Monday 13 May 2019, 20:24

Dudek: Poland is beautiful and unique

  • Jerzy Dudek hopes at least one goalkeeper will follow in his footsteps

  • The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid stopper says fans will enjoy Poland

  • The former Poland international also plans to be in the stands

Jerzy Dudek, the legendary Polish goalkeeper and ex-Concordia Knurow, Sokol Tychy, Feyenoord, Liverpool and Real Madrid stopper, has his fingers crossed for the youngsters who will be appearing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. The keeper, who became famous for the 'Dudek Dance' in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul, where he went on to save two AC Milan penalties, is banking on one of the goalkeepers at the U-20 tournament following suit.

The former international, capped 60 times by his country, spoke to about the upcoming tournament, his affection for Tychy, the story behind his disbelieving cousin and his packed upcoming schedule.

With kick-off in Poland just over a week away, Dudek is convinced it is worth attending in his homeland as there will be plenty to see both on and off the pitch.

“Whenever I say this, it sums Poland up: I’ve lived in Rotterdam, Liverpool and Madrid; after my career I could’ve lived anywhere in the world. But where do I live? In Krakow! Poland is beautiful and unique.

"We enjoy four seasons; the people are amazing and the country is flourishing. I know people looking in from the outside are subjected to stereotypes: Poland is just one of those countries in Eastern Europe, etc. But when they come here, they’re swept off their feet. That’s happened to a lot of my friends from abroad. None of them left disappointed, not one! I think it’ll be the same for those coming to watch the U-20 World Cup.”

First and foremost, Dudek is known throughout the football world for the 'Dudek Dance' and the way he shimmied along his line during that penalty shoot-out against Milan.

Jerzy Dudek of Liverpool faces Kaka of Milan

His unusual approach went down in footballing history. Would he like to see something similar during the tournament?

“It’d be really nice if we found somebody to emulate me! But, of course, every keeper has their own character, their own personality. It must suit the player and their personality, someone who wants to make their mark.

"I always say that during a penalty shoot-out, the goalkeeper has the upper hand because the pressure is on the taker. And if there’s something you can do to give yourself an edge, then it makes sense to do it. The 'Dudek Dance' really helped me. If it helps someone at Poland 2019, then that would be great.”

Stadion w Tychach

Tychy will play host to several matches at the U-20 World Cup, and it was there while playing for Sokol Tychy that Dudek made his debut in the Polish top-flight.

“It’s beautiful there now, they’ve got a brand-new ground and will host some U-20 World Cup matches. It’s a shame that it wasn’t like that when I was there. Anyway, I’ve nothing but fond memories from my time in Tychy. I remember everyone advised me not to move to Sokol Tychy.

"The team were bottom of the league midway into the season and staring relegation in the face. However, the coach at that time, Boguslaw Kaczmarek, was someone who put his faith in young players, so I felt I’d made a good decision.

"I was only there for six months, then I moved onto Feyenoord, but I remember those couple of months really well. That’s where I learnt my trade as a player and I hope during this competition, in Tychy especially, we’ll see some new stars emerge.”

Dudek hopes that the upcoming tournament will be full of emotion. After all, he is someone who knows about the ecstasy that can accompany big matches. He still remembers an anecdote involving his wife and a hospital after his Liverpool side beat AC Milan.

“After that match, my wife was at the hospital undergoing some tests. Her name was called: ‘Mrs. Dudek, room number 10.’ There was a man waiting next to her who asked if she had anything to do with me.

"When she said she did, the man said he was in hospital because of me. Due to all the excitement, he felt unwell and started suffering with chest pains. He did say it was worth it though!”

Jerzy Dudek celebrates with the trophy 

That final taught Dudek, or more precisely a family member, to never lose hope during a match. One of his cousins, annoyed that the Reds were losing 3-0 at half-time, switched off the television and went to bed.

“He got up in the morning and moaned about Liverpool losing in such fashion! That’s when others started to tell him: ‘Mate! What are you talking about?! Liverpool won!’ So, it was my cousin who had regrets that night,” recalls Dudek.

His schedule over the next few weeks looks jam-packed, but he has vowed to make an appearance at the U-20 World Cup.

“First, I’m flying to Azerbaijan for the UEFA Europa League final. Then I’m going to Madrid for the Champions League final. After that, I’ll fly out to Hong Kong for a Liverpool legends match against Borussia Dortmund, then I’m back in Spain to take part in a charity golf tournament organised by Pep Guardiola.

"However, I’ve left space in my diary to go and watch an U-20 World Cup match. I really am fascinated by this tournament!”