Player to watch
Artur Boruc (Poland)
Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc is a pillar of his club, Scottish giants Celtic, despite courting controversy, and was the obvious top choice for his national team as they brace for their first ever European championships appearance.
“He was picked as the number one goalkeeper for Poland’s national team for Euro 2008 because of his qualities,” said Frans Hoek, who trains the Polish keepers under the wing of coach and fellow Dutchman Leo Beenhakker.
“His performance is steady. He has been decisive with his play in several games for Poland. He’s experienced, stable and can focus very well on a performance,” Hoek said. He was first called up by Poland in 2004, and has been capped 33 times. Boruc joined Celtic in 2005 after signing from the Polish capital’s flagship side Legia Warsaw. His performances were crucial in securing the Hoops’ Scottish Premier League titles in 2006 and 2007, and the Scottish Cup in 2007.
“He has an exceptional ability to concentrate, which has enabled him to reach new heights and avoid mistakes during the most crucial matches and deal with high-tension moments,” said Piotr Kozminski, a football analyst from the Polish tabloid Superexpress.
For instance, during a 2006 Champions League clash with Manchester United, Boruc saved an 89th-minute penalty from Louis Saha, guiding Celtic into the knockout stage of the competition. Boruc, 28, is nicknamed the “Holy Goalie” - but the epithet is more ironic than a nod to his miraculous saves.
Boruc is Roman Catholic, like more than 90 percent of Poles, thus fitting in with a long-held tradition at Celtic. But he has regularly found himself in hot water for stepping over the line between displaying his faith and provoking fans of the Protestant-rooted Glasgow Rangers - a club he has acknowledged he dislikes.
He makes the sign of the cross before games, but in 2006 was cautioned for breaching the peace after he did so and then went on to taunt the Rangers stands. Last season he caused a stir by brandishing a Celtic flag during an Old Firm game at Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium. And only last month, he escaped disciplinary action after celebrating Celtic’s win over Rangers by stripping off his top to reveal a t-shirt with the slogan “God bless the Pope”, depicting the late Polish-born pontiff John Paul II, who is revered by most Poles.
“He doesn’t exactly mince his words, nor his gestures, when it comes to his team-mates on the pitch either. He needs to rein in his provocative side,” said Jan Tomaszewski, Poland’s legendary goalkeeper from the glory days in the 1970s. Boruc has other faults, Tomaszewski claimed. “I also consider him to be one of the two worst-dressed goalkeepers in the world, along with Oliver Kahn,” he said, grinning.