The Holy Goalie – A Life Less Ordinary

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It’s safe to say that some careers are more interesting than others and, whilst Celtic FC has had a number of Polish players over the years, I feel it would be safe to say that Artur Boruc was the most interesting of them all.

In this article we will look at his life in review and cover all the highs and lows that have made his life one of the most colourful in the club’s history.

The Beginning: Wednesday February 20, 1980 – Siedlce, Poland

Artur was born to Jadwiga and W?adys?aw Boruc in the eastern Polish city of Siedlice. One of five children he was taken to his first football training session by his older brother, Robert, at the age of nine and soon became the first choice goalkeeper for the youth team of local side MKP Pogo? Siedlice.

His family was not entirely supportive of his passion for the sport, despite the fact that his father had played ice hockey locally for a number of years.

An article from 2009 by the website quote the goalkeeper as saying:

“My parents had a different approach to my passion, my father was very positive about my adventure with football from the very beginning. It was worse with my mother, who I guess didn’t believe that [anything] would come out of my hobby.”

In addition, his grandma Helenka also remained sceptical about the future, reminding the young Artur often, “Remember, you can’t eat the ball!”.

Nevertheless, his youth career continued at pace and in 1993 he took part in the Dana Cup youth football championship in Hjørring, Denmark. At the age of 16, Boruc made his senior debut against Orl?tów ?uków in Polish football’s third tier and began to appear for the national team’s youth sides at U-16, U-17 and U19 levels.

It would be with the national team that his star would truly begin to shine.

The Rise: Friday, March 8, 2002 – Florian Krygier Stadion, Szczecin, Poland

The beginnings of a serious career for the boy from Siedlice began in 1998, when for the Polish U-19 national team for a friendly match with Legia Warsaw. After an impressive performance he was invited to join the Warsaw clubs training camp in Sicily and subsequently became a Legia player.

However, it would be several years before he would make his first team debut and it would come in unfortunate circumstances for a fellow professional.

In the 33rd minute of a top flight game away to Pogon Szczecin with Legia trailing 1-0 regular first team goalkeeper, Radostin Stanew, was forced off with injury and at the age of 22 Boruc was called upon to make his Esktralska debut.

Two quick fire goals in the second half looked to have turned the match around for the Warsaw side however an late equaliser for the home team would ensure that the match would finish 2-2 and end Boruc’s debut with a draw.

This would not be the last appearance for Artur as following performances cemented his position as the new starting goalkeeper and several other fine performances that season would ensure that the side would end the footballing year with a league championship and league cup double.

The Limelight: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005 – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland:

The young goalkeeper’s ambition continued to grow and the next goal in his sights was to wrest the number one position for the Polish national team from the capable hands of Liverpool FCs Jerzy Dudek.

However, did not feel that this would be possible if he continued playing for Legia, despite having been made club captain, and that he would need to move to a bigger club to give himself more exposure.

That team would ultimately turn out to be Celtic.

Following a successful medical evaluation Artur signed for the hoops initially on loan with the club retaining the right to buy the 25-year-old and from day one he was clear about his aspirations following the transfer.

“I want to be number one with Celtic and with Poland and win myself a longer contract here,” he told BBC Sport. “If I play over here then Jerzy Dudek will have a little problem over in Liverpool.”

Boruc, would initially contest the number one jersey at the club with Scotland international David Marshall, who had broken through the season before following a standout performance in the Nou Camp against Barcelona.

The Pole had promised not to “ask for a lot of money” in negotiations as he was simply honoured to be joining a club like Celtic, “This is a big club and a great club and maybe we are going to be in the Champions League,” he said. “I remember seeing one Celtic game on television – in Seville against Porto – and the one thing I remember was that there were so many supporters.”

Then Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, said: “What we are getting is a player who is hungry. He’s the Polish number two at the moment. There is a loan fee and his wages, but we felt we saved a lot of money and we can use that elsewhere to strengthen the side.”

Boruc quickly established himself as the clubs first choice and began to shine through a combination outstanding shot-stopping and immense self-belief which endeared himself immensely to the club’s supporters although not everyone in Scotland as a fan.

Rangers fans took a strong dislike to the goalkeeper and it is safe to say that the feeling was almost certainly mutual, resulting in the Pole receiving a police caution and a fine from the SFA for separate occasions where gestures were made to the crowd.

When asked about his attitude towards followers of the Ibrox side in an interview with Artur was unequivocal and stated, “There have been a few incidents in Glasgow, such as broken windows in the house, but these were intermittent. [But], they raised the pressure, but I hadn’t planned anything before. I’ve never calculated. “

“I usually did it unconsciously, I had to somehow vent my emotions. I know that some things should not be done. At the time, however, I had the impression that it was all very natural reflexes. I had my own opinion on many issues.”

In a separate interview following a 3-0 defeat to the Govan side he states, “Rangers? I just don’t like them and will never like them. They should also honestly admit that they don’t like me, because that’s just the way it is”

Despite the animosity across the city Boruc’s time in Glasgow as a success both on and off the field, three league titles in a row, three cups, saving a penalty against Manchester United helped Celtic qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions league and in 2007 he helped a 27-year-old pregnant Polish woman, her sister and brother-in-law in Elder Park, Glasgow, avoid being attacked by a group of drunken hooligans.

For this he received a special distinction in the 40th edition of the Fair Play Competition organised by the Polish Olympic Committee.

The international recognition that he had long sought came in 2008 where he was named the third best goalkeeper in the world behind Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon as well as 52nd best overall by FourFourTwo magazine and was finally named the Polish National teams first choice under coach Leo Beenhaker for the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

Although as ever Boruc would find himself on the front page of newspaper as often as the back and in the space of a week in August of the same year he would find himself dropped from the national team and in a separate incident fined by Celtic for alcohol related breaches and separated from his first wife Katarzyna amid reports of his relationship with former Polish Idol contestant Sara Mannei.

“The Return of the King”: Saturday, August 1, 2020 – Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warsaw, Poland

In July 2010 Boruc signed for AFC Fiorentina, bringing an end to his time in Scotland and the beginning of the latter part of his career in Italy. Two years later he moved back to the UK on the south coast of England to join Southampton.

However, he would soon be dislodged from his position as first choice by the arrival of another former Celtic goalkeeper as Fraser Forster arrived for £10 million and so Arthur moved further along the coast to joining Bournemouth in 2014 where he would spend six the next six years and was named player of the year for the 2016-17 season.

Nevertheless, a yearning to go back to where it all began and in August 2020 the official Legia Warsaw twitter account announced that they had secured “The Return of the King” the Artur would be joining them for the 2020-21 season.

The Present: Sunday, February 13, 2022 – Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warsaw, Poland:

Reigning Esktralska champions Legia Warsaw are currently trailing 1-0 to league rivals Warta Pozna? as the match heads into the final stages and they look to avoid a 14th defeat in 20 games played so far this year in the Polish top flight.

In the 72nd minute, Artur Boruc, gathered the ball and looked to release it quickly. However, he quickly became frustrated upon discovering his path blocked by Warta defender David Szymonowicz.

Within seconds he grabbed his opponent by the back of the head and forcefully moved him out the way. After consulting the VAR referee, ?ukasz Ku?ma, deemed this a sending off and showed the former Polish national keeper a red card.

As he left the field he collided with a pitch side cameraman and, later that day, he took to Instagram to announce his displeasure with the decision using less than complimentary language towards the match official.

Four days later, less than 48 hours before his 42nd birthday, Boruc was found guilty of misconduct by the Polish League Committee who banned him for three matches and fined him £5, 000.

For another player this might be viewed as the most newsworthy event in their career but then as we are well aware… not all players are Artur Boruc.

Rob McCarry is a Celtic fan and regular writer for The CelticBlog.

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