Bydgoszcz Archers General Manager Osman Sulkiewicz leading his small club into Poland’s big league

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Bydgoszcz, Poland isn’t American Football – safe to say this can be true for most places in Europe. But for Osman Sulkiewicz, the Bydgoszcz Archers is all he can think about.

Osman began his football career in Poland playing for the Warsaw Werewolves where he played DE and MLB before he left with 30 other players to form the Warsaw Królewscy who would go on to win the national PLFA2 title in 2013. 

After two years Królewscy merged with the Warsaw Spartans to make the Warsaw Sharks where he would meet QB Luke Zetazate and later win the PFLA1 title in 2017. 

After five years of relative success Osman and the Sharks faced another merger that created the more familiar Warsaw team, the Mets. It would be Zetazate who would recruit Osman to the Archers where he played one more season before hanging up his cleats and moving into the front office as General Manager.

It is fair to say that Osman has seen his fair share of operational difficulties while playing football in Poland. And it is the precariousness of those realities – that are oh-so common in Europe – that position him to manage a football team in Europe. Foresight and experience are needed to anticipate and prepare for financial as well as player limitations. 

“We’ve started our work making future plans to ensure Archers are a top team in Poland. After last year and a long pandemic season we’ve decided to put the team on a higher level. My job for the team is to research new players – imports and nationals, searching for new sponsors and developing the organization. As a day job I work in sales.”

Located in the north of Poland, the city of Bydgoszcz has a population of approximately 348,000 where the sport of motorcycle speedway is king. There are popular basketball and soccer teams, but in recent years American football has begun to gain traction within the city.

“We have big support from the Bydgoszcz community. Winning the Junior National Championship last year gave us opportunities to be promoted, we became more recognizable in the City. Last season we saw bigger interest in the team, that trend motivated us to do better live streams for our home games pulling in a bigger audience.”

Although there is now a sustained interest in playing American football in Poland and a consistent stream of international imports some teams still find it hard retaining and developing domestic talent. Head coach of the Archers, Daniel Piechnik, had this to say about some of the challenges faced this year:

“I think the biggest challenge for us is to build a depth in the squad and “next man up” mentality. The team is a mix of very experienced players that won few championships and youngsters who played their first season on that level last year. We work hard on closing the gap between these groups. The talent is there, we just need time and hard work.”

Playing football in Europe is a labor of love for all those who stay involved in programs domestically. The financial and operational difficulties are often never ending in the pursuit of a national championship – even for the top teams. And it remains that those behind the scenes who tirelessly toil away, not appearing on the stat-line or in the endzone, are the ones keeping football alive in Europe.

 

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who has worked in B2B journalism and comms in the third sector; with experience in both education and human rights. He has played football for the London Warriors for the last 15 years as well as the