A Pole is treated like a king in Turkey. His wife has a private chauffeur

In Turkey, I failed at the foreigners’ limit. During the season, the coach had to put Turek in goal and as a result I went to the bench – explains Rafał Gikiewicz. The veteran returned to Poland and joined Widzew Łódź.

Rafał Gikiewicz returned to Poland after an 11-year break. At that time, he already had a complete set of national trophies on his CV, because with Jagiellonia Białystok he won the Polish Cup (2010), and with Śląsk Wrocław he won the championship (2012) and the Polish Super Cup (2012). However, he was not the main character of his teams, and he left Silesia amid a scandal.

It was only in Germany, where he spent 10 years, that he earned the status of a great goalkeeper. In the colors of Eintracht Braunschweig, Union Berlin and FC Augsburg, he was a leading goalkeeper, first in the 2nd Bundesliga, and then in the German Premier League. Last summer he moved to Ankaragucu, but after one round in Turkey, he decided to change his surroundings and joined Widzew.

Dariusz Tuzimek: You returned to the Ekstraklasa after eleven years. What was that experience like? Please admit, were you nervous before the match against ŁKS, which you won 2-0?

Rafał Gikiewicz , goalkeeper of Widzew Łódź: I was happy like a child because you have to be a bit lucky to make your debut for Widzew right away in the Łódź derby. And winning ones at that. I must admit that it’s nice to make my debut in such an atmosphere, with the stands filled to the brim.

This is a question for Widzew’s goalkeeper coach, Andrzej Woźniak, but personally, I don’t think I’m “rusty” in Turkey. Because I trained hard there, but I didn’t play. I could have stayed there, continued to cancel the contract, but also often sat on the bench. And that’s what didn’t suit me, I preferred to play. However, anyone who knows me knows that when I don’t play, I work twice as hard in training to make up for what I miss in matches. So I don’t feel like I’m “rusty”.

Why was your adventure in Ankagucu unsuccessful? I still remember those photos from your Instagram, with the Turks taking you around the capital in a limousine like a king. One could get the impression that they had brought a star from the Bundesliga and would treat him like a star. What went wrong?

Well, they said goodbye to me like a king! The wife, who stayed in Ankara with the children, still has a chauffeur at her disposal, and the club declares to help her in any matter. I was a bit disappointed with the limit of foreigners because, in the Turkish league, there are only eight foreigners on the team. When we started the season, I played in goal and three Turks played in the field. But during the competition, these local players got injured and it became a problem. The coach had to stuff Turk into the goal and as a result, I went to the bench. Well, I had to take it on the chin. But I do not regret this trip to Turkey. Because it was great to live there, Ankara is a great city, I met a lot of wonderful people. And the children went to a very good German school, which was also very important to me.

You managed to complete only three training sessions with Widzew before the Łódź derby, but coach Daniel Myśliwiec, when asked about your integration with the team, replied that it was as if you had been in the team for at least half a year. Have you learned your friends’ names yet?

Yes, there is no problem with the names of colleagues anymore. And I actually walked into that locker room as if I had known this group of people for a long time. I’m glad the coach sees it that way too. The most important thing is that we understand each other well with our teammates, not only in the locker room, but also on the pitch.

I saw that before going to the break in the match against ŁKS, you approached the coach and talked about something for a long time. Can you tell me what it’s about?

We talked about how to play the ball from the back, as I see it, from my perspective. I proposed something – without going into details – to the coach, because he is the boss here, and if anyone has any ideas, they must have his consent. I just took advantage of the break to discuss this idea.

So it didn’t apply to the situation when, after going for the top ball, you fell on Husein Balić’s head with your studs? I mention this because the day before, Gabriel Kobylak from Radomiak was sent off with a red card because he hit a Pogoń Szczecin player in the jaw with his knee. Were you not afraid that it might end similarly here and that you would get a red card?

For me, these were not the same situations. If I were sent off for this intervention, it would be a scandal. I went for the top ball and had no control over where my opponent was. This stepping on was accidental. I tried not to hurt my opponent, and when I saw that blood was coming from his head, I immediately kicked the ball out of bounds and called ŁKS medics.

You said in the club media that you chose Widzew because you focused on history and tradition. Was that important to you?

Of course. Widzew is a company in Polish football. Interestingly, it has the same colors as Union Berlin, where I had a very good time. The fact that all Widzew home matches are sold out is also impressive. It makes me want to play here. I feel the tradition and history here because Widzew had great players in the past.

Rafał GikiewiczRafał Gikiewicz in the colors of Widzew Łódź / photo: PAP / Marian Zubrzycki

Before you appeared in Widzew, the Polish media reported that you were close to reaching an agreement with Wisła Kraków. The White Star is also a tradition and history of Polish football.

I talked to the president of Wisła Kraków, but I was absolutely honest. I told him that Widzew was my priority and only if I didn’t reach an agreement in Łódź, could I consider an offer in Kraków. Earlier, I gave my word to Widzew’s sports director, Tomasz Wichniarek, that I would show up for talks without any preliminary agreements or other such conditions, and I kept that word.

After the match against ŁKS, the cameras showed you approaching Jordi Sanchez and pointing at his head. Was it about your friend scoring a beautiful goal with a header?

I noticed that Jordi was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get many passes into the box in the first half. During the break, I told him not to get discouraged, to be patient and vigilant, because the opportunity will she come. So after the game, we joked about his golden head.

Television cameras showed that your “double” was sitting in the stands of the Widzew stadium. Did you have a chance to meet him after the match? What opinions did he have about your performance, because the “double” is also – like you – famous for his sharp tongue.

My brother Łukasz lives in Warsaw now, so it’s close to Łódź. We talked after the match about how the match went because he’s not a goalkeeper to judge my play. I am happy about this meeting because I haven’t seen my brother for a long time. We had a nice discussion, so as you can see there is a connection, even though he is an “Ełkaesiak” because he played for this club, and I am a Widzewian.

After the transfer to Widzew, you proudly announced that you did not come to Łódź to cut coupons. What does this mean to you?

In Poland, all older players are blamed for their age and sent to retirement. I am 36 years old and I feel good, I have the strength and energy to play football for Widzew, not cut off coupons. I’m ready for sporting challenges, I want to play and win as often as possible, because I think it’s clear to everyone that I didn’t come here for the money because you earn much more abroad.

There was a joke in Liga+ Extra that called Rafał Gikiewicz had already been turned on in the Widzew locker room and was broadcasting all the time. Guys want to listen to such a “grandpa”?

So far, no one is complaining that the “radio” is on. I can’t reveal the details of our locker room, but this “radio” has only advantages. My role is not only to talk, but also t take the pressure off my younger colleagues. I also know from my own experience how to behave when the team is going through difficult times. And I want to share this experience. As far as I know, the idea of ​​the presidents apresidentrts director at Widzew was for me to play an important role in the team and in the lockeoom. There can’t be only good boys sitting there, because we also need some people who will speak up when necessary. Bartek Pawłowski, also an experienced footballer who speaks in the locker room, plays a similar role in Widzew.

When you played in Germany, your social media profiles were often full of emotions. Will it be the same after returning to Poland, or will the club put a small lock on the mouth of its new goalkeeper?

I don’t think I’ve changed radically at the age of 36. I also know what I should and should not say. The club only asked me not to participate in the media until the derby match, because I had to concentrate on the task at hand, which was defeating ŁKS. And then we had four defeats in a row and it was necessary to stop this series. Of course, I have to focus on playing, but the media and the whole social media environment are necessary. This stimulates interest in football. I will answer this question briefly: I will be myself.

I noticed that in the post-match interview for Canal+ when you greeted your wife and sons, you had a tear in your eye. The family stayed in Turkey, it is obvious that you are deeply affected by this separation.

This is the only negative aspect of my move to Łódź. We have been together everywhere for fifteen years, and now I am in Poland and my family is in Turkey. The issue of children’s education forced us to do this. There is no strictly German school in Łódź, the closest one is in Warsaw. But it would make no sense if they moved to Poland, but instead of living with me, they would live in Warsaw, so we would be separated anyway. We have to endure this until the end of the season. I will go to them when there is a break in the league, and at Easter they will co, me to me because there is a break at school. However, the fact that I am here alone also has its advantages. I can focus more on Widzew, on additional training, and on better-regained energy.

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