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Meeting Lukasz Gikiewicz: This week in Middle East football Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Meeting Lukasz Gikiewicz: This week in Middle East football

Lukasz Gikiewicz is the leading scorer in Jordan's league this season [Twitter]

Date of publication: 7 March, 2018

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Blog: The Polish striker has been making headlines with his impressive score rate. He spoke to Uri Levy for The New Arab.
"In Europe many tend to think that in the Middle East people don't play football at a good level. Yet there are many examples of people who came here and progressed. For Europeans, playing and working in the Middle East is sometimes a bigger challenge than in Europe. Here, as a foreigner, every game the pressure is on you. If the team loses - the first address for responsibility would be us, the European coaches and players alike."

Lukasz Gikiewicz is one of the most interesting players in the Middle East at the moment.

The Polish striker at Al-Faisaly Amman, the Jordanian champions, has been making headlines recently. Gikiewicz' score rate is one of the most impressive in Asia, with seven goals from the past nine games. In the games in which he didn't score, he led the number of assists.

He leads the top scorer table in Jordan with 11 goals this season, and has already scored four in the Asian continental competitions.

At 30 years old, Lukasz is in his best form of his career. But beside the goals and his current shape, Lukasz has had a rich football career, spread across six countries and multiple teams. In interview with The New Arab, Lukasz spoke about Al-Faisaly, Poland's national team, and more.

Lukasz, you've been on the road quite a lot during your career... 

"I played in Thailand, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Saudi Arabia and now in Jordan. As a professional, if there is a good offer and my family feels good about it, I go there.

"For me it's not important where I play - whether it's Thailand, somewhere in Europe or the Middle East. When I sign for a certain club, I always do it in order to give everything I can for the team. It's true that I'm not Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but you can be sure that I give my hundred percent in every training and every game.

"Now, I'm very happy with my wife here in Amman. People received us very well. We also started to learn Arabic now, so they are saying that I'm not Polish but Jordanian. What you feel within, inside your heart, the same you produce and contribute on the pitch."

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Many describe this as the best time of your career, professionally. Do you agree? What are the reasons for this run of form?

"Yes. For a striker, 30 is the perfect age. I take care of my body, eat well, sleep well, because I love this game and I want to be in top form for my team. This round I'm in a good shape and playing well. In the last nine games, I scored seven goals and passed two assists. I am the league's top goal scorer with 11 goals.

"I think the reason for it is that Coach Nebojsa has returned to our team [after a spell at Al-Ahly Cairo]. He gives me energy, support, always explain my mistakes to me and after every game we sit together and analyse what I could do better or what should I try in the next game. 

"Football, as I believe, is very much a game of coaches. In the league's first round I scored six goals, now since Nebojsa is back I already have five goals in five matches of the second round. He is definitely one of the main reasons for my form."

What are your expectations from this Al-Faisaly side for this season?

"Now at Al-Faisaly we have a great team and we showed it last season by winning the championship, the cup, the Super Cup and in the Arab Club Championship too, when we've beaten [Egypt's] Al-Ahly twice. We have a tremendous coach in Nebojsa Jovovic and very good players in the squad.

"As I see it - this team has no limit. We are like a family in Al-Faisaly and we can beat any team in the Middle East.

"While it will be hard to win the title again in Jordan this season, in the AFC Cup our target, minimum, is to win the group's top spot, and to go to the semi-final. My target is to go to the final and to win this cup. When you are Al-Faisaly there is no other option.

"After the Arab Club Championship that the referees have put up a complete show and gave the cup to the Tunisians (Esperance), ten thousands fan waited for us in the airport. There I understood the power of this club."

Since you signed for Al-Faisaly you've been celebrating goals in a unique way - wearing the famous red and white keffiyeh. Is it just for fun, or is it a strong and immediate connection with Faisaly's crowd?

"From the first day at Al-Faisaly I felt amazing with the fans here. After every game, thousands are singing my name, it's a great feeling. The fans give me the power to improve, especially when we play at home in front of our crowd.

"I hope the fans will remember in few years that once they had a striker, Lukasz, from Poland, who scored many goals and won trophies. I play for them. Without the fans football is nothing. I am waiting for our match with Al-Ramtha. The stadium should be full, with a great atmosphere, while thousands call my name: 'Lukasz! Lukasz!' That's a wonderful feeling." 

Poland will play the World Cup. Although you are not part of the national team, your form must be attracting the attention of the national team coach, Adam Nawalka.

Is it possible that if you continue this scoring rate we might be seeing you in Russia?

"Of course to play for Poland national team is my dream, and if I get the option to do so I'll fight for it. A website in Poland wrote that Lewandowski has 20 goals this season and Gikiewicz has 15, so it will be hard. He [the national coach] never called me, and in general in Europe many tend to think that in the Middle East people don't play football at a good level. Yet, there are many examples of people who came here and progressed. Former Al-Hilal and Al-Ain's coach, Zlatko Dalic, became Croatia national team coach and took them to the World Cup.

"At first people doubted him and said 'Where is Al-Ain? Who is this coach?', now they are in love with him.

"For Europeans, playing and working in the Middle East is sometimes a bigger challenge than in Europe. Here, as a foreigner, every game the pressure is on you. If the team loses - the first address for responsibility would be us, the European coaches and players alike. I understand it, this is football. Everywhere you play you must contribute.

"If a call from Poland's national team comes that's good, but [I'm taking it] step by step. I am working hard and focused on taking my club to the highest peaks I can in the AFC Cup. The rest is a bonus."

Describe Lukasz Gikiewicz in one sentence.

"A hard worker that always stays positive, fights to the very end and gives hundred percent of himself for the team. This is my way to go. Without this hard work I wouldn't be now with Al-Faisaly, touching success."

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here

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