WARSAW: Zbigniew Boniek, Poland’s one-time World Cup hero, has put his reputation at risk by accepting the appointment as president of the PZPN, the Polish football federation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The former Widzew Lodz, Juventus and Roma forward has taken over ex-international team-mate Grzegorz Lato who stepped down after a controversy-laden term of office.

Lato was criticised by some other officials, media and fans for the poor results of the national team and was enshrouded by corruption allegations though he denied all wrongdoing and no formal charges were brought.

Polish football should have emerged from 2012 with enhanced pride after he co-hosting of Euro 2012 with Ukraine. However the national team’s failure to progress beyond the first round from a ‘friendly’ group was a major disappointment. Lato’s PZPN came in for further ridicule over the recent World Cup qualifier against England which had to be postponed 24 hours before officials failed to heed the weather forecast and close the roof of tyhe national stadium.

One of Lato’s most voluble critics was Boniek, 56, who scored 24 goals in 80 appearances for Poland. Most notably, Boniek scored a hat-trick against Belgium at the 1982 World Cup when he and Lato were team-mates in the Polish team who finished third.

Boniek, who won a simple majority 61 of the 118 delegates’ votes, said: “I realise what responsibility will now rest on my shoulders. I can’t compare this victory to what happened during my football career. Football and scoring goals gives happiness without thought.

“This victory forces me to do some serious thinking — this is a different level of responsibility.”

Boniek was a member of the Juventus team who won the Cup-winners Cup in 1984 and the club’s  first European Champions Cup a year later.

In July 2002 Boniek was appointed national team coach only to quit five months later after only five matches (two wins, one draw and two defeats) including a 1-0 home defeat against Latvia in a Euro 2004 qualifier.

Poland are currently third in Group H of the European qualifying section for the 2014 World Cup, behind England and Montenegro.

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