TDEU: A Week With The Warsaw Eagles

Recently TDEU spent a week with the Warsaw Eagles, Poland. At first, we wanted to do the story like our other cover stories, however, getting to know the team made us realize that this is becoming more of a personal story about the Eagles.

The thing we were worried about the most was - if we'll manage to find something that makes this team special. Something we can highlight. It didn't take too long until we realized that there will be plenty. Eagles are a team with a big heart, determined to build, and most importantly - they know where they stand. What made the team special in our eyes is the attention to details, as well as the tradition this team carries - to be family oriented.

Football in Poland started in 1999, and in 2006 the PLFA was formed. Warsaw Eagles won the Championship 2 times - in 2006 and 2008, and were runner-ups in 2012 and 2013. Under the organization - there's a senior team which competes in Topliga, B Team which is the second division development team, and, Junior team which plays in 2 leagues - 8 on 8 and 11 on 11.

Recently, Eagles lost a player, Babatunde Aiyegbusi, to the Vikings. To be more specific - Minnesota Vikings. Lineman who has never played in The States caught the eyes of scouts and was presented with a contract. This is not just a major exposure for the league but for football in Europe as well.

We met the team at their last practice before their away game vs Poznan. First thing we noticed is that a ref came in for the team scrimmage, which is something we haven't noticed with any of the teams before.

Marcin Lojewski. Photo: Piotr Piekut
At the practice, we had a quick word with the kicker Marcin Lojewski, who is also an official in the PLFA second division. Marcin told us how great the Eagles fans are - Couple years ago, we were travelling to Poznan, and the temperature was going as low as -20C (minus 20!). Eagles fans, who go by Orle Gniazdo (Eagles Nest) were following the team as they always do. As it was so cold - fans managed to light a fire near the sideline to keep themselves warm. None of them left the field, they stayed there to support us! Whatever we do as a team - we don't do it just for the Eagles as an organization, but for our fans as well! - said Marcin.

There was a small negative during the practice - there was a bit of a lack of focus, guys were messing around on the sideline. However, it didn't go unnoticed and was addressed by the coaches, as well as QB Herbert Bynes who made sure to give a great speech at the end of the practice.

Coach Jacek Wallusch. Photo: Dariusz Bres
Preparations are taken very seriously. RB/DB Charles McCrea showed us how Coach Jacek Wallusch handles film. We were speechless. Everything broken down to the tinniest details. Just by seeing that, we knew we had to speak with Coach Wallusch - I'm coaching here as the Eagles provide a good working environment, one of the best in the country. Team is young, relatively inexperienced and they're still learning, and, I have the up most respect for my players. Of course, my ultimate goal for the Eagles is the Championship, as well as going international. I competed twice, EFAF Challenge Cup as a player (2009), and EFAF Cup as coach (2012), my teams got beaten both times, so it would be nice to finally win.

Just like Coach Wallusch - everyone on the Eagles staff is detail oriented. There's also Tomasz Kawiarowski, team manager, who we named a TDEU Hero (read the story HERE), Tomasz does all the "leg work" and organization to have everything working flawlessly.  Roman Iwanski, who besides his day job as a lawyer, is the team president and a player; and, Marek Włodarczyk - the vice-president and a player. An interesting fact is that the above the president position - there's the owner - Paul Kuśmierz.

Paul and Roman. Photo: Lumika Fotografia
The very first thing we were interested in is how can the team president be a player at the same time. Roman explained that on the field he makes sure his teammates see him as a player and that the coaches also don't give him any special treatment. - Sometimes it's confusing, but I make sure to keep everyone aware that when wearing the Eagles jersey, I'm one of the players.

We wanted to know more about the games, as Poland is one of the best in organizing events. Roman gave us a bit of an insight how Eagles handle the home games - We make sure that a football game is not just a football game. What we as Eagles pride ourselves in is the tradition of being family oriented. We make sure that there is a lot of activities off the field for parents and their kids. We'd bring a castle for the kids to jump in, and place it in front of the stadium. We have different contests for the kids, and the most fun ones involve our mascot - Pierzak. One of the sponsors is a watch company that gives a watch to one of our fans who guesses the closest score, and, we went a step further where we let fans place their bids by the third quarter. For moms with young children - we have a room at the stadium which we set up for them to be able to change their kids diapers, and we also do bring the diapers in case someone forgets theirs. One time we also had manicurists for our female fans. Women's team Warsaw Sirens, who are not a part of our organization, but, we do work closely with them, have their presentations or mini scrimmages outside the stadium and during the halftime. Fans can also interact with the players after the games, as we let the fans come to the field. At our home games we have at least 3,000 up to 25,000 people in the stands.

What got us excited the most are the fans. Prior to the away game, we kept hearing how great the Eagles supporters are. And finally - we had a chance to be around them in Poznan. They traveled from Warsaw to Poznan (a bit over 300 kilometers) to support the players. As we were sitting with the Eagles fans, we couldn't help but notice that this handful of people was way louder than the Poznan fans. They had choreographs for each time points were scored, drums, flags etc. The energy they have is stunning. Just like the team, even the fans made us feel like one of them. There was a bit of a language barrier, as not too many spoke English, but that didn't stop us all from having fun. Later on, Roman told us that the fans are participating in the Eagles organization, as they registered their own organization which we mentioned earlier.

During the bus ride back to Warsaw, we finally got a chance to interact with the players. They said that they do understand they're making a lot of mistakes, and that they are still individuals that are starting to click as a team, and that they are willing to put in the work. A lot of these players come from different cities (team rented a 3 floor house for imports and players who come from places outside Warsaw), and it takes time for the team to breathe as one.

Andre Whyte. Photo; Dariusz Bres
 - Our guys are getting better and better with every practice. We as imports do everything we can to guide them and assist our coaches. We try to set a good example for our teammates. We do a lot of team building, and barbecues are probably the best way to do so. - said RB Andre Whyte, one of the nominees for TDEU Hall of Fame, and Charles McCrea continues - One of the main reasons I signed with the Eagles are the players. These guys have welcomed us with open arms. It's an honor to be their teammate. Also, board and coaches are doing a great job, I can freely say the Eagles are one of the best organized teams I played for. There are minor mistakes we need to work on as a team, but, we're getting better by every game we play. 


Marek Włodarczyk. Photo: Agnieszka Kubilus
As we already mentioned - Poland knows how to put on a show. Marek, Eagles VP, opened the doors of what his team does marketing wise. - Besides the standard promotion, we do a lot of appearances - Hell's Kitchen, So You Think You Can Dance, Polish version of TopGear, multiply TV commercials etc. A punt return by our former import Clarence Anderson went viral and was featured on NFL.com, ESPN etc. We were also featured in NY Times. Besides the marketing, we're always finding ways on how to help and raise awareness on different causes. We do a lot of charity work and we hope to be able to impact as many as we can.
Eagles on Hell's Kitchen
Time spent with the Eagles made us just wanting to go back and experience the hype around the home games as well. No team can be perfect, but what separates this team is that everyone cares to make themselves better in order to help make the team better. We were surprised that the players do understand that it's the mistakes that are hurting them right now, but at the same time - they are ready to put in that extra work with the amazing coaching staff and board that actually cares to keep upgrading the organization. 

We'd like to thank everyone at the Eagles organization for such great hospitality and cooperation! However, this story is not done. Part 2 coming soon.

Mia Bajin
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