Robert Lewandowski became Poland’s all-time top scorer, but before his debut his sports fan father died – The Sun
HE IS the greatest Polish footballer of all time and is preparing to lead his charge at Euro 2020.
But behind Robert Lewandowski’s remarkable achievement for club and country lies a heart-wrenching story.
The Bayern Munich striker, the top scorer in the history of his country with 66 goals, will have only one regret entering the pitch at Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg against Slovakia.
A year before Robert, 32, made his professional debut, his hero and sports-obsessed father passed away, missing the opportunity to see his son play professionally.
Krzysztof Lewandowski was well known for his sporting exploits in his native country.
In addition to being a judo champion in the 1970s, Krzysztof played second division football for Hutnik Warszawa.
And sport was the main focus of the Lewandowski family, with mother Iwona also a former professional volleyball player.
With such a legacy, it seemed inevitable that Robert would follow in his parents’ footsteps.
He caught the football bug at a young age, so Krzysztof happily accompanied his boy to Partyzant Leszno training sessions, spotting young Robert’s talent with a ball early on.
At the age of nine, Lewandowski was training with the local Varsovia Warszawa team, honing skills that would serve him well in the future.
Playing on hard, sandy, grassless pitches, the tight control he is now known for began to develop in the poor football conditions he was first introduced to.
And if the quality of the grass was lacking, the changing rooms were not better either.
Old, unheated barracks with shattered windows as he played through the cold winter months did not deter Robert’s will and determination to reach the top.
In less than seven years, he signed for Delta Warsaw – a Polish fifth-tier team known to be a direct player supplier to one of the country’s biggest teams, Legia Warsaw.
It was then that a 16-year-old “Lewy”, as his teammates called him, began to realize his potential.
The Legia scouts were impressed. His attitude and his appetite for the game allowed him to progress quickly.
He scored goals for fun, stood out from the crowd and rumors reverberated around the club that Legia was interested in signing him.
However, Robert’s world fell apart at a critical time when football was starting to become his career path.
In 2005, his father Krzysztof underwent potentially life-saving surgery, but the longtime cancer patient died just days after suffering a stroke.
Lewandowski said Bild: “His death was the most difficult time for me.
“So I was the man of the house and had to be an adult. The memory of my father always animates me. “
To ease the financial burden on his mother, the courageous Robert left the family home and moved into a small apartment with his sister Milena in Warsaw.
Everything he won with Delta, he shared with his mother and sister, who then made his dream come true by becoming a professional volleyball player.
Legia decided to give Lewandowski a one-year contract with their reserves, and he often trained with the first team.
But an increase in training levels, coupled with his then light frame, saw him struggle with injuries.
After a year, Legia decided to cut its losses. Lewandowski was released, without making his senior curtsy and his football ambitions appeared to be in tatters.
Desperate for a goalscorer, Third Division Znicz Pruszków gave Lewandowski another blow.
It was a decision for which both sides will always be grateful.
In his debut season, he put his injury issues aside to send his new team back to the second division – scoring 16 goals in 29 games in all competitions, at just 17 years old.
A year later, he was the top scorer in the Polish second division, finding the net 21 times in 32 league appearances.
It was bought by Lech Poznań for 1.5 million zlotys in 2008, the equivalent today of around £ 300,000.
Lewandowski was soon on his way, playing in Poland’s top league, Ekstraklasa.
The sad part is that his proud father Krzysztof was not there to watch his son become one of the most feared strikers in the world.
“After her death, I quickly had to become an adult,” Robert said in a candid interview on a Polish TV talk show hosted by Magda Molek in 2015.
“He always knew I would play overseas. He said that was why he gave me Robert’s name so that no one would misunderstand my name.
“I regretted several times that I had not told him about something, that I had not said something to him.
“I regret the most that he didn’t see my first senior game and can’t watch my matches live.
“However, I hope he despises me and helps me with all of this. I believe him.”