Jan Tomaszewski - professionalism and fair play - it is sport
Posted by Miłosz Rafał Horodyski
Jan Tomaszewski - the man who stopped England, former goalkeeper of the 'Gorski's Eagles' national representation, Member of the Polish Parliament, advocate of changes in Polish sport.
How do you understand the words 'the spirit of sport'?
Jan Tomaszewski: To fight to the last, to give one's all in every competition. The spirit of sport is the will to fight until the end, even if it's the 80th minute of a football match, we are outmatched and our vision's becoming too blurry due to the fatigue! It's also the ability to enjoy the success of other people, because today the successes of sportsmen are associated with those of the nations, regions or towns they represent. The spirit of sport is also the ability to admit that someone is better than us because they, e.g. tried harder to achieve success. It is a beautiful concept, but considering the fact that, for some players, sport has become a profession, sometimes the spirit of sport is lost in favor of the pursuit of money. Pathologies creep in, matches and fights are fixed.
The Greek philosopher Herodotus used to say that athletes do not compete for money, but for virtue. Since the dawn of time, players have been individualists; records have held no relevance, only individual development has mattered - both physical and spiritual. What has survived of this philosophy today?
Tomaszewski: Basically nothing. If baron Coubertin were to rise from his grave and see what's going on in sports today, he would have died of a heart attack. Sports used to complement the professional career, they were recreational, just as it was during the industrial era. Those times gave birth to the ideology that viewed sports as a way of development, both physical and spiritual. Nevertheless, for a long time sports have been the domain of amateurs - people who did not practise it professionally. Today, comprehensive scientific (not only medical) research has proven that it is possible - in sports - to achieve great results, results considered to be utopian for the human organism. Let me just mention the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who holds the current world record in the sprint discipline. In order to achieve such top scores, both him and other players had to fully devote themselves to training, i.e. become professionals, people who make their living as athletes and devote their lives to sport.
Are athletes capable of noticing this spiritual dimension? Can they succeed by focusing only on the physical aspect of things?
Tomaszewski: Certainly not! Let me explain using my own example. We succeeded only because there was someone like Kazimierz Gorski: an incredible coach and magnificent tutor on the one hand and a phenomenal psychologist on the other hand. Not only did he know that mental comfort can have a decisive influence on a player's condition, he also knew that it is vital to know how to reach, how to motivate and discipline each and every one of the players individually. There are no such coaches anymore. They are superseded by teams composed of psychologists, couching specialists and other motivation maestros.
How important is charisma in sport? Can any less attractive sports disciplines win over the crowds' hearts just because of a player's personality?
Tomaszewski: Without charisma there is nothing! Charisma makes the champion. This can be compared only to a situation where a common man, influenced by a dramatic event in his life, is capable of lifting a car or rescuing several people from the fire. On one hand, this is talent, the God's spark that makes a player feel better at a particular discipline.. he just has a flair for it. And on the other hand, there must be charisma that makes the player give one's all, and if one runs out of strength, the player just reaches for one's 'emergency reserve'.
Do you have to be a special kind of athlete to be able to establish a spiritual bond with supporters? There are players who do not achieve spectacular results, but they still manage to arouse emotions among supporters.
Tomaszewski: A sport event is not a theatrical play or a movie. There is no place for faking. Sport means authentic emotions. Those are the emotions that cement the bond between a given player and the supporters. The player stands before the public which must respect him and is respected by him. It is a special relationship that is based on faith in success, in overcoming oneself, in setting a record. The player must do one's utmost, because this is what the supporters expect and this is what they love the player for. The player tries to overcome his weaknesses, while the supporters... they support the player in this.
Can contemporary sports, which are supported by big money, still be referred to as fair play rivalry?
Tomaszewski: I once heard the following saying: 'Each play is based on rules which must exclude roguery and lies. The fact that others cheat does not mean that I can cheat as well'. This is especially valid today, when on one hand we all see the pathology in Polish sports, especially in the Polish Football Association; and on the other hand, we see splendid achievements of the Polish volleyball players, or Miss Agnieszka Radwanska. This cancer of corruption that eats away at Polish sports is not only a slap in the face for sport fans who - as the Euro 2012 has shown - still believe in Polish players, but also a blow for honest players who devote their whole lives to achieve results in a fair, I repeat FAIR, sports rivalry. Because this is exactly what ethics in sport are all about. They are a road sign that says you can achieve success through honest and hard work. If someone treats sports as a way to grab a quick and easy buck, you know that it's contrary to the ethical approach.
'The sport world should exemplify the highest values - such as sport, youth, competition and fair play!' These are the words of Prime Minister Mario Monti, spoken after the Italian corruption scandal. Do you share his views?
Tomaszewski: I support these views wholeheartedly, wishing for the Polish prime minister to have the courage to publicly say such words, addressing them to the Polish Football Association. See how Poland looks next to what is happening in Italy. The police extracted one of the players directly from the training camp. Many famous people were arrested. Prime minister Monti even said that the Italian league should be suspended for two or three years. Compare that with us. Around 600 people were charged: observers, judges, club activists, trainers, including a former national representation selector; players, some of them were even arrested; 52 football clubs were involved in the corruption procedure... and everything is still the same as it was then! Even worse, a player with an effective court judgment goes on to represent our country during Euro 2012. No one has the courage to deal with this pathology!
Monti was reminded that by taking on such a radical position, he proves to be an ignoramus, because professional football generates more than €800 million per year for the national budget. So, suspension of plays would be a huge loss for the state.
Tomaszewski: But no one claims that football there is based on a sound, business model, unlike here. Some time ago, I talked to the president of Manchester United and I asked him upfront: 'Why does David Beckham earn L70 thousand per week?' He replied: 'Because my profit and loss account says I can! Although I would prefer Beckham to earn L150 thousand, 'cause then my profits would be even bigger as well!'. Why is that? Because footballers' salaries are a derivative of the whole company's profits. For example, FC Barcelona earns ca. €500 million, where 1/5th comes from marketing activities. So it's not surprising that football players receive approximately €300 million in salaries, because this is earned profit! Compare that with us. Salaries are completely inappropriate to income from sports activity! We burn through all of our profits and have nothing left! What's worse, if we were to sum it all up, all the earnings and bonuses added together would exceed the whole budget by 30%. So we either run at a loss or we steal! Because all our sports club are debt-laden. All over the world the salaries are just 30% of the budget. Here, it's 130%. This is unethical. Athletes profit from advertisements, but it's OK, since it is beneficial both for the athletes and business people. Sports, especially football, arouse intense emotions, they draw in masses of viewers and for business this is the cheapest form of advertising, especially compared to the amounts they would have to spend on advertising spots, air time, press ads. Athletes, on the other hand, especially today, must make use of advertising money, because this makes this sport rise onto the highest level. You know that today it's not a hundredth of a second that decides the result, but a thousandth. Competitors are watched over not only by a team of trainers, but also by crowds of people who take care of the technical aspects, watch the competitors' physical condition, mental form, work on optimizing their efforts, regeneration, etc. This generates costs, but it is needed. It's a healthy arrangement based on reciprocal benefits, and the business understands it. That's why the head of the Polish Canal+ branch called for a quick cleansing of the corrupted environment, punishing of the guilty and rejuvenation of the Polish football, because they know that honest business can be conducted based on healthy and clear rules - they know there is no other way.
In your opinion, is corruption the thing that nowadays stands the most in contradiction to sports ethics?
Tomaszewski: Even in everyday language the expression 'fair play' has become quite common. It's used not only to describe the conduct on the pitch or running track, but also the attitude towards other people. It's nothing else than showing respect for others and respecting the spirit of sport. When somebody fouls on the pitch, we say he doesn't play 'fair'. But it's not only about physical or verbal aggression, because an athlete can also receive a red card for loutish behavior. It's about being honest. An honest player relies on oneself, not on doping or match fixing. An honest player wouldn't go on the pitch knowing that one has an effective judgment for corruption. Because what is he trying to show by doing this? That he doesn't give a damn about legally valid sentences, because in sport they do not matter! But authorities do not play 'fair' either, because they legitimize inviting football players that have lost a match to high-life parties, congratulating them. It's not fair to our volleyball players who, having won the world cup, only received a congratulatory letter. Let me say this again: you can't talk about fair play without fighting against fraud and corruption. The world is laughing at us! UEFA fights racism at stadiums, you can see the slogan 'respect' everywhere; and yet we have a condemned man, who should never enter the pitch after being sentenced, playing in our team. Note that after the corruption scandal in Italy, FIFA employed a special prosecutor to fight with corruption, the one who had pressed war crime charges against Muammar Gaddafi and the president of Sudan. It proves how seriously corruption in sport is dealt with worldwide. Because it's clear there that pathology breeds pathology. This is why business trusts sports over there, because business knows that the government cares about transparency in everything.
And does such a marriage of sports and business fall into ethical categories at all?
Tomaszewski: Let me give you an example. The Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala can afford to pay Samuel Eto'o, four-time African Player of the Year who previously played in FC Barcelona and Internazionale, €20.5 million a year. Why? Because a petrol tycoon from Dagestan, listed on the Forbes' World Billionaires list, invested in the club. With his help the team, previously representing the 'Dagnieftieprodukt' factory, now plays in the Russian Premier League. And it's not like in Poland where promotion is a result of matches being bought. On the contrary - they invest in players, hence the results. Success in sport is now almost impossible without money, because sport has become more professional. What counts are the thousandths of seconds, they determine the result. Back in the day, trainers taught players to follow their noses. Now you can only catch a cold with your nose. There's no such thing as good luck in sports, in the sense of a stroke of luck, unless we're talking about amateur leagues. Only the best ones have a chance to achieve success without fraud of doping. But nobody can become the best trainee through only a couple of hours of practice a day. It's sustained work. It's not just, like in Radwanska's case, five hours a day on the court, but it's also about what happens outside of it. It's about constantly working on oneself, on maintaining discipline. All kinds of it: dietary, condition, mental and physical. The player is examined before, during and after training. Appropriate recuperation, regeneration and nutrition is applied. In fact, training consists also of the remaining 19 hours the player spends out of the pitch, court, or track, making decisions about when to eat or go to sleep, when and how to relax. If the athlete lets oneself go even for a minute - defeat is assured. But to be able to work on oneself, the player needs a team of people and that costs a lot, so a sponsor is needed.
Is the following scenario possible in Poland: a company finds a young, promising, unknown athlete, signs a long-term sponsoring contract with the athlete, invests in the athlete's development, so that when he or she achieves success, the company will be able to make a profit from it? Can we create stars?
Tomaszewski: No, it's still impossible in this country. And it is, paradoxically, because of the pathology, mainly in Polish football because it infects the whole system, because the benefits go to football officials, not the players. In other countries, it's totally different. When Ronaldo was 10, he was scouted by the two biggest clubs in Madeira. Not only was Messi discovered by FC Barcelona as a child, but they also paid for his costly treatment to save his talent from illness. And in Poland? We have small football pitches and there's already a problem with how to make them be used by people. These pitches are the place to look for talents. But how is it that the Polish Football Association, which should be interested in looking for these football diamonds, is not doing anything about it? I've already raised this issue, and I became public enemy number one when I admitted that I wouldn't support Smuda's and Lato's team. I wanted to stigmatize the system that makes such wonderful talents as Mirek Klose or Lukasz Podolski go abroad in search of the possibility of a career, because in Poland probably nobody would have backed them. Years ago, I played with Mirek's father, Jozek Klose, in the Polish league; we were rivals, but we also sympathized with each other. I know that if Jozek hadn't left the country, his son would now be hanging around in the third league. The same with Lukasz Podolski who said that even though he's German, he wanted to play in Gornik Zabrze by the end of his career, because he feels he's Polish inside. But he wouldn't have made a career here! That's why I'm asking: how can we explain to young people that they should invest in themselves, when they see that Polish football officials prefer to look for players in France instead on our own pitches? Another example from a different discipline: Klimek Muranka. A couple of years back he was acknowledged as an outstanding talent in ski jumping. And what happened? Why isn't he now the second Małysz? What went wrong? I'm sure that if he were in Germany or Norway, he would now be a top jumper.
Do people in Poland understand the importance of physical education in terms of well-balanced mental and physical development?
Tomaszewski: Not at all! It's a pathology! If we do not have money for physical education now, it means that in future teenagers will have bad habits. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Bad habits in physical movement are very difficult to eliminate and this affects the whole life. In the German Democratic Republic, though they overdid things, a 'sportsman factory' project was implemented, they taught physical education from the early years - this had its effects. Anyway, the sooner you teach a young person how to practice sport, the sooner he or she will have results. In the past, children started playing football when they were 12 years old; now they start at 7. It's not only about raising future teams, it's also about finding the talents who could become the aces of sport.
So the marriage of Polish business and sport doesn't have a bright future ahead of it?
Tomaszewski: Supporters will verify that when our football players raise our hopes again and then fail to get promoted to another championships. Maybe someone will finally use their head! Everything depends on the final result and the players' attitude on the football field. We do have the best supporters in the world. See the volleyball, basketball or tennis supporters. See how they can support the players. How they identify with this sporting competition. It were the Polish supporters in Germany in 2006 who were awarded for the most splendid attitude on the field. Because the Polish people love sports. But in order to make this love reciprocal and have it translated into good sport results, we need cleansing.
But the cleansing should take place also among the supporters, so there won't be any more of such brawls as we witnessed during the Euro...
Tomaszewski: Actually, this is a problem that should be narrowed down to ca. 2 thousand thugs. The Polish and German Police have just eliminated this rotten part from the supporting community and suddenly the Polish football supporters were able to show the world their true image. The award-winning image, as I mentioned. Another example are the supporters' 'fan zones' during the Euro and the excellent fun people had there. I call for those 'zones' to be organized during the World Championship in Brazil as well. One should remember that sport is also a cultural activity that enriches the society and strengthens friendship between nations. When it is fair, it allows people to get to know each other better, to express their own personality, to fulfill and develop oneself, to acquire new skills and display one's abilities. Not to mention health and good physical and mental condition. What's more, sport allows people to become famous. It creates certain models that are then transferred onto other areas of life. Those athletes who finished their sporting careers and have a flair for business, end up as business people, and their names which they earned through their sport achievements, become their brand names. If they had fought fair for success throughout their entire life, you know you can do honest business with them. It's enough to mention the examples of Czeslaw Lange and Zbigniew Boniek who, thanks to their international success, have become almost like institutions; this provides them the opportunity to easily reach every environment: business, politics, art. But when business enters sport, it also takes on an obligation, because who you are and how you make business affects the way the team you owe is seen. Let me say perversely that if Chodorkowski had at the right moment invested in sport, let's say bought Manchester United, he might have been enjoying freedom now. Sport provides the opportunity to become a citizen of the world. Who knew anything about Abramowicz before he bought Chelsea London? Three years before that he had become the governor of Chukotka and if he hadn't become known in sport, he would still be associated with it. But he invested, made the club into one of the best ones in Europe and for two years was a global celebrity, on the whole world's lips.
But doesn't business bring with it the bad models, the rat race, fighting for becoming the best one, to sport? John Paul II once said 'We're all concerned with the degeneration in sport, disgracing high ideals, which can be the carrier of and which fascinate millions of people. Sport cannot be the aim in itself and come down only to the pursuit of results, because it would then lose the real human kindness from sight'.
Tomaszewski: These words should be memorized not only by each Polish Football Association member, but also by the Minister of Sport and every politician who wants to do something with sport. It's true, but in Poland, let me say that again, it's not the pursuit of profit that is the greatest problem, but profiting from corruptive arrangements in sports and the fact that nobody wants to do something with it! Introduce an inspector, assess the football authorities, remove them from power and choose managers who would be able to heal the system, put them on the right, honest, but at the same time commercial, free- market tracks. Nowadays, 70 percent of the football association's budget is wasted on wages, bonuses, and awards. Regional Football Associations are not taking care of their own business, because it's not managers who run them. Such changes were introduced eight years ago in Russia where Putin broke the football association up and things started being normal. It's important because sports are our flagship in the world. In the past the sound of the Polish language on Italian streets would bring about one reaction: Deyna. It's like when we meet an Argentinian now, we say: Messi. Sport is a filter through which we look at other nations and what do we think now when we say Lato, Krecina, and Polish Football Association? When we talk about the players who are the weakest in the whole cup!? It's strange, but we cannot build an image based on positive models by ourselves. The media talk about our volleyball players and Radwanska less often than about Smuda and Lato's representation! And it's Radwanska who should be our flagship.
Agnieszka Radwanska is also an example of a sportsperson who has her own views and isn't afraid to manifest them. Because that's what sportspeople are made for, to become legends! Because people need this. Kazimierz Gorski is one such example; he became a living legend. He was and I think that for many years he will remain an example to follow for people. That's what sport is all about, to be the people's lodestar. It's natural that not everybody is talented in some field, not persistent or hard working enough. But sitting in front of the TV, watching Justyna Kowalczyk or Adam Malysz you feel proud, proud of being Polish. You identify with them, with their success. People were going to the ends of the earth for Malysz, to support him. They were standing in freezing weather for hours to see him win. Sports gives this pride, the feeling of dignity, the joy. Provided that it's true sport, where the result is based on talent and one's own hard work.
July 27, 2012
Photos by Waldemar Kompała