Classic Encounters Matches South Poland Stadiums

KS Okocimski Brzesko v Beskid Andrychow

Date: 8 June 2023 / League: Polish sixth tier

Final Score: 0-6 / Attendance: approx. 300


I’ll be straight, it wasn’t until 2019 I first heard of Okocimsko Brzesko, and even then it took a major crowd disturbance to bring them to my attention. That time around, they and their mates from Unia Tarnow (a friendship that has since been dissolved) engaged in a lively game of tickle with visiting chaps from Tarnovia Tarnow (for someone else’s vid, CLICK ME!). Yet it wasn’t these theatrical scenes that grabbed me, but rather my snatched glimpses of the stadium all around – it looked like something of a treasure.

On my radar ever since, I finally got the chance to visit on Thursday. As it turns out, this was not the best time to travel. Upon reaching the town – a 50 minute journey heading east from Krakow – I arrived several hours early, keenly motivated by the opportunity to drink the town’s best-known export: Okocim lager (yep, a macro beer, but how bad could it be if sampled at source?). Sadly, I would not find out.

Wandering the town, I was alarmed to find pretty much everything bolted shut – of course, whilst I knew it was a national holiday in Poland, I had forgotten how the tertiary towns tended to lockdown for such dates.

Still, I mused, it was touching to see how many of the local children seemed to have taken up martial arts – everywhere I looked, an adult guardian could be seen dutifully leading a child smartly attired in a karate combat outfit. Wow, I thought, Cobra Kai has really had an impact. Only later did I put two and two together and realise the kids were actually geared out as choirboys for the occasion of Corpus Christi. Doh.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of pointlessly meandering about the town I did discover an open bar, a place steeped in shadow and trading under the deceptive name of Malibu. In its dark recesses, a couple of barflies held court alongside a withered palm tree that had died around two decades back. Strangely, I loved it, in fact, I got so carried away that I nearly missed kick-off.

Making the ground with minutes to spare, it did not disappoint. Accessed through a retro metallic gateway, this 3,000-seater was built in 1936 on land donated by the owner of the local brewery. During wartime, the greying clubhouse that stands just ahead of the entrance was used by the Germans to store potatoes for the military.

This, though, was but one element of the jigsaw. Running down the side, the sections reserved for home fans present themselves in higgledy-piggledy fashion – weathered blue seats slapped onto uneven turf, a plastic temporary stand, a wooden watchtower for the PA, and a main tribune cleaved from stone. Tumbling down on these, a cascade of greenery from the forest right behind.  

Achingly picturesque, the setting would assume an almost ethereal quality once the pyro began – with smoke drifting from the treetops, it was akin to being cast into the pages of the Victorian fairy fantasies of Arthur Rackham.

Amazingly, this was not the stadium’s chief, crowning glory. For that, refer to a 12-seater stand perched upon a hill overlooking the pitch. Topped with a leaking sheet of rust, it’s possibly the best stand I’ve seen in all my Polish travels.

And so, it was to this joyful backdrop that I settled in for football. Andrychow, whose fans had billed this game as their ‘trip of the season’, had packed out a long but narrow away end with 130 fans, and they roared their team forward with a near constant wall of noise. Four-nil up at half-time, I suspect that it was only an order to “go easy on them in the second” that stopped a cricket score from amassing.  

This was men against boys, and I mean that in the most literal sense. With the home team in a financial tailspin, their side was filled with callow youths – the goalie had the number 12 inscribed on his jersey, and that could have easily been mistaken as a reference to his age. Even so, having been relegated a long time back (as I write this, they look set to finish the season 30 points adrift of safety), Brzesko put in a plucky performance against a vastly superior side.

And on this note, the home side’s fans surely merit recognition. The racket made by the travelling fans was matched by the 70 or so home ultras with the second half marked by hearty shows of pyro from both sets of supporters. To see this all unfold in such a scenic setting was simply staggering to see – there’s just not one thing I’d alter about this memorable day out.  

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