Poland Embracing American Football With Five Leagues Now Featuring 70 Teams
As a founder of Polish American Football League club Warsaw Eagles' official fan club, the Eagle's Nest, Piotr Zaremba is "at the epicenter of what has become, somewhat improbably, one of this country’s fastest growing sports," according to Rick Lyman of the N.Y. TIMES. What began in '99 in a Warsaw park "with five high school friends tossing around a football" became a "registered league" in '06 with four founding teams. It has "now grown into a network of more than 70 teams in 36 cities across Poland drawing tens of thousands of fans." The climax of the season, "the championship game popularly known as the Polish Bowl" -- though the league prefers Super Final -- is played in the country's "huge" National Stadium "before more than 20,000 fans and is telecast across Europe." PAFL President Jedrzej Steszewski said, "America's popularity in Poland is fluctuating up and down. And now, it's a little down. So we don't connect our promotions to America." Steszewski added, "The numbers of our fans are getting bigger and bigger each year. And this is because there is no flimflam or trickery, no yellow cards. It’s a tough sport. It's real. That is what our fans like." The Eagle's chief corporate sponsor, American-born shopping mall developer Paul Kusmierz, 44, said that there is a "physical reason for football’s popularity." He said, "A lot of these Polish guys, let’s face it, are not built for soccer. They’re big guys. But they want to be athletes, too, and this is a sport that they can play." There is "not much money in the sport, for anyone." Only a "few of the top players and coaches on the top teams are paid" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/25).