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23.05.2015, 21:31
Kielce to bid farewell to their landlord
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FEATURE: Will Piotr Grabarczyk leave Kielce on a high at the VELUX EHF FINAL4?
 

Kielce to bid farewell to their landlord

Some observers may argue that athletes now change clubs as often as they do underwear.

Sport stars exist in a constant cycle of new challenges, adventures, trophies and income possibilities, owed in part to their ambition to develop as well as the simple rules of the sports markets.

Against such a backdrop, spending more than a handful of seasons with a single club stands out – so what does this say about a man who has served the same organisation for 14 years?

That is the length of time Piotr Grabarczyk has been with Vive Tauron Kielce.

"This is even longer than I played here," jokes former captain and current Kielce sporting director Radoslaw Wasiak.

At the end of this season, Grabarczyk will finally wave farewell to the club and make the move to Hamburg, where he will team up with Polish national team coach Michael Biegler.

This means next week's trip to Cologne for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 could be the Polish pivot’s last shot at Champions League glory, with his new club set to miss out on next year’s competition.

 

First of all him!

"No, no, no, it's not a trip," insisted Wasiak.

"First of all we are not going there to sightsee but to fight and maybe make a nice surprise. And Piotr? I suppose he is preparing himself in the same way as the whole team.

"But he is not an exuberant person and doesn’t share his feelings with the others."

This is no secret, which is why Grabarczyk rarely tops the list of targets for journalists searching for an in-depth interview.

Away from the glare of the cameras, however, the experienced star takes on a different persona.

"Maybe he is not easy-going with people he doesn't know well, but when he gets to know somebody, he opens up," revealed Piotr Chrapkowski.

"He is a family man, spending a lot of time with his wife and daughters. He’s a great guy!"

That is a sentiment shared by Vive's assistant coach Tomasz Strzabala.

"I like each player," he said.

Even him? 

"No, first of all him!" smiled Strzabala.

Grunt work expert

In 14 years with Kielce, Grabarczyk has won the Polish Championship seven times and the Polish Cup on 10 occasions.

This hugely successful period for the club has been characterised by the Pole’s presence in defence, rarely crossing the centre line – but this has changed of late.

"Piotr has been a firm foundation of the 6-0 defence and this was his role," added Strzabala 

"Since Talant [Dujshebaev] became coach, he has been used in the attack as well, and this sometimes results in him scoring goals."

But his primary task remains to block the route to Kielce’s goal.

"This is what sport is all about, some players are executors and some do the grunt work," said Wasiak.

"Piotr maybe doesn’t shine too often and rarely hits the newspapers front pages but his job is very important. 

"I would even say that he is one of leading defenders in Europe."

 

'With' hurts less than 'against'

Performing such a destructive role can take its toll on a player’s image.

Regular suspensions have been a feature of Grabarczyk’s career, something which is not lost on his teammates.

"When somebody plays a lot in defence, especially in the middle, where there is most of work to do, it is much easier to receive suspensions than while playing on the other positions," smirked Chrapkowski.

"Besides, sometimes you need to let your opponent know that it won’t be easy. When some players feel such contact, they stop playing so feisty, so this is a good tactic," laughed the left back. 

He added: "It’s definitely better to play with him than against him, because it hurts less!"

 

When landlord becomes a newcomer

The fans from Kielce cannot imagine their club without its icon. 

"It's a pity that he is leaving us. Kielce loses an experienced player," said supporter Dariusz Smialek.

"I still haven't deciphered him yet, because off the court he is so calm and polite, and on the floor he gets red cards recurrently." 

Fellow fan, Malgosia Mlynik, added: "I wouldn't like him to go. I’m very saddened because, for me, he has always been part of this team.

"But I think it’s good that he will go to Germany where the handball level is so high."

 

Moving to another country will no doubt pose its challenges, but Wasiak remains confident in his longtime colleague.

"Piotr is such an intelligent and smart man that he should not have any adaptation problems," said Wasiak.

"I know that he is learning German intensively so I’m sure he will be up to the task."

The former line player added: "Until now he has been used to kind of a landlord role and welcoming the new players. 

"This time he will be the newcomer so he will have to change his way of thinking. For sure the familiar coach will make it easier for him to settle in the club."

Teammates of ‘Grabar’ will miss him, on and off the court, but it speaks volumes of the man that he leaves with their blessing.

Manuel Strlek summed it up: "Well, when a player goes to Hamburg it means that he is classy.

"We need to congratulate him and we wish him good luck in Hamburg."


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / jh
 
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