this system for some time, and for us it was new. Of course, we knew the rules of the tournament beforehand. We knew what we were signing up for. We really wanted to go there. It was the adventure of a lifetime for us. In Poland we competed on an equal level with all teams in the 2006 yearbook, although we did not always win. However, it was never the case that we lost high or stood out from the level. That’s why we wanted to prove ourselves in Spain. We also treated this tournament as a reward for our team’s performance at home, because at that time we were really strong and everyone had to reckon with us. It’s a pity that this tournament wasn’t played in the 9v9 system, because then it would have been a real reflection of what my boys can do and mean in Europe.
Kwakowo is a village with only 650 residents, where the Olimpijczyk club functioned for several years. They had no youth structures, relied on players only from the surrounding villages, and built a team that was able to compete with the best teams in Poland up to the U-15 category. They won promotion to the Central Junior League and stayed there. Coach Krzysztof Muller said that one of the reasons that they managed to build such a strong team was the foreign tournaments, to which they traveled, among others, once a year to the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Spain and Slovakia. The trainer stressed that after each such trip his team returned to Poland with greater self-confidence, more motivated to continue working and hungry for more games, which they later proved in the league yard. You also observed this from your team and tournaments of international rank?.
We had the opportunity to compete against each other at the Deichmann Cup and I have to say that it was a capital team. I can agree with the observation of the coach of Olimpijczyk Kwakowo, because fatally it is such an additional incentive to work for the players. The rivalry with foreign teams, i.e. PSG, Juventus Turin, Manchester City, or FC Barcelona caused these boys to later go out to the top teams in Poland read. Lech Poznań, Legia Warszawa or Śląsk Wrocław without any scruples or complexes. However, in the case of Olimpijczyk, we are talking more about tournaments of international rank organized abroad, and I have experienced more of these in Poland. More and more such tournaments are appearing in our backyard, but not all of them are well organized. Although we can also find such tournaments organized by Tomasz Popiela, for example, which are great in every way.
What is a well-organized tournament?.
The basis of such a tournament is good planning, where all aspects of the tournament are taken care of and finalized to the last button. We are talking about pitches that are adapted to the season and the current weather. If we have a summer period we play on grass, and in autumn and winter we play on an artificial one under a balloon or an indoor one. The most important thing at tournaments is the children, and some people forget this. They must feel comfortable and be guaranteed to collect a fair number of minutes at such a tournament. So that it is not the case that a team plays one game, drops out of the competition and has to go home. Also important are short breaks between matches. One meeting ends – a few minutes of respite or one match break and we play another. Sometimes you can meet such games, where the intervals between matches are more than an hour, which is a total oversight on the part of the organizer. It is also very important to select rivals with similar skills. I understand that it is not always possible to properly match teams. Although it is possible to establish such a form of competition, where after the first day of competition, we know who is at what level and on the second day they are already divided in terms of skills.
I think that also important thing are the prizes, not only medals and cups, but also some trinkets, so that each participant left with something from such a tournament.
Sometimes it is that some small thing makes the children very happy, and they appreciate it strongly.
What is the most difficult thing about organizing tournaments? I ask because you also have experience in this subject, the Cutline Cup rests on your shoulders..
We are all the time in the pandemic period, which means that we are not quite able to predict everything when organizing a tournament, which is a large undertaking, where sometimes 400 children participate, 30 teams that need to be accommodated in three hotels. Because of this specific period it is at any time we can get a phone call: “my team is in quarantine,”which shatters the whole organization of the games for us. It’s hard sometimes to straighten out such emergencies when you already have everything arranged and planned. Pandemic causes terrible disorganization. Recently I had such a situation, that five teams withdrew on Thursday, and already on Saturday the tournament was supposed to take place. You are not able to react appropriately in such a short time. When organizing tournaments, the most important thing is to plan everything well in advance in order to have full control over it. Pandemic sometimes causes the organizer a lot of problems and has to work hard to make sure that the tournament takes place at all, makes sense, and that those who come to it are satisfied. To this I would also mention irresponsible coaches who register their teams and then do not come to the tournament, without giving any signal to the organizer. Such a coach doesn’t realize that he spoils the competition for the other kids and creates a big problem for the organizer.
You mentioned that you traveled quite a lot for tournaments with your 2006 yearbook team, which one was the most memorable for you? .
It’s hard to name just one tournament, although the Number One Cup in Gdansk immediately comes to mind, due to the electrifying cast, i.e. Feyenoord, PSG, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Sparta Prague, Inter Milan, Everton, or West Ham United. We reached the TOP 8 of this tournament in 2018 as the only team from Poland, although teams such as Śląsk Wrocław, Wisła Kraków, Zagłębie Lubin and GKS Katowice also came there. A memory that stays for a lifetime. In the quarterfinals, we lost after penalty kicks to PSG, which eventually took second place in the tournament. Only Everton turned out to be better than them. We have nothing to be ashamed of. In the back of our minds stays the curious situation after which we lost a goal – an obvious mistake by the referee. I had a complete, characterful and ambitious team at the time, and they also showed that in this clash. They felt aggrieved by the 0:1 goal, and still immediately moved forward to equalize, which they succeeded in doing, and then pushed for victory. It was close. I certainly also have to mention the Api Cup Zakopane, as this is a tournament we regularly participated in and once managed to win it. I really liked the Profbud Cup organized by Beniaminek Krosno. In terms of organization, one of the best in Poland. I still have to mention the Deichmann Mini championship, which we won in the U-9, U-11 and U-13 categories. With the latter, the main prize was a trip to Dortmund to meet Lukasz Piszczek and a Bundesliga match.
What happened to those boys from the 2006 yearbook that you led at Fablok Chrzanów? It was a strong team that competed as equals with everyone in Poland and was also able to stand up to peers from PSG or Juventus. Where are they now?
They scattered all over Poland when they reached the age of youth. One boy is at Legia Warsaw. Two players are at Wisla Kraków, and three are at Cracovia. Then there are clubs such as Stadion Śląski Chorzów, Zagłębie Sosnowiec and Wieczysta Kraków. A few also gave up playing soccer, also those who had the aptitude, but perhaps they lacked self-confidence, push or support from their parents? We were talking about the Number One Cup was the boy who got the MVP award of this tournament gave up playing ball, and he was fantastic. It’s a shame, but it’s cool that most are trying their hand and playing key roles in the big academies. At Fablok we continue to train, we have more teams, but it will certainly be very difficult for us to repeat the successes of the 2006 yearbook.