One of the volleyball stars awarded during the Alley, next to Spodek in Katowice, was Paweł Papke. “Papkin” recalled the times of his game, looking at the fans of Byalo-Chervoni and m. his field friend Sebastian Swiderski. Especially in “Wprost” we talked about volleyball in the past and here and now.
Five-time Polish champion with Mostostal Kendzierzyn-Kozle (today ZAKSA), an outstanding representative of the country, former president of the Polish Volleyball Association, today a member of the board of the volleyball federation. In addition, the account also has a political path.
Pavel Papke, because we are talking about him, feels good after the end of his sports career. On Thursday, before the match of the Polish national volleyball team with Germany, he imprinted his hand on the Alley of Volleyball Stars. Not far from Spodek in Katowice, the legendary site of the Polish volley, “Papkin” talked to Wprost.pl.
Maciej Piasecki (“Wprost”): Katowice and Spodek. First association?
Pavel Papke (former representative of Poland, member of the board of the PZPS): Inauguration of the World League, today called the League of Nations. Fantastic matches against very strong opponents. Serbs, Russians, Brazilians. The best groups. I remember hard, even fights, I don’t forget about defeats. Early 2000, Olympic qualification and that ill-fated match against Yugoslavia. That was 23 years ago, but I still remember it.
There were also beautiful moments in Spodek, in 2014 the success in the form of the world championship of my junior colleagues. We flew out in the semi-finals, and the final was a real madness. This object of Katowice will forever remain in our hearts and minds. And additionally in our arms and legs, because we also lost some of our health when we fought for a share in Spodek in Katowice.
During your game time, you have reached the elite. Today, the Polish national team is one of its members. Is there a slight envy towards younger teammates?
I envy you, but only positively. I am proud that once as a player, and now as a board member of the Polish Volleyball Association, we contribute together to further success. Results in volleyball don’t come out of nothing. A huge project of school volleyball centers turned out to be a great idea. This means that we have more players who play volleyball in Poland.
How many medals can you expect in 2023? Will the European Championships be of great importance or will all hands be ready for tickets to the Paris Olympics?
Indeed, qualification will be crucial this year. This will not be an easy tournament. However, you can get to Paris from the world ranking key, where we are now in first place. We hope to keep a place at least in the top three. Then the European Championship. This event will also be important, it has been so accepted for several years that in the case of men, we hope for a place on the podium. This medal is an additional strengthening of the position of Polish volleyball in the international arena.
Several of your fellow players have become coaches. However, professionally, do you prefer a jacket over a tracksuit?
For example, we talked with Michal Winiarski at the hotel, because he is now the de facto coach of the German national team. We exchanged a few remarks, once I also tried this difficult job of a coach. I was also involved in teaching children, but in the end I went in a slightly different direction, sports management. In addition, I was fascinated by the world of politics, and I feel good where I am. So I think it’s the jacket you mentioned. I focus on areas related to management.
And what emotions accompanied you during the Champions League final in Turin? In the past, Italian clubs have mostly pointed to the Polish place in the rankings.
This is truly an extraordinary thing. I remember when, for example, Sebastian Swiderski and I went to Italy as Mostostal players and regularly collected whips there. It was very difficult to defeat both the clubs from the Apennine Peninsula and the Italian team. The difference in levels then was very significant. Much has changed in the last two decades since then.
I think we can safely say that we have surpassed the Italians. Of course, I think about some aspects, matches that were recently won not by Italian, but by Polish teams. Although let’s remember that last year the Italians won the world title at Spodek in Katowice. Beating our team in the final. But we fight, doing our part of the job. Arranging this volleyball reality.
Moreover, it is no coincidence that so many important events take place in Poland. Fans can only rub their hands for events such as the Gentlemen’s League of Nations finals or the qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games.
Listening to your words, it seems to me that volleyball in Poland will succeed in the next two or three decades.
Maybe not so much!
It’s at least 15 years old.
Twenty more, I’d say. (laughter)
Within 15 to 20 years we won’t have to worry about this human material, disguised, selected and trained. This is due both to the MHPS and to the support of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, which invests heavily in volleyball. However, it should be remembered that the one who stands and does nothing begins to move backward. We draw conclusions, we also try to observe others, download successful examples.
Volleyball has also changed over the years. Surprisingly, at the turn of the century, it seemed that only giants at least 210 centimeters tall would dominate the competition. As you can see, Michal Kubiak and several other younger colleagues have shown that it is possible to do otherwise. The tactics, the speed of discipline have changed, but on the part of the fan and the organizer we are trying new solutions. Well, such is life, everything is ahead.
I have worked in the news industry for over 10 years. I have been an author at Daily News Hack for the past 1 year. I mostly cover sports news, but I also have a keen interest in current affairs and politics. In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis and spending time with my family.