For avid football fans in Lower Silesia, the derby between Śląsk Wrocław and Zagłębie Lubin is a lot more than just a football match.
Although not as well publicised as Cracovia vs Wisła, the Śląsk vs Zagłębie fixture is still one of the most explosive in Poland.
Both teams have a very interesting history packed with great players and loyal fans, as well as several twists and turns of fate. The derby regularly attracts higher than average crowds and fervent supporters of all social classes. Over the years there have been humiliating losses, intense and passionate matches, an away fan set on fire, several stolen banners and even shamed players who have had to face the wrath of the ultras following defeat.
It all began back in 1986 when, for the first time in Polish football history, the two teams played in the same division. The match ended 1:0 for Śląsk and since then the results have decided which fans have had the bragging rights in the Lower Silesia region.
The balance of power between the sides has shifted over the years, however it is Zagłębie who enjoy the better head-to-head record by slenderist of margins (15 wins to 14). Even so, since Śląsk returned to the top flight they have generally had the upper hand, and their 5-1 away win in 2012 came just a few months after they were crowned Polish champions.
When it comes to notable players, the WKS faithful will point towards the likes of Tadeusz Pawłowski and Ryszard Tarasiewicz – two loyal servants who have both played for and managed the club. Meanwhile fans of the English Premier League will be more familiar woth Leicester city's Marcin Wasiliewski, who made his debut with Śląsk, as well as former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who played for the club's youth team.
For Zagłębie, current Polish national team manager Adam Nawalka helped steer them to safety during the side's relegation threatened 2001/02 season. Another notable Lubin manager is Francziszek Zmuda, who propelled the team to win their second league title in 2007. As for former players, Lukasz Piszczek, who is currently playing for Borussia Dortmund, is one of the better known footballers who has plied his trade for Zagłębie.
The fierce rivalry between the fans in recent years has sparked several incidents in the stands frequented by ultras, events that have led to both clubs being constantly fined and supporters banned from away fixtures. Fans of each side have been found guilty of hurling pyrotechnics on the pitch, while Zagłębie "supporters" have been punished for trashing Stadion Wroclaw's toilets. Four years ago a Zagłębie fan even found himself momentarily in flames after a security guard fired pepper spray at the flare he he had been holiding.
Although the fans typically take aim at each other and get behind their team win, lose or, draw, there have been moments when the players faced the wrath of the ultras. One such incident took place as recently as this March, when after a 0-2 loss, a Śląsk Ultras figurehead demanded the players take off their shirts due to them not being worthy.
The last game between two sides took place in Wroclaw just a few days ago, when Śląsk fought from a goal down to win the game at the death. The match started off evenly with chances for both sides, however it was Zagłębie who opened the scoring in the 6th minute when Jarosław Kubicki took advantage of a goalkeeping clanger. The goal rattled the home team, who were fortunate to go into the break only one down.
However following half time Śląsk got their act together and eventually equalized in the 71st minute. The goal came from the totally unmarked Lasza Dvali, who appeared to be in an offside position at the far post when he knocked in a flick on from a free kick. Śląsk then got the winner they craved when Zagłębie’s keeper failed to come out for a cross, allowing Alvarinho to score and spark bedlam in the stands.
Although it is not the best derby in the world, this match-up undoubtedly represents the kind of pure football rivalry every that every true fan would look for. Time and time again the fixture generates interest and discussion before, during and after the game.
The history of this intense competition is still being written, and if you consider yourself a football fan, taking in this match is definitely one thing to put on your “to do list” during your stay in the region.