Polanski latest pick for Euro hosts Poland

26 July 2011 06:00

Polish-born former German youth international Eugen Polanski has become the latest foreign name in Euro 2012 hosts Poland's squad, as embattled manager Franciszek Smuda seeks new faces.

Tuesday's decision to call up Polanski, 25, for an August 10 home friendly against Georgia is controversial because until recently he showed no interest in playing for the land of his birth.

Smuda's decision reportedly has divided the rest of his squad, some of whom already question his tactical choices and allegedly erratic player-naming policy.

"Smuda picks Polanski and splits his team," headlined the tabloid Fakt.

With Poland failing to shine in the run-up to the 2012 European Championships -- which they will co-host with neighbours Ukraine -- their PZPN football association has been scouting for new faces in the world's huge Polish diaspora.

For Michal Zachodny, author of the respected blog "Polish Football Scout", Polanski will struggle to convince.

"He is too weak for Germany, despite playing 19 games for U21. Polanski doesn't have too many fans in Poland. If any," Zachodny said on his Twitter feed.

Defensive midfielder Polanski, who plays for Bundesliga side Mainz, was born in 1986 in Silesia, southern Poland's industrial hub which is home to a large ethnic-German minority.

His family emigrated when he was three years old.

Polanski's career started at Borussia Monchengladbach. He spent the 2008-9 season with Spain's Getafe, before signing to Mainz.

He also captained Germany's Under-21, but has not featured in the senior side -- something commentators have said may have made up his mind when Poland came calling.

Football's world governing body FIFA allows youth internationals to switch country relatively easily. Polanski holds Polish citizenship having been born here.

Historical sensitivities abound when it comes to picking players from Germany.

Tensions among Silesians -- whose German or Polish identity is not always hard and fast -- have often been high in the past.

One reason is bitter memories of Germany's bloody World War II occupation, which even affected football because the Nazis banned Poles from playing but let Silesians who declared themselves German continue.

Silesians have moved westwards for decades, notably in the years before the fall of Poland's communist regime in 1989, when special rules enabled them to cross the Iron Curtain and get German citizenship.

Polish football's "Silesian that got away" is Germany and Cologne striker Lukas Podolski, born in 1985 and who emigrated as a two-year-old.

The PZPN began casting the net abroad after criticism for losing the likes of Podolski, given the brush-off when he asked about donning a Poland shirt after shining as a Germany teenager.

Before Polanski, the PZPN's most recent German catch was Werder Bremen defender Sebastian Boenisch, born in 1987 and who also emigrated as a boy.

The former Germany Under-21 made his Poland debut in September 2010, but has been sidelined by injury.

Smuda's squad also includes French-born midfielder Ludovic Obraniak, whose grandparents were Polish emigrants, making him eligible for citizenship without living here.

Now 26, he was first capped by Poland in 2009. He has worn the red and white shirt 16 times, and scored four goals.

Source: AFP