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REVEALED! How Poland Coach Nawalka Worked In Nigeria; Reasons He Endorsed Super Eagles Clash In Wroclaw

REVEALED! How Poland Coach Nawalka Worked In Nigeria; Reasons He Endorsed Super Eagles Clash In Wroclaw

Special report from Poland,  by Michal Zichlarz:
There is one reason Poland coach, Adam Nawalka, wanted to play Nigeria before their opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia aginst Senegal – sheer sentiment, he has big admiration for Nigerian football, Complete Sports’ correspondent in Poland writes.

Not many Nigerians knew that Nawalka has once ‘worked’ in Nigeria. Not Many knew that he is an astute fan of Nigerian football Here is the detail…

Anthony Egwuatu is a medical doctor – a gynecologist and endocrinologist, with two offices in Krakow and Kalwaria in Southern Poland. The Igbo man came to Poland 20 years ago, completed his medical study in Gdansk and stayed over here permanently.

Egwuatu is a doctor with good reputation, respect and esteem. However, his love is football. As a teeneger, he used to play in Lagos, but later decided to further his education. But his love for football stayed.
Living in Poland, he participated in some transfers of Nigerian footballers over here, and living in Krakow presented him with the opportunity of meeting Adam Nawalka, the current Poland head coach.
Nawalka and Zbigniew Boniek – one of the best Polish footballers in history and the present Polish Football Association (PZPN) president, were  wonderful talents of the Polish football in in the 70s.
Nawalka represented Poland at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina alongside Boniek, playing five of the team’a six matches there. Although very talented, he couldn’t manage to make such a great career as Boniek’s due to the serious injuries he suffered.

He played for Wisla Krakow for several years and a few years in the USA. He later did football coaching training and became a coach.

Invitation to Nigeria 

Zenith Ziva

In 1999, Nawalka, as a Wisla Krakow’s scout, was invited to Nigeria by Dr. Anthony Egwuatu. His task was to comb Nigeria and find a decent striker for the top Polish club.

“He was a guest of my family and I must say that he was adored by everybody. My mum, till today, asks me, how is Adam?,” smiles Egwuatu.
The medical doctor adds, “He (Nawalka) was fluent in English, open-minded, friendly and easily made friends during his stay in Nigeria. He spent really good time in Nigeria. Of course, it was not a holiday, he came to Nigeria to spot talented players.”
During his stay in Nigeria, Nawalka started with the careful studying of daily newspapers. He asked his Nigerian friend for some dailies everyday as he searched for useful information that could help him make headway in his assignment.

(Old photo): Poland coach Adam Nawalka (m), flanked by late Chief Jude Ezechukwu (l) and Dr. Anthony Egwuatu (r).

Spotting Talented Nigerian Footballers

At that time, one of the best scorers in the Nigerian league was Kelechi Iheanacho (not the current Leicester City forward)  from Enyimba of Aba.

Kelechi Iheanacho who still lives in Poland after retiring from football, takes up the story:
“As far as I know, Adam Nawalka found out in one of the newspapers that I was scoring lots of goals. He came to see me in action in Aba. That’s how  Wisla Krakow later gave me a proposal to play for them,”  says Iheanacho.
Iheanacho was later transferd to Poland from Julius Berger FC and started playing for Wisla Krakow in 1999.
Iheanacho adds: “Mr Nawalka was a very positive person, and he  stood by me and my transfer to Poland. I spent a few years in Krakow before injury stopped me.
“And even though being injuried, Nawalka kept me as a coach at the club. He was a very open-minded person who was eager to learn. At that time, not many Polish people spoke English well like him. He was different,” recalls Iheanacho, who is now in football business while living in Poland capital, Warsaw,  partnering with football agents and travelling a lot.
Nawalka moved around a lot too within Nigeria during his visit in March 1999. He went to Onitsha, where he met Chief Jude Ezechukwu (late), Jasper United president at that time.
This writer, as a journalist, had an opportunity to meet Chief Ezechukwu in 2005, during his stay in Nigeria, on the invitation of his close friend, Vincent Alumona, currently the owner of the sports business outfit, Krakovia Sports Ltd.

Chief Jude Ezechukwu, as Jasper United president,   transfered some of the best Nigerian footballers to the Polish league at that time. In 1997, he transfered Kenneth Zeigbo to Legia Warsaw and Emmanuel Olisadebe – who later became a top striker of the  Polish national team, to Polonia Warszawa. Eight years later Chief Ezechukwu complained in his office at Ajao Estate Lagos,  that he still was not paid for those transfers – sometimes, a part and parcel of football business.

Poland’s Test Before Senegal

Dr. Anthony Egwuatu recalls that in 1999, Nawalka spoted some other Nigerian talents. Among them was Justice Christopher.

“Nawalka had an eye for the talented footballars. As far as I remember, he chose five players, who later played for the Super Eagles, among them was Justice Christopher, who later played for another Easter European club, Levski Sofia. It’s a pity that they didn’t play in Poland,”  Egwuatu states.
The Nigerian medical doctor is still a friend of the Poland head coach and keeps in touch with him. Andv he knows how much invaluable the Super Eagles friendly is to Nawalka before he leads Poland out in Russia to face an African opposition in Senegal.
“When Poland drew Senegal in the World Cup and it was known that their first match will be against the African team, Adam opted for playing against Nigeria in a friendly, the country he likes a lot,” Egwuatu explains.

“That trip in 1999 was a great experience for Nawalka, leaving lots of good memories. He is very happy to have the Super Eagles now for a very important pre-World Cup friendly match. ”

*Michal Zichlarz is a Polish journalist of Sport newspaper and Interia.pl. Author of ‘Afryka Gola!’, a  book about African football in Polish language.

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  • raphael azubuike 4 years ago

    we have a rich history in football no doubt and I hope the crop of young players we have now will begin another wonderful era for nigeria football

  • steven okocha 4 years ago

    funny 2 me that there was one kelechi iheanacho that played football in the past.

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