Polish FA boss Lato quits

25 September 2012 07:47

Embattled former Poland star Grzegorz Lato on Tuesday said he would not run for a new term as boss of the country's PZPN football association in its looming election.

"I have today taken the decision to withdraw my candidacy for the post of president of the PZPN," Lato said in a press release.

"Everyone wants change, so they should be pleased with my decision.

"I believe that I must do this for the good of the PZPN and of Polish football," he added.

Lato's shock announcement came just seven hours before the expiry of a midnight deadline for would-be leaders of the PZPN to muster nominations ahead of the October 26 leadership vote.

Under the rules, candidates must drum up support either from members of the PZPN, its regional arms, or first and second-tier clubs, and Lato had reportedly seen a slump in support over recent weeks.

The withdrawal of 62-year-old Lato - leading scorer at the 1974 World Cup - sets up the prospect of a clash between two fellow former internationals for the leadership of the Polish game.

The biggest name is Zbigniew Boniek, 56, Lato's team-mate in the Poland squads that shone on the global stage in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Boniek is a popular media pundit in Poland. He is based in Italy, where he played for Juventus in the 1980s alongside French great Michel Platini, now head of UEFA, and with whom he still enjoys strong ties.

But he is expected to face a sturdy challenge from Roman Kosecki, 46, an international-turned-member of parliament.

A string of lower-profile candidates have also entered the race.

Long-suffering fans pining for a revival of the golden age were sorely disappointed when co-hosts Poland tumbled out in the group stage at Euro 2012.

Already facing claims of high-level corruption at the PZPN - which he denied fiercely and blamed on mudslinging - Lato faced down critics pushing him to quit over Poland's poor performance on the pitch at the European championships.

First elected in 2008, Lato had been seen as a new broom, and he insisted on Tuesday that he had always tried to do his best.

"During my term, I attempted to bring in a string of reforms and changes. I am convinced they will bear fruit in the future.

"I have left the PZPN in great financial shape, and I hope that my hard work for football won't fizzle out," he said.

Lato's election four years ago defused a bitter dispute between the Polish government and FIFA that began almost two years earlier.

The government had put the PZPN under administration after axing its board for failing to stem match-fixing.

But that fell foul of rules against political meddling in football, with FIFA threatening to ban Poland from international competition.

Source: AFP