There are still 71 days to go until the start of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017, but for Poland’s Boguslaw Saganowski, the anticipation is building by the hour. “Every sportsman dreams about being at a World Cup,” said the 39-year-old in an interview with FIFA.com. “I’m already counting the days until we fly out.”
After 2006, this year marks the second time Poland will take part in the Beach Soccer World Cup. Back then in Rio de Janeiro, their tournament ended at the group stage following defeats to USA (4-2) and Brazil (9-2) and victory over Japan (8-5). Saganowski was one of the key players in that side, scoring seven of his team’s 12 goals.
Some 11 years later, the Bialo-Czerwoni are targeting a place in the knockout rounds, and, as the winners of the European qualification tournament, they should feel confident of achieving that goal. “If we play like we did at the Euros, then we’re capable of surprising a few people,” said Saganowski. “It goes without saying that we’ll do everything to come home with a medal.”
Poland undoubtedly impressed in their qualifying campaign back in September, winning seven of their eight matches. They sent out an early warning to the competition by beating two-time world champions Russia 5-3, before holding their nerve to edge out Italy 3-2 in extra time. In the final, the Poles turned on the style once again to cruise to a 6-3 win against Switzerland, after which Szymon Gasinski was named the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper and Saganowski Best Player (MVP).
“It was a great honour for me, but the thanks should go to my team as they made it possible,” reflected Poland’s ten-goal hero from the Euros. “A few regular players couldn’t travel to the tournament, so the team that won was only assembled shortly before we started. If you look at the overall result – our becoming champions – then it was certainly a stroke of luck.”
Beach soccer is more dynamic, we play barefoot and the surface is uneven. We also often play in very high temperatures.
Saganowski hopes the triumph will give beach soccer a boost in his home country, where it has always been a sport on the fringes of mainstream popularity. “There are probably only a thousand people playing it in Poland, and that says it all. But the World Cup could help to make beach soccer more popular.”
The Lodz native has made a positive contribution to the growth of the sport in his homeland, and he can now envisage ending his 11-year international career on sand with a clear conscience following this year’s World Cup. “I’ll be 40 in March and it’s time to make way for some young talent in the team. I can’t completely give up playing, though – I love this sport too much. So I’ll probably retire from the national team and concentrate on playing for my club.”
Having played various forms of football in his career, Saganowski cannot see himself stepping away from the sand. “I’ve had an association with all forms of the game, and I even won the Polish indoor championship with Clearex Chorzow. But in my opinion, it’s harder to play on sand than on grass, for example. Beach soccer is more dynamic, we play barefoot and the surface is uneven. We also often play in very high temperatures.”
One thing of which Saganowski is in no doubt is that Bayern Munich’s Polish international Robert Lewandowski, one of the finest strikers in the world on grass, would definitely make a top-class beach soccer player too. “But only after a few training sessions,” he said with a grin.