Newsdeck, Sport

Euro 2012: Poles seek to quell row over foreign-born players

By Reuters Sportsdesk 5 June 2012

Poland's French-born players Damien Perquis and Ludovic Obraniak on Tuesday played down reports of a split in their Euro 2012 squad, saying they felt integrated and at home despite speaking little or no Polish. By Patrick Graham.

There have been rumblings in recent months about coach Franciszek Smuda’s move to import a number of German and French-based players with connections to Poland into the national set-up.

Perquis and Obraniak were born in France and qualified to play for Poland through their grandparents.

At a news conference conducted mainly in French on Tuesday, Obraniak denied telling French sports magazine Surface that he felt uncomfortable in the Polish set-up and several players did not want him there.

“I’ve only learned about all this from you. I’m shocked and disgusted. I will say this once and that is it. I feel Polish and I like my team mates,” he said ahead of their Euro 2012 Group A opener against Greece on Friday.

Former Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, famous for denying England in World Cup qualifying at Wembley in 1973, said last month that he would not support a national side that contained “Germans and Frenchmen”.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

One Polish journalist at Tuesday’s briefing called for Obraniak, who speaks only a handful of words in Polish, to sing a part of the national anthem.

Another French-based player, former Wisla Krakow midfielder Dariusz Dudka, defended the inclusion of Obraniak, who played a friendly for France’s under-21s before opting to use his grandparents to qualify for Polish citizenship last year.

“It is not important whether you speak Polish or not, if you have a Polish passport then you can play,” said Dudka, who is now at Auxerre.

“I’m not surprised that he doesn’t speak Polish yet. I know how hard it was for me for the first two years in France and I had the language around me daily – Ludovic has it even harder.”

Dudka also called for Poles to get behind the national side.

“I have the feeling that some (Polish) fans are for us, some are a bit against us. Hopefully, when it comes down to the game (on Friday), everyone will stand behind us.” DM

Photo: Poland’s soccer team poses for a picture before their international friendly soccer match against Portugal at the National Stadium in Warsaw February 29, 2012. From L to R, top row are: Wojciech Szczesny, Damien Perquis, Ireneusz Jelen, Lukasz Piszczek, Dariusz Dudka and Jakub Wawrzyniak. Bottom row are: Eugen Polanski, Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, Marcin Wasilewski, Ludovic Obraniak and Maciej Rybus. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

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