by Vid Rotvejn
*denotes players who will be seeking
Interview with Head Coach Marian Dziubiak
Quidditch Post: How are you preparing your team for European Games?
Dziubiak: We started doing practices for everyone interested in playing for Poland in March. After finally choosing our team, the biggest challenge was to get all those players from different teams to play well together. The first few practices contained some exercises to show the teams how they can train on their own. Then we started to play as much as possible in order to get accustomed to each other and develop a common tactic.
QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
Dziubiak: Well, at the European Quidditch Cup (EQC), the Warsaw Mermaids scored the first international victory for Poland and now we hope to get even further. Thanks to the new gameplay format, we are going to face a lot of opponents that we have chances of winning against and that we have not yet played against. So the dream would be getting to the top of our group.
QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
Dziubiak: For the past two years, we sort of hoped to play against Ireland and the Netherlands. In Sarteano at the 2015 European Games we took last place and then last year in Frankfurt (at the IQA World Cup), each of us lost the play-ins to the bracket.
QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
Dziubiak: We decided to do the national team’s practice in each city with players in the team. It’s really hard to get 20-odd people from different cities – some students, some working – in one place at the same time. Also, some of our players are still falling into the “going abroad is too expensive” mindset, especially since Norway isn’t the cheapest.
QP: What are the strengths of your team? Are there any key players (or underrated players) we should watch out for?
Dziubiak: I’m a Warsaw Mermaid, so I’m a little biased toward our players; we are, however, the current Polish champion and nearly half of the national team is composed of Mermaids. This is the first time our keeper Piotr Piekarski is going to a tournament abroad, and he’s our most physical player. We have two players on our roster who played last season in the UK: Emma Sands and Joanna Piątek. You will also see some new players, who started playing quidditch this season from Kraków Dragons, Wrocław Wanderers, and Poznań Capricorns.
QP: What do you think about the opponents in your group?
Dziubiak: We’re in Group C, which consists of four teams that didn’t make the bracket at the World Cup and a team playing its first international tournament. I think it’s going to be a tough fight that will give us a fair ranking. I want to say we all play at about the same level, but it’s hard because we’ve never faced each other.
Despite being considered one of the underdogs at the European Games, the Polish quidditch team is not to be underestimated or brushed off as inexperienced. Ever since they first got a taste for competitive international quidditch at the European Games 2015 in Sarteano, they have been striving to improve their game and to be able to pose a challenge for the higher ranked teams. At the 2016 IQA World Cup in Frankfurt, the Poles claimed 19th place with no victories, which spurred them on even more in their endeavours. The clear mark of improvement was Poland’s first international quidditch victory, with the Warsaw Mermaids defeating the Milano Meneghins at EQC 2017, which was soon followed by the second place at the Slavic Cup 2017 in Warsaw.
About half of their team consists of players from the reigning Polish champions the Warsaw Mermaids, with Quidditch Hussars, Kraków Dragons, and Wroclaw Wanderers also contributing their best players. Two chasers, Joanna Piątek and Emma Sands, have been scoring goals for British teams, and the Poles have gladly integrated the expatriates’ experience into their game.
Because of the Mermaids holding the upper hand in the team, one of their biggest strengths will be the on-pitch chemistry between the players; this will be enhanced even further by their strong strategic abilities, which were also demonstrated at the Slavic Cup in May.
Poland rely on a strong, physical beater game, with Maciej Olejnik (Warsaw Mermaids) commanding the bludger escadrille. This firm leadership allows beaters to properly connect with the chasers, thus forming a formidable offence and a hard-to-breach defence. The keeper Piotr Plekarski (Warsaw Mermaids) will take responsibility for the more physical aspects of the game, while chasers such as Agnieszka Zabkowicz (Warsaw Mermaids) and Marya Abramczyk (Kraków Dragons) will be in charge of trolling. The main figure behind tactics is definitely Jagoda Sadecka (Quidditch Hussars), who introduced the sport in Poland and is thus the most seasoned player.
These European Games are a huge chance for Team Poland to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Europe. They have been training long and hard, and now the fjords of Norway are ready to feel what these West Slavs have to offer. Poland will play in Group C, along with Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Slovakia. The group is favourable for Poland, as they are one of the most experienced teams in it and can realistically hope to top their group.