Jan Furtok in polish national football team's jacket.
Jan Furtok in polish national football team's jacket.

Jan Furtok

Alzheimer’s final whistle

Jan Furtok’s football story began on March 9, 1962, in a small place called Kostuchna in Katowice. Life wasn’t easy for the Furtok family. Jan’s dad, a miner at “Murcki I” mine, passed away when Jan was just six months old. After that, his mother, Łucja, had to take care of Jan and his eight siblings. Facing these challenges head-on, young Jan pitched in by delivering coal to neighbors, earning a small amount of money. Every penny he made went to his mother, helping to provide food for the large family. In these harsh times, Jan found solace in football, a sport that allowed him to escape from the difficult reality around him, if only for a while.

In the world of football, Jan Furtok’s skills stood out. Known for his speed, determination, and composure in front of the goal, he quickly gained recognition. After impressing everyone at a local club in Kostuchna, Jan moved to GKS Katowice, a formidable first-league team. This move brought him into the spotlight, as noted by sports journalist Paweł Zarzeczny.

Number 9

In the history of Polish football, Furtok made a significant impact while playing for GKS Katowice in two different periods (1980-88 and 1995-97). The highlight came in 1986 when the team won the prestigious Polish Cup. Furtok’s iconic Number 9 jersey, worn during his time at GKS, remains exclusively his. 

It’s a tribute to his immense contribution to the team. Throughout 209 league matches, he scored an impressive 85 goals, solidifying his name in Polish football. 

Furtok also played in Germany for teams like Hamburger SV (where he was the top scorer in the Bundesliga in 1991) and Eintracht Frankfurt. He continued his goal-scoring prowess, tallying 60 goals in 188 games. Even after retiring, Furtok remained closely connected with GKS, serving as the club’s president until 2009. His passion for football endured, leading him to take on the role of sports director for the national team on January 5, 2010. In recognition of his lasting impact, both on and off the field, GKS Katowice awarded Furtok the “Super Buka” in 2017. It reflects Furtok’s unwavering dedication to the sport that shaped his life.

“Furtok’s Goal: A Controversial Moment in Polish Football History”

In the world of Polish football, Jan Furtok’s exceptional skills attracted the attention of the national team coach. At just 22 years old, Antoni Piechniczek called him up to join the national team. Furtok made his debut in a friendly match against Ireland, earning a spot in the starting lineup. However, he had to wait for over a year for his second match. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be a part of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

As a player of GKS and later of German clubs, Furtok represented the national team in 36 matches, scoring 10 goals. One of these etched its place in Polish football history. On April 28, 1993, during the 1994 USA World Cup qualifiers, Poland encountered San Marino in a group match. Despite being the favourite, the Polish team encountered strong defensive opposition from their opponents, leading to a challenging battle.”

It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Roman Kosecki outplayed a San Marino defender along the touchline. He then crossed the ball to the oncoming Furtok, who skillfully directed it into the goal near the short post. However, the players from the small nation team protested, claiming a handball by Furtok. In those days, there was no VAR (Video Assistant Referee). After consulting with the linesman, the referee decided to count the goal. The match ended with Poland’s victory, 1-0.

This iconic goal remains etched in the memories of football fans, showcasing Furtok’s talent and determination on the field. It’s a story of triumph against adversity, proving that sometimes, the most significant moments in football come from unexpected plays and unforgettable goals.

Battle Against Alzheimer’s

Jan Furtok, a former football player who represented Poland and distinguished himself as one of the best in the German league, has been facing a challenging and incurable illness called Alzheimer’s. This disease affects the brain, causing a gradual decline in its functions over time.

Alzheimer’s is known for robbing individuals of memories and essential intellectual abilities, such as speech and spatial awareness. It leads to forgetfulness, particularly of recent events. In the later stages, those affected need to struggle with basic tasks like taking a shower, eating, or walking independently.

Alzheimer’s is a pervasive issue, affecting over 50 million people worldwide. While it typically manifests clinically before the age of 65 (and Furtok is currently 59), it can also impact younger individuals, with some experiencing symptoms before the age of forty.

Jan Furtok’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges confronted by individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease. It underscores the importance of raising awareness and providing support to those affected by this challenging and heartbreaking condition.

Thinking points

Jan Furtok’s football journey is a powerful tale of perseverance. Starting in a small town, Kostuchna, and later playing for GKS Katowice, his story is defined by dedication and skill. His Number 9 jersey, once a symbol of success, carries a poignant narrative. Unexpectedly, Alzheimer’s cut short Furtok’s career. Despite this, he faced it with resilience. His battle against Alzheimer’s is an inspiration, showing that hard work goes beyond the game. 

Educators could work with learners and explore this story to consider questions like:

  • How has football historically presented young people with social upward mobility opportunities?
  • How have famed footballers lived on after their careers?

Find out more

If you liked this article and you’d like to find out more information about J. Furtok, the Polish National Radio offers a compelling article. If you interested more in what happened with J.Furtok during his illness, this Polish Sport Portal provides a story, including interviews with him and his wife.

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