'I am going to the World Cup... it's an amazing feeling' - Bialkowski on fulfilling his dream
PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:30 05 June 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski has made it into the final Poland squad for the World Cup in Russia this summer. ANDY WARREN spoke to him.
Bartosz Bialkowski fulfilled his dream in March when he made his long-awaited Poland debut at the age of 30.
Then he dared to dream even bigger.
It was after his call-up to the senior squad for the first time and his debut against Nigeria in Wroclaw that the Ipswich Town goalkeeper began to truly believe he could represent his country at the World Cup.
His stunning form over the previous two seasons had meant he could no longer be ignored by Polish boss Adam Nawalka, having been firmly out of the international picture for a decade, but he knew he needed to up his game if he was to make it to Russia.
His extra hours in the gym, changes to his routine and continued impressive displays were rewarded on Monday when he was named in the Poland 23 for this summer’s tournament. The feeling is one he can barely describe.
There is no doubting his late father Marek, who passed away in August 2015, would have been supremely proud of what his son has achieved.
The younger Bialkowski promised his father he would represent his country in their final conversation before his death.
He has deliverd on that promise and more.
“We had a training session on Monday morning and then, after that, the manager called us in and we all spoke individually,” Bialkowski said.
“Then he told me I was going to the World Cup and it was an amazing feeling.
“I’m not sure what I felt before then, although I truly believed I was going to make it, because it was down to the manager to make that final decision. It was a good decision from him in the end for me.
“I trained hard during the camp and played well so I had the right to believe I would be in the team.
“After the call-up in March I truly started believing I could make the final squad for the World Cup, so since then I’ve trained even harder.
“It’s the small things like being in the gym before training, doing yoga a few times a week and things like that. I’ve done everything I could to be in the right shape and to be ready.
“The call in March gave me extra motivation and I think I coped with that pretty well. After I made my debut I think I played pretty well for Ipswich and I enjoyed playing with that pressure.”
Bialkowski is hopeful of adding to his single cap in Poland’s warm-up games against Chile and Lithuania and will do everything he can to put pressure on Wojciech Szczesny of Juventus and Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski for a starting spot in Russia.
“There are so many good players in this squad and to be facing them on a daily basis is unbelievable,” he said.
“There is so much quality in the team, which can only make me a better keeper.
“I’m very pleased to be able to be in the team and be part of that team.
“Everyone wants to play but the decision is then down to the manager.
“We play Chile on Friday and then Lithuania a few days later and we are not sure who is going to play just yet, who is going to be No 1, but all I can do is keep training and showing everyone I can play a big part.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to be No 1 because (Wojciech) Szczesny and (Lukasz) Fabianski are two world class keepers, but I will do everything I can to push them.
“I just want to keep training, keep doing my best and see what happens.
“The World Cup is going to be an amazing experience and one I am really looking forward to. Making the squad is a proud moment for me.”
The Poles face Senegal, Colombia and Japan in the opening stage, with Bialkowski’s involvement likely to mean plenty of Ipswich eyes will be locked on Group H.
The three-time supporters’ player of the year could not be more thankful for the support he has received.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve had so many messages, especially tweets, from people saying congratulations.
“The Ipswich fans are amazing. They were saying they are going to watch Poland at the World Cup so that is such a nice feeling.
“I have a really good relationship with Ipswich fans and I can truly say they are right behind me. I am truly grateful for that.”
That relationship might be tested, however, should Poland run into England in Russia, with a meeting possible in round two.