Ronaldo, Rudan and relocation: Kopczynski's journey from Warsaw to Wellington

A change in outlook - both geographical and positional - has made Wellington Phoenix player Michal Kopczynski’s Hyundai A-League experience a rewarding one.

The lure of a new challenge saw the 26-year-old depart Poland’s top-flight Ekstraklasa and embark on the 17,000 kilometre journey to Wellington on loan from Legia Warsaw in July 2018.

But accompanied by his rugby-playing partner, the Poland sevens international Stasia Jestem, Kopczynski has embraced the opportunity with both hands. 

"The league and the team, it was and still is a challenge,” said Kopczynski, who came up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema when his Legia Warsaw side faced Real Madrid in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League.

“I feel like I'm a better player now, better than when I arrived here.

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Michal and partner Stasia have embraced their time in New Zealand


“Wellington is a good place to play football, to develop your skills. We have a great team and I like the city as well, and the level of the A-League is pretty good so I’m so happy here.

“The games are more open, there are a lot of beautiful goals. If one team has let in two or three goals and is three goals up it is not sure that you’ll win the game. It’s very interesting.”

Michal Kopczynski tracks Real Madrid attacker Cristiano Ronaldo
Kopczynski (15) tracks Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League

Kopczynski arrived in the New Zealand capital a midfielder by trade, but has gradually been employed on the left side of Phoenix’s defensive trio by coach Mark Rudan.

It is a positional shift which is reaping dividends for player and club.


Kopczynski initially struggled to nail down a regular spot in Wellington’s XI, but has completed 90 minutes at the back in his side’s last five matches.

He says the transition has been made easier by the team's structure.

“It’s not always easy, but our team is well organised so for a defender it’s a really good way," Kopczynski said.


“In our system this position fits me. I feel comfortable, I feel like I can offer something special to the team. It’s OK for me.

“It wasn’t my first position, of course, but I feel comfortable.”

Kopczynski’s Phoenix host Newcastle Jets this Saturday (kick-off 5.35pm AEDT) aiming to consolidate their position in the top four.


And although the club could put the final nail in Newcastle's top-six aspirations with a win, the Pole says Phoenix only have eyes for the teams ahead of them, not those in the rear-view mirror.

“It’s going to be a crucial game. But we’re looking up in the table, we want to keep fourth or maybe a higher place. It’s our goal," he said.

“The gap between us and the Victory is pretty big, but we still have a chance so we’re looking up. We’ll see.”

Kopa
Kopczynski (left) has excelled in Wellington's back three in Steven Taylor's recent absence