Newspaper about GKS Katowice.
Newspaper about GKS Katowice.

A lesson for and from the underdog

David v Goliath, a memorable occasion for Katowice

Master vs Newcomer!

In 1970, the young football club GKS Katowice made its debut in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. This tournament is now known as the UEFA Europa League. It was a significant achievement for a club representing a medium-sized city in Poland. Before the UEFA Cup, GKS Katowice had only competed twice in the Intertoto Cup, in 1967 and 1968. However, it was in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup that Katowice faced a football powerhouse for the first time.

Is there even a chance?

The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was a tournament organized by UEFA from 1955 to 1971. Initially, the tournament featured teams representing fair cities. Over time, teams from high positions in national leagues, ineligible for the European Cup (the predecessor of the Champions League), also joined. In 1971, the UEFA Cup, now known as the Europa League, replaced it. UEFA does not officially recognize the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup as its tournament, nor does it consider the UEFA Cup as its direct continuation. However, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was on par with the UEFA Europa League as the second most important football competition on the continent at the time. GKS Katowice qualified for it as a fair city. Their opponent, FC Barcelona, was already a dominant force in Spanish football, having won the league, the Copa del Rey, and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup multiple times. Barcelona boasted stars like Carles Rexach, Eladio Silvestre, and Urpi Salvador Sadurni.

Miracle at Camp Nou

In the first leg at the Silesian Stadium, Barcelona won 1-0, with Carles Rexach scoring in the 82nd minute, who was the top scorer in La Liga that season. Everyone thought the rematch would be a formality and GKS would lose decisively. However, the situation took an interesting turn at Camp Nou. GKS Katowice led 2-0 against Barcelona at halftime with goals from Gerard Rother in the 8th minute and Jerzy Nowak in the 41st. Even the biggest GKS fans didn’t expect such a result. 70,000 Barcelona fans were in shock. At one point, they were so unhappy with their team losing that they started throwing seat cushions onto the pitch at Camp Nou. Unfortunately, Barcelona showed why they were champions in the second half and eventually won 3-2. In the Catalan pride, goals were scored by Pujol (51st minute), Martí Filosía (60th minute), and Rexach (84th minute). However, who knows what would have happened if Eugeniusz Pluta had converted his chance to score when the score was 2-1 for Katowice…

Underdog’s Story

Despite being considered the underdog, GKS displayed technique and fighting spirit. Barcelona won both matches 1-0 and 3-2, but they did not have it easy. There’s even a funny anecdote about the lack of faith in the Katowice club: “We came to financial agreements. What would our reward be for a potential win in Barcelona? In Spain, our ‘officials’ said we would receive 5000 zloty each for advancing, roughly equivalent to about three average salaries. When we were leading 2-0 at Nou Camp, none of the directors showed up in the locker room. When we lost, after the match, they all appeared – they hugged us as if we had won. They were doubly happy – the result was somewhat favourable, and they didn’t have to pay us a bonus.” Thanks to determination and a brilliant display of skills, GKS gained the respect of those who doubted the club just before the match. The young club challenged notorious Barcelona, second in La Liga, the second-best national league in the world.

Thinking points

Educators working with learners could bring in this story to explore important life skills and values. To that end that could explore the following questions:

  • Which attitudes can help people overcome difficult challenges?
  • What is the role of connecting with your peers and friends in such situations?
  • Which examples come to mind for each one’s daily life?

Find out more

To find out more about this famous fixture, see the team lineups here, and to learn more about the Inter-cities Fair Cup follow this link.

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