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KS Cracovia, once the home of Polish football, is now in the shadow of other Polish clubs. What was their journey like?

Klub Sportowy Cracovia is the oldest Polish football club based in Kraków. Cracovia is the 6th club in Poland based on league titles won with 5 titles. The club won 7 major trophies in total including the Polish Cup and the Supercup as their most recent. The club is currently competing in the 1st tier of Polish football – Ekstraklasa. 

Cracovia’s home is their Józef Piłsudski Cracovia Municipal Stadium (Stadion Miejski Cracovii im. Józefa Piłsudskiego) with a capacity of 15,016. Club’s nickname is ‘The Stripes‘ which dates from the early days of the club’s history. 

Józef Piłsudski Cracovia Municipal Stadium

Fans, Friendships, and Rivalries

Cracovia has one of the largest fan bases in Poland. The fans have 19 official fan clubs outside Kraków. The club has one ultras and two hooligans groups and draws most of its support from Kraków and the Lesser Poland region. 

Cracovia fans have a great friendship with Arka Gdynia and Lech Poznań known as “The Gread Triad” (Wielka Triada). They also have a friendship with Ajax Amsterdam. Their relationship with Polonia Warsaw ended in 2017 after 49 years.

Cracovia’s biggest rivalry is the “Holy War with Wisła Kraków. It’s the oldest and most violent derby in Poland. Cracovia also has a rivalry with the third club in Kraków – Hutnik Nowa Huta. Other rivals in Ekstraklasa are Legia Warsaw, Śląsk Wrocław, Ruch Chorzów and Lechia Gdańsk.

Cracovia fans during “Holy War”

First Days of Football

Henryk Jordan, a Polish physician who spent some time in Britain came back to Kraków and introduced the city to the beautiful game of football. However, the first game of football ever played on Polish ground was in Lwów on July 14, 1894. Within the next few years, football became a popular sport, especially among high school students. 

On June 13 1906, two matches between high school teams took place. The matches were warmly welcomed by Kraków’s fans, who were surprised to see football gear for the first time, brought by players from Lwów. 

Jerzy Lustgarten from the team of Akademicy came up with the new name – Cracovia (Latin name for Kraków). Lustgarten’s idea was accepted and the new full name for the club was Akademicki Klub Footballowy, Cracovia. 13 June is also regarded as the day of Cracovia’s creation.

Next year, Cracovia and “Biało-czerwoni” were both facing financial difficulties and decided to join forces and create a stronger club. The created club took over Cracovia’s name and “Biało-czerwoni” jersey with the red-white combination

Creation of Polish Football Association

In 1910, Cracovia’s statutes were recognized by the Austrian government and Cracovia joined the Austrian Football Association where it gained the proud title of 1st class team. The Stripes were actively playing against Czech, German and Austrian teams. 

Cracovia didn’t forget its roots and due to their initiative, the Polish Football Association was created on June 25 1911. In the following years, there wasn’t much activity in Polish football due to World War I.

Poland’s football team

First Champion of Poland

In 1920, the PZPN (Polish Football Association) wasn’t able to organize the Polish championship due to the wars. However, the Kraków department of the PZPN organized a tournament which was won by Cracovia ahead of Wisła Kraków.

Next year, the entire country was able to participate. Cracovia had another great season winning their first-ever league title and becoming the first-ever Champion of Poland. An historic moment for the club and the fans!

Glory Years

In 1928, Cracovia joined the Polish Football League which was created a year earlier. Two years later, in 1930, Kraków’s side became the Champion of Poland for the second time in its history.

The fantastic performances of this league-winning season was repeated in 1932. At the end of the season, Cracovia ended in a higher league position table than other famous teams such as Pogoń Lwów, Warta Poznań, Wisła Kraków and ŁKS Łódź.

However, Cracovia’s team went into a downfall and in 1935, Cracovia was relegated from the Ekstraklasa. The Stripes eventually returned to the first division relatively soon after this. The season after, Cracovia won their 4th title after getting promoted back to Ekstraklasa. 

The Last Success

The last league title won by Cracovia was in the year 1948 when The Stripes won the league title after winning the Holy War against Wisła in the play-off. 

Changing Club’s Name

A year later sport clubs were reorganized the Soviet way and Cracovia became Związkowy Klub Sportowy Ogniwo Cracovia. In June 1949, the Latin name of the town was erased from the club’s name and the authorities made Cracovia give up the red-white jerseys.

The club went under the name of Terenowe Koło Sportowe Sparta until it finally regained its proper name in 1955.

Cracovia was struggling and was in a relegation-promotion chain till 1983 when they came back into the Ekstraklasa. That promotion was considered as a success as they weren’t given many chances due to financial problems.

Fans to the Rescue

The upcoming years were unusually difficult for The Stripes. In 1997, the club was turned into a sport joint-stock company and they were close to bankruptcy. The club was saved by the fans who collected enough money for the club.

The famous demonstration in front of the Building of Cracow Voivodeship Office on Basztowa Street took place in 2001. The club’s fall into decline was brought to a stop by dedicated fans associated with “The Group of 100”, who provided for the club. Soon Cracovia attracted a sponsor – Comarch (which is still the current club sponsor). 

At the end of 2002-03, the club returned to the second division and a year later were promoted to the first tier. After many years The Stripes were back to where they belong.

The Wait Is Over

The legendary Polish Club was waiting a long time for a new major trophy. In season 2019/20, Cracovia did a great run in the Polish Cup and managed to win the major trophy after more than 70 years! That’s what we call an amazing success! 

Polish Cup won in 2019/20

After struggling for a long time, being in a close call to bankruptcy, the once Polish giants are slowly climbing their way back to the top of Polish football. After winning the Polish Cup, they won the Supercup against Legia Warsaw on penalties after a tight 0-0 draw! 

What a fantastic football story which a lot of people might not even know about! 

Make sure to check our other posts and leave your thoughts on this story in the comments. If you are interested in more football stories, be sure to check out the ‘STORIES’ tab on our website!

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