Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Radzinski

For those few that will be writing stories about tomorrow's Canada-Poland friendly in Bydgoszcz from a Canadian perspective, the best storyline in the game is Tomasz Radzinski. He was born in nearby Poznan, moved to Canada as a teenager, and has had a successful career as a professional and international for nearly two decades.

So what are we to make of Tomasz Radzinski, Canada international?

We could do worse than to start by looking at the numbers. For the full national side he has 45 caps (43 starts), and has scored 10 goals in those appearances. Both numbers are smaller than they might have been.

Radzinski's finest Canada moment, so far?

Let's start with the goals: for a striker who has scored against such teams as Man United, a 1 in 4.5 games strike rate for Canada is hardly impressive. But we know that under some of Canada's previous managers, Radzinski was (mis)used in a wide midfield position. This limited his scoring influence and definitely rubbed him the wrong way.

This tactical snafu may also be a contributing factor in the low cap total for a man who earned his first 14 years ago. Radzinski never liked this role, and famously refused to answer a call from Holger Osieck and was out of Canada's plans from 1998 to 2001. Before there were Whoregreaves and Judas de Guzman, there was the Rat, a man vilified by Voyageurs for his seemingly me-first attitude.

But he has come back and has most definitely been embraced by the Canadian soccer fan. Heck, the now-fan favourite even put on one of the Voyageurs "Sack the CSA" t-shirts back in the last WCQ cycle. That the Vees would decide to welcome Tomasz back into the fold suggests to me that a one-time turncoat like Jonathan de Guzman could even be welcomed back should he choose to come into the Canada fold, though I should allow for differences between refusing to play and selecting another country.

Did he know what he shirt he was putting on?

It is sad that Radzinski in his prime did not play for Canada. But it is simultaneously gratifying and discouraging that at nearly 36 years old he remains Canada's best attacking player. When he made the move to lower division Belgian side Lierse in fall of 2008, it seemed a step into semi-retirement. Yet he is that team's best player, and I fully expect him to be Canada's best tomorrow as well.

So, in a long winded way, we've come to the crucial question. Is Radzinski's potentially emotional return to Poland his last act playing for Canada? It would certainly be a fitting gesture for a man likely too old to be of much use by the next time Canada plays an important competitive match in 2011.

But there is evidence to the contrary, first and foremost of which is the product on the pitch. In two of his last three matches (vs Mexico in Edmonton, and vs Honduras in Montreal) Radzinski was far and away Canada's best player, and his injury after being dumped into the ad hoardings at Stade Saputo spelled the beginning of the end of Canada's World Cup qualification hopes.

And now this, from Stephen Hart:
“Tomasz has been a big influence for our national team, but more importantly he is an excellent role model for our younger players,” said Hart. “Historically, Canada has not had the strikers of Tomasz’s quality. For me it’s never about the age but more about how the player performs. As long as he continues to perform I will gladly continue to call him.”
If at one point he let his selfishness get in the way of representing Canada, that is now hardly the case, and he is the consummate professional. Given the rash of defections from the Canadian setup, it can hardly hurt to have a role model like Tomasz at every camp from now until he decides it's no longer worth it for him to show up.

I know I have mad man-love for Mike Klukowski, but I can make room in my heart for another Polish-Canadian.

(You surely noticed that both of the pictures of Radz I picked have him semi-clad . . .)

Related: Another man with love for Radzinski, and who is more effusive with is prose.


Lord Bob said...

As the guy who took that photo with him putting on the Sack the CSA shirt, I can tell you that he definitely held it up for a minute to look at it before putting it on.

To quote a Facebook comment that photo received, "fucking legend".

J said...

Are you also responsible for getting that photo onto his wikipedia page?

Lord Bob said...

Why yes I am!

Lord Bob said...

Also, thanks for the plug. I felt bad doing another "ra ra Radzinski" post and started out with just a vanilla Poland piece. Then it turned into my practically performing fellatio. 1,500 words later I pretty much had to run with it.