—- On August 20, 1939, Polish league leaders Ruch Chorzow were thrashed 5-2 by Warta Poznan. With four games to play Ruch led Wislaw Krakow by two points and centre-forward Ernest Wilimowski was the championship’s 27-goal leading marksman. The title was within reach.
Yet that league table remains frozen in time because 12 days later Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. Ruch had won the league title five times in the 1930s but 1939 remains the one that got away. They won nine more championships after the war but the most recent is now back in 1989.
As for Wilimowski, the future was controversial. He was a national hero after having scored four goals in Poland’s astonishing 6-5 defeat by Brazil at the 1938 World Cup but for years his name was excised from the record books.
Wilimowski had been born Ernst Otto Prandella in Katowice in 1916 when it was part of the German empire. His parents were both German. But his father died in the fighting and he subsequently took the name of his stepfather after the creation of an independent Poland following the first world war.
His football abilities saw him become league top scorer in 1934 and 1936 and he would certainly have finished No1 in 1939 after having scored 10 goals in a 12-1 win over Union-Touring Lodz.
In the subsequent wartime confusion Wilimowski ‘regained’ his German nationality and scored 13 goals in eight games for Greater Germany. He played for a number of German clubs and was declared a traitor by Poland’s post-war regime and never allowed home.
The day football stopped is just one of the facts to be gleaned from the latest meticulous statistical tome amassed by the Polish soccer historian Andzrej Gowarzewski**.
For each season from 1918 until that August day in 1939 the book provides season-by-season league tables, leading scorers lists, and the date and goalscorers of each and every match, club by club.
**Mistrzostwa Polski: mecze kluby 1918-1939 from Andrzej Gowarzewski, GiA Katowice)