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the irresistible rise of RKS Raków Częstochowa

A dazzling progression. RKS Raków Częstochowa is the story of a small club that never stops growing and surprising in Poland. So much so that he now intends to make a name for himself on the European scene, at a time when the first leg of a double confrontation against FK Astana (2nd preliminary round of the Europa League Conference) is looming this Thursday ( 5 p.m.). Nothing, however, necessarily let predict such success for this small team from a district of a city located 200 km from the capital (Warsaw) and especially famous, among the faithful Catholics, for its Jasna Góra sanctuary.

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To situate the feat achieved by RKS Raków and understand a little more about the history of this team founded in 1921 which had only reached a Polish Cup final in 1967, it is important to remember that the club was still vegetating in the 3rd division five years ago. At the end of the 2016-2017 season, the Czerwony i Niebieski (the Red and Blue) obtain their promotion to Polish D2. A championship they won in the second season, in 2018-2019, after finishing in 7th place a year before.

Raków has already reached almost all the peaks in Poland

Direction the Ekstraklasa therefore, and the discovery of the national elite. For his big baptism, Raków certainly plays the maintenance but comes out of it without really shaking during the play-offs. Then comes the 2020-2021 season, that of the click which certainly takes the club into a new dimension since in addition to finishing runner-up to Legia Warsaw, only 5 points behind, the eastern team wins the first Polish Cup of its history. A performance allowing RKS Raków, winner of the 2021 Polish Supercup in stride against Legia, to discover Europe.

But after eliminating the Lithuanians of FK Sūduva (0-0; 0-0, 4-3 at TAB) in the second preliminary round of the Europa League Conference, then the Russians of Rubin Kazan (0-0; 1-0), the Poles failed at the group gates, in the play-offs against La Gantoise (1-0; 0-3). Not enough to discourage the men of Marek Papszun (47), the coach in place since April 2016 and major architect of the spectacular progress of his team. Rebelote in 2021-22, with a second place in Ekstraklasa, this time behind Lech Poznań but still 5 units behind.

Excellent management

All of this is the result of long-term work and remains the result of intelligent and consistent upstream management. “The club is built very professionally and compactlyanalyzes Piotr Koźmiński, journalist for Wirtualna Polska. It has a good owner, Michał Świerczewski (he bought the club in 2015, editor’s note), a serious businessman whose company (x-kom, editor’s note) is still growing on the Polish market. Moreover, Świerczewski is an intelligent man who knows how to act in football. It does not interfere, for example, in the decisions of the coaches. He lets people work. The club’s vision is clear, everyone is pulling in the same direction.”continues our Polish colleague.

If the turn of events surprised many in Poland, Raków has now established itself as a serious contender for the championship title, also becoming able to compete financially with the biggest fish in the championship. “I heard many people abroad say that Raków is considered the new power in Polish football, it’s interestingemphasizes Piotr Koźmiński. For example, I am talking about transfer fees and salaries. They have no problem paying €1m for a player or offering a salary of around €400,000/year if they want the player. They are already able to compete with Legia and Lech financially. »

A decisive transfer window for the C4?

If, like last year, the Częstochowianie won the Polish Supercup at the expense of Lech (2-0, July 9), before winning their first league match against Warta Poznań (1-0), they hope to go to the end of the qualifying phases to taste the European games in C4. This requires a quality summer transfer window 2022, combining good moves and keeping the best players. Raków has already recruited Fabian Piasecki (Śląsk Wrocław) to compensate for the free departure of Jakub Arak, and has also been loaned the Polish international U23 winger Daniel Szelagowski. The major challenge was to keep Ivi López, voted player of the season 21-22 in the Ekstraklasa and the most formidable offensive threat (21 goals and 12 offerings in 44 games last season). It’s done since the Spaniard extended his contract on Tuesday until 2026.

Behind, the future of the best goalkeeper of the Polish D1, the Bosnian Vladan Kovačević, will also be decisive. The formation where the nephew of the OM coach, Fran Tudor, plays, has, at the same time, been loaned the Polish U23 international goalkeeper Xavier Dziekonski, while the Greek international (6 caps) Stratos Svarnas, loaned by AEK Athens, came to compensate for the free departure of Dominik Wydra. A strategy confirming in passing that the youth is taking power and bringing the average age of the workforce to 24.3 years. The residents of the Miejski Stadion Piłkarski Raków, classified as a category 3 stadium by UEFA and within which the European anthem will therefore be heard for the first time, are now fully focused on their next objective: to export well and continue to surprise more than one, but on the European scene this time.

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