Old Stefan Florenski standing on Gornik Zabrze stadium.
Old Stefan Florenski standing on Gornik Zabrze stadium.

Stefan Florenski

Team play comes first

During World War II, Stefan Florenski was originally set to play for the German soccer club named Germania in Sośnica. However, after the war ended, he began training with Orle Sośnica. Over the years, his dedication and skill on the field helped rejuvenate Polish football, earning him the status of a legend and contributing to the excellence of Polish football once again.

Debut in Górnik Zabrze

March 17, 1957, marked a significant moment in football history as Stefan Florenski played for Górnik Zabrze in the 1/8 finals of the Polish Championship against Lechia Gdańsk,          a match that Górnik won 3-0. This match stood out not only because of Stefan’s participation but also because of his remarkable and seldom-seen technique in Polish football.

Polish Domination

Stefan Florenski, along with the rest of Górnik Zabrze, became nine-time Polish Champions. He was loved by Polish fans, as he demonstrated that football didn’t have to be repetitive. With his technique and being surrounded by an exceptional team, he dominated Polish football for an extended period, securing multiple medals. In those times, sliding wasn’t common among Polish players, and initially, referees were uncertain how to respond. Florenski held firm to the belief that as long as he didn’t make contact with the opponent, his slide was fair, and eventually, most referees came to accept this rule.

Shoes scandal – Where are my Adidas?

In 1959, the players playing for the Polish national team in Germany were promised Adidas shoes, but due to an injury that Florenski suffered in 1960, the shoes were given to another player. “Florenski,” asked the captain Czeslaw Krug for them several times, but to no avail. Stefan was seething to such an extent that every time he was called up he sent in a sick note and refused to participate in any matches.

Good teammate – Father Figure 

In the 1968/69 season, Legia Warsaw emerged as champions, possibly due to an away match between Górnik Zabrze and Katowice GKS. The referee for that match displayed clear bias, adversely affecting the Zabrze players with his decisions. Following a scuffle during one of the actions, a player struck the referee, prompting him to halt the match and accuse Florenski of the incident. Florenski, however, did not protest and was subsequently disqualified for 2 years. It was only years later that it was revealed that Florenski was not the one who struck the referee; it was Lubanski. Stefan made this decision to protect a younger, talented teammate. In the autumn of 1969, Florenski returned to the game and resumed his role as a key player for the team.

Legacy

In the last three years of his life, Stefan Florenski battled illness before passing away on February 23, 2020, in Hamm, Germany, at the age of 86. His legacy lives on through annual tournaments organised by Torcida Germany, dedicated to honouring his memory.

Thinking points

Thanks to this story, many students can understand the importance of being a good teammate, which may encourage them to train to achieve accomplishments similar to Florenski’s and strive for success. Students can engage in discussions around the following questions:

  • Was Florenski a truly effective teammate?
  • What are the various ways in which sport can contribute to a society?
  • What can Stefan’s career and personal attributes tell us about footballers
  • Can similarities be drawn to players seen today in Poland and the world? 

Find out more

For more information about Stefan and his influence at Zabrze, read Gornik Zabrze’s article on their official website. There is also more about Stefan’s profile following this story from Interia Sports. 

An interview was carried out in 2014 with Stefan offering valuable insights into his love for Poland, football, and achievements. To read this Q&A follow this link. News of his death in 2020 produced several news stories covering his life and interviews here are two which offer clear insights into Stefan’s life, work, and values. The first was published by wyborcza.pl and the second by Zabrze Naszemiasto.

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Old Stefan Florenski standing on Gornik Zabrze stadium.
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