The Krakow Tigers American-football team is entering its second season looking for players it hopes will help it avoid the lopsided losses it suffered in its first year.
Michal Truszkowski, the Tigers? president and head coach, played football when he studied in the U.S. for awhile.
When I came back after my scholarship ran out, I couldn?t live without it,? he said. ?There was no club in Krakow so I teamed up with a dozen enthusiasts like me,? to field a team.
On a Saturday morning, more than 30 men gather at one of the TS Wisla fields to stretch, do endurance and strength exercises and then work on tactics. They are divided into groups based on their skills and the positions they play.
Some don?t have all the equipment they need, but that doesn?t stop them from banging heads.
Just a few meters away, on the other side of a fence, 10-year-old from Wisla and Cracovia academies are engaged in a small holy war.
Truszkowski said the men who at the practice are only half the team. Many players could not come because of work.
The bulk of the Tigers? squad is students. A few players from the United States, Canada and Germany are also on the team. Truszkowski says he?s looking for more good players. Anyone with an interest can contact him.
He also said he?d like to strenghten the coaching staff with an assistant from America.
The Tigers formed in February 2006. Two months later they were training in the Blonia area, where 100 years ago Poland?s two oldest Polish soccer teams were created.
The Tigers started with just 12 players but each week more joined. In May they took part in a four-team tournament against other new teams from Poznan, Wrocla w and Katowice.
In autumn the Polish American Football League was formed, with teams from Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Wroclaw.
The Warsaw Eagles, at eight years old the most experienced team, won all their matches to claim the first championship.
In spring 2007 the Tigers and four other teams joined the league — the Silesia Miners, Husaria Szczecin Husaria, Wroclaw Devils and Poznan Kozly.
The Silesia Miners spanked the Tigers 58-0 in Krakow?s first preseason game. However, they didn?t give up.
And when they played their first league match, also against the Miners, they got on the scoreboard, although losing 50-6.
About 700 fans came to Juvenia Stadium, where Krakow?s rugby team plays, to watch the Tigers. Running Back Mieszko Labuz scored the historic touchdown for the home side with a 40-yard run..
In their next game, away to the Miners, the Tigers made more progress, losing 49-12.
Truszkowski believes the players will make steady progress, but they face a very hard task in the next round. On May 27, they go to Warsaw to play the reigning champions.
Krakow fans will have another chance to see them on June 24, when the Tigers host Szczecin?s Husaria.
Even though American football is a curiosity rather than a mainline sport such as soccer, volleyball, basketball or speedway racing, Truszkowski believes it has huge potential.
?Last year there were just four teams in the league — now it?s nine,? he pointed out. ??Next year it may be even 15. This is a very spectacular game and people love it. I receive many phone calls, people asking about football. There are also more and more companies interested in it? as potential sponsors.
He said sponsors are needed. The marketing company Idea4net is helping the Tigers.
??We don?t want to earn any money from playing,? he said. ??I love this sport — the guys all do. We just have to cover some basic expenses, such as equipment, buses and water for the players.?
He thinks sponsorships will flourish if the sport continues its development.
Higher marketing budgets will help make football gain more news-organization attention and more fans.
It took 30 years for football to develop in Germany. The country?s American Football Association now boasts teams with a total of 25,000 players. A big U.S. sports network will cover this year?s league final.
Contact the Krakow Tigers:
Tel.: (0) 605 236-466; or,
Club?s web site:
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