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Paweł Cyganek (1913–1995) was a soccer forward player of interwar Poland, who in one game played on the Polish National Team. Cyganek was born in Wirek, a district of the Upper Silesian city of Ruda Śląska. From early childhood he loved soccer and was a very fast runner, so at age 14 he became a forward on the local team Wawel Wirek.
In the 1930s Wawel played in Silesian A-Class, the strongest regional league in Poland (in interwar Poland, A-Class was equivalent of today’s Second Division). Cyganek was widely regarded as too good for this division and several top teams of the Polish Soccer League wanted to buy him. Among these were Śląsk Świętochłowice, Ruch Chorzów and Cracovia.
Their offers were refused, but finally, at the beginning of 1939, he decided to move to Fablok Chrzanów, another A-Class team, from the Kraków region. In 1939 his team won Kraków’s qualifiers, which allowed it to play in inter-regional games for promotion to the Polish Soccer Division. On the way, however, Fablok lost to Śląsk Świętochłowice. Cyganek, who was making good money with Fablok, was feeling good there, improving his play virtually every day. After a Kraków - Upper Silesia 4-1 game (mid-1939) his class was noticed by Józef Kałuża, who called him to the National Team.
Lone game for the Polish National Team
The game vs. Hungary was a big success for the Poles, as they beat the 1938 World Cup runners-up 4-2. Apart from Ernest Wilimowski, Leonard Piątek and Ewald Dytko, Cyganek, a debutant, was regarded as the best player on the field. Chrzanów’s player was hoping for more such games and looking forward to the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but his plans were brutally thwarted on September 1, as with the German attack on Poland, World War II began.
In late fall of 1939 Germans decided to reopen soccer games in occupied Upper Silesia. Cyganek, who in the meantime had returned to Wirek, started playing for the German-sponsored team Winter Sport-Verein Antonienhutte (formerly Wawel Wirek). He supposedly lost none of his class, as was noticed by Sepp Herberger, manager of German National Team. However, the player was soon kicked out by Herberger, because he continued to speak Polish.
End of career
In early 1945, after the Red Army poured into Upper Silesia, Cyganek started to organize soccer games under new, Communist authorities. Soon afterwards Fablok’s officials got in touch with him, so he returned to Chrzanów. He spent several years there, finishing his career in 1955 as a defender of Otmęt Krapkowice. Afterwards, he became a coach of several teams such as Pogoń Zabrze, Urania Ruda Śląska and Wawel Wirek.
Cyganek died in 1995 in Wirek.