Poland captain overcomes tragedy to become star

If it’s grit, character and the willpower to overcome adversity

you want in a captain, look no further than Poland midfielder Jakub

Blaszczykowski.

The 26-year-old Borussia Dortmund player’s world took a horrible

turn one night 16 years ago when his father stabbed his mother to

death.

”I realize that this stigma on my psyche will stay with me till

the end of my life. I’ll never understand it, and the question of

why, of what the reason was, will stay with me until I die,”

Blaszczykowski told Polish television in 2010. ”I don’t know

whether I’ll ever get an answer, or whether I’m ready to look for

one.”

His father was sentenced to prison for the murder, leaving

Blaszczykowski and his older brother without either parent. Their

grandmother, Felicija, stepped forward and took the brothers in,

raising both of them and becoming one of the most important people

in their lives.

”I don’t know what I would have done without my grandmother,

where I would have ended up,” he said. ”I do my best to make her

proud, to make her happy, and now, in a way, to pay her back for

what she did for me and my brother when we needed her help.”

Football was the young Blaszczykowski’s passion, and he showed a

talent for it at an early age. He and his brother used to play in

their room, singing the Polish anthem with dreams of the national

team in their heads. Both brothers had been training with a local

Czestochowa club for a few years before their mother’s murder in

1996.

But after her death, the game lost its appeal and the younger

Blaszczykowski gave it up.

”It was very tough for me, and it still is,” he said. ”I

didn’t care. Life loses its sense, and you have to find it again.

My uncle put me back on the path of football.”

His uncle, former Poland captain Jerzy Brzeczek, took him under

his wing, and encouraged him to return to the sport after a

three-month hiatus.

With Brzeczek providing guidance and nurturing his talents,

Blaszczykowski continued to develop as a teenager. He moved from

fourth-division club KS Czestochowa in 2003 to Polish

first-division champion Wisla Krakow two years later, and it’s been

nothing but up since then.

In his first season with Wisla, Blaszczykowski won the Polish

league title. A year later, he debuted with the national team,

where he quickly became a fixture on the right wing with his pace,

talent on the ball and strong runs down the right flank.

His success with the national team swiftly drew the attention of

major European clubs, and in 2007 he moved to Borussia Dortmund.

Joined a few years later at Dortmund by Poland teammates Robert

Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek, Blaszczykowski helped power the

team to two consecutive Bundesliga titles, becoming a fan favorite

along the way.

He became Poland’s captain in 2010, and has emerged as the

squad’s undisputed on-field leader. When the momentum swings

against the team, he digs down and refuses to let his teammates

hang their heads, firing them up and pushing them forward.

Sometimes he just takes matters into his own hands, as he did

against Russia on Tuesday.

With Poland trailing 1-0, Blaszczykowski perfectly struck a

left-footed drive inside the far post from the edge of the box,

leveling the score and setting off a frenzy in the capacity crowd

of 55,000 at the National Stadium in Warsaw.

The whole country will be looking to him in Poland’s last Group

A match on Saturday against the Czech Republic. The Poles can

secure a place in the quarterfinals with a win.

But despite the success and adoration of millions of Poland and

Dortmund fans, the events of his childhood continue to cast a long

shadow on Blaszczykowski’s life.

His father died last month, and Blaszczykowski showed up late to

Poland’s Euro 2012 training camp in Austria to attend the funeral,

despite keeping a distance from his father since he left

prison.

”To people looking in from the outside, it looks like he has

everything. He has money, a nice car, he plays for a big club, he

has everything he could want,” Blaszczykowski said of himself.

”No, it’s not like that because the most important person in my

life isn’t here. I’ll be happy with my family and kids and

everything, but there will always be a scar on my heart.

”I’ve asked myself more than once, whether things would be

different if she were alive,” he added. ”I’d give everything for

that.”