Huge mural celebrating footy ace Kazimierz Deyna goes up in Warsaw

Sports fans converged upon Warsaw’s Ursynów district to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of Kazimierz Deyna and to witness the unveiling of a giant mural dedicated to his memory. Kalbar/TFN

Sports fans converged upon Warsaw’s Ursynów district yesterday evening to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of Kazimierz Deyna and to witness the unveiling of a giant mural dedicated to his memory.

Generally regarded as Poland’s greatest ever footballer, a host of celebrities gathered to pay tribute to the former Legia Warszawa superstar, among them the  ex-national team coach Andrzej Strejlau and the erstwhile Celtic playmaker Dariusz Dziekanowski.

Embossed with the word “Respect”, the mural stands to become a unique point of pilgrimage for the followers of Legia.Kalbar/TFN

“Every player wanted to reach the peaks that he did,” said Dziekanowski at the ceremony. “You could feel him in every stadium; everywhere he played he was met with a standing ovation.” 

Stefan Szczepłek, a commentator, journalist and author of Deyna’s biography went one further: “he wasn’t just a hero of the PRL era, but a martyr to it as well.”

Painted using ‘anti-smog’ materials capable of turning pollutants into harmless nitrates and carbonates, the 60,000 złoty cost of the mural was financed by donations from the Kazimierz Deyna Foundation.Kalbar/TFN

Born in Starograd Gdański in 1947, Deyna carved his name at Legia where he scored 141 goals in a glittering 12 years with the country’s biggest club. But it was on the world stage that he truly excelled, driving Poland to a third place finish at the 1974 World Cup.

Lighting up the tournament with his outrageous talent, his performances were such that he later came third in the Ballon d'Or, beaten only by Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.

Deyna carved his name at Legia where he scored 141 goals in a glittering 12 years with the country’s biggest club.Janusz Uklejewski/PAP

Though coveted by the world’s biggest clubs, he was denied the move of a lifetime due to government laws forbidding players transferring abroad until the age of thirty – denied the opportunity to truly test himself alongside Europe’s elite, it is still seen as one of the PRL’s biggest sporting shames.

Lighting up the tournament with his outrageous talent, his performances were such that he later came third in the Ballon d'Or, beaten only by Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.Stanisław Jakubowski/PAP

When he did eventually move, it was to a struggling Manchester City side where he commanded cult status from the terraces. Later starring in Escape to Victory alongside Michael Caine, Pele, Sylvester Stallone and Max von Sydow, he revived his career with a 1981 move to the San Diego Sockers where he added five championships to his haul of medals.

After being killed in a car crash in 1989, Deyna was repatriated to Powązki Military Cemetery in 2012.Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP

But as successful as he was on the pitch, he was equally troubled off it. Beset by financial difficulties and a festering drinking problem, he died in 1989 after smashing his car into a truck on an American highway. A post-mortem found him to be over the limit.

The circumstances surrounding his final years have served, however, to only cement his status as a troubled genius and to entrench in Polish sporting folklore.

Speaking at the unveiling of the mural, Stefan Szczepłek, author of Deyna’s biography said: “He wasn’t just a hero of the PRL era, but a martyr to it as well.”Kalbar/PAP

Repatriated to Powązki Military Cemetery in 2012, his impact on Polish football resonates to this day, not least in his adopted city of Warsaw.

Already celebrated by way of two statues in the capital, not to mention on numerous walls around the town, the latest mural is the most visible homage to date.

Former Celtic playmaker Dariusz Dziekanowski told reporters at the unveiling: “You could feel him in every stadium; everywhere he played he was met with a standing ovation.”Kalbar/TFN

Spanning an area of 420 square metres, the artwork – found on Kazury 16 – was designed by Bakcyl Studio, a creative agency already credited with re-energizing the dormitory suburb with a series of murals often referencing local history.

Painted using ‘anti-smog’ materials capable of turning pollutants into harmless nitrates and carbonates, the 60,000 złoty cost of the mural was financed by donations from the Kazimierz Deyna Foundation, an ongoing crowdfunding campaign and an online auction for memorabilia that included goalkeeper Artur Boruc’s No. 1 jersey.

Others who gathered to pay tribute to the former Legia Warszawa superstar included ex-national team coach Andrzej Strejlau.Kalbar/TFN

Embossed with the word “Respect”, the mural now stands to become a unique point of pilgrimage for the followers of Legia.

“On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you for everything that you have done to uphold Kazik’s memory,” read a statement Mariola Deyna, the footballer’s widow. “Thanks to people like you, Kazik lives forever. I am touched; respect and thank you.”