While Team Poland have shown a real ability to find the net during their matches here in Cardiff at the Homeless World Cup, their performances have also been marked by their fair play.
And that was evidenced with the team receiving a FIFPRO Fair Play Award for their sportsmanship and camaraderie on the pitch while taking on Greece in the tournament.
Among their squad this year is Bartlomiej Partyka. Hailing from Kielce in south central Poland, the 25-year-old shared his sensations in representing his country and the effect that has had on him.
“Wearing the Poland top here has been the most beautiful thing in my life. The eagle on the badge, I have it in my heart. I have goosebumps just talking about it. I feel like a ‘wojownik’, a warrior,” he said.
And he can count on the support of those close to him every time he takes to the field, alongside those who would say unpleasant things to him during the dark period in his life when he was troubled by addiction.
“I was so proud and my family are so proud too. All my city are watching me. I was doing bad things in the past and people were talking bad about me, but I’ve changed my life and now those same people are watching me score goals for my country at the Homeless World Cup,” he said.
Having played at a high level before, the loss of his girlfriend sent Partyka on a downward spiral that culminated in him seeking therapy for his problems with the help of his family.
“I don’t want to go there again. I was sad and disappointed because I lost my girlfriend and I went into a deep hole. I decided to go for therapy and the main support was my family. And it was through therapy that I found out about the street soccer team,” he said.
Partyka began playing with the Polish Homeless National Streetsoccer Team Association, which uses sport to promote health, education, social inclusion, and encourage personal development for men and women in homeless facilities, rehabilitation centres, AA meetings, and anyone who is in danger of social exclusion.
And for someone who regards football as ‘his life’, Partyka has been able to channel his love for the game while in rehabilitation to stay clean, something he has managed for the past six months and hopes to continue to do so for the next six months too as he completes his year in therapy.
“I’m in therapy for one year and I’ve done six months already. I’m happy, I can’t go back there again. I’m clear. Football is the main thing in my life and has helped me with everything.
“I sleep with the ball,” he said with a smile.
And from his experience in Cardiff, regardless of how far Poland progress in the tournament, Partyka will return home to Kielce with memories that will last him a lifetime.
“I’m going to have awesome memories. I’ve taken loads of pictures of everything and with all the people here. It’s going to be in my heart forever,” he finished.
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski / Soda-Visual