This week, Kafkadesk spoke with Krakow expat Alex Băcica, founder of Krakow’s expat football team, Dragoons FC.
You’re one of the founders of Dragoons FC, can you tell us a bit more about how you came about in creating this grassroots football club back in 2016?
It actually started in September 2015. After a post on a Facebook Krakow Expats group, a bunch of us met for a game. We didn’t know each other before but we had a lot of fun and it soon became a weekly thing. By 2016, we had a core group of people that would show up every week so we decided that we wanted to take this a bit further. We decided to sign up for Cracow Sunday Football League, an amateur league founded by some pub teams a few years before. Since we had to come up with a name, the Dragoons were born, informally.
… and formally?
Well, we have improved constantly since so, naturally, we wanted to take on a new challenge: the Polish official league system, B Klasa, in this case. So in June 2018, Klub Sportowy “Dragoons” was registered as a legal entity (an actual sports club!) with the aim of playing in B Klasa, lowest division, regional, starting in August 2019.
So, who are the Dragoons today?
Today the Dragoons are a big group of friends formed around the one thing we all share, the love of the beautiful game. We call ourselves Krakow’s Expat Club because the members are mostly expats, save for two Polish lads. It wasn’t necessarily intended like that but it was just the natural course given how it all started. I believe at the moment we have actually around 18 nationalities after the “new signings “. One thing is certain, Portugal is dominant…
What does it take to get in the team? Can anyone join?
Basically yes, anyone can join. But given the fact that we’ve been doing this for so long, we are at a certain level. And because we want to improve further we do have some criteria in signing new members. Actually, just recently, we organized some trial games and ended up with five new members out of around 20 candidates.
You are now competing in the Cracow Sunday Football, who are your opponents? More importantly, how well are you doing this year?
There are seven other teams in the league: there is one team formed by Norwegian medical students in Krakow, four other teams with mixed nationalities, similar to us, and two (mostly) Polish teams, one of which occasionally lines up ex-professionals, including ex Polish international players… they’ve been the reigning champions for a few years now, though we intend to change that this year. Currently we sit at the top of the table with the same number of points as the two following teams, but with two games in hand. The ball is in our court, so to speak.
You also organise football tours and events through KrakowFootball.com?
KrakowFootball.com is sort of a trading name for organizing events. The one I’m fondest of happened in May 2018, GOAL! Festival, when London’s very own Wanderers FC – five-times FA Cup winners – visited Krakow. If I remember correctly, we’ve had seven visiting teams since 2016, all from the UK. This year we’ve already hosted an English side during the last weekend of March and we’ll have at least three more teams visiting, two from the UK and one from Portugal. From this winter on, we will actively be looking for teams to bring to Krakow to try to embed grassroots football culture into the local scene. The plan is to have one main event every summer to give everyone something to look forward to. So GOAL! Festival II will happen on the 1st of June when South Bank Cuaco FC, from London, will be visiting.
Can you tell us more about your involvement with the DHL-United #deliveRED Tour?
#deliveRED was a great experience for me personally. It was a part of a series of football games organized in partnership with DHL and Man United. I had to register as a potential host and hope they will accept our application. Luckly, that happened and we had the chance to be part of this Global event. There is one official ball that travels around the World for each game, regardless if it’s five-a-side, six-a-side or whatever. Maybe for some of the guys it felt just like just another game, but for me it was an amazing experience.
You say you have plans to expand further, what does that entail?
Well, for the immediate future, it means getting the licence for B Klasa and work our way up from there. On a slightly longer term, the plan is to make the Club self-sustainable and think about the future generations. Currently there’s just one main squad, but we’re not getting any younger so in a couple of years we intend to create a junior team and then further expand to different age groups. We are open to the idea of having a women’s team but that’s maybe a couple of years ahead of us. None of us is doing this full time, not yet anyway, but we’re taking it one step at a time.
You recently presented Dragoons FC at the TEDxKazimierzSalon on Social Sports, to what extend do you think that “sport can be a vehicle for social change and development”?
Of course, sport is a vehicle for change. Especially a team sport like football. I believe our project with the Dragoons was a good starting point in adapting to all the changes one goes through as an expat. It’s easier to interact, integrate and make friends when you’re starting off with a common subject, in our case football. I said earlier that we have trials in order to join the team. That’s one thing. But everyone is welcome to join the Club, expat or not. There’s loads of other ways of getting involved.
Would you like, for example, to incorporate a social component to Dragoons FC? Getting involved with NGOs for instance?
We have already, in a way, worked with NGOs through our participation in several charity tournaments. Of course, in those cases our involvement was minimal but once everything at the club is sable from an organizational point of view, we intend to get more involved charity or social events in any way that we can.
You are pretty active within the Krakow expat community, also being an admin of the Real Krakow Expats Facebook group among other things, would you say expat life, or simply life generally, in Krakow is particularly rich?
Haha, I have to be if I want to promote and help the Club grow further. Expat life? It depends on each individual, really. I know expat life is not for everyone. I do like Krakow very much even after seven years. Of course, it’s not perfect but there’s no such place. You have the chance to experience first-hand a lot of different cultures in Krakow and there’s a lot to learn from each one. Cons, of course, being away from family and old friends, but I believe that can be managed if you plan your holidays right…
Finally, as a football fan, do you follow the Ekstraklasa [Poland’s top professional league]? Have you been to the games? Any Cracovia-Wisła rivalry inside your club?
To be honest, not as much as I would like to. But between my job and the Club, and trying to live in between, there’s not much left. I’ve been to one Wisla game and one Cracovia game, but in general, we’re pretty neutral when it comes to Polish football. I believe you’ll find more of a Benfica–Porto “rivalry” at our Club. Quotation marks on rivalry, obviously…
… so, who do you support then, outside of Poland, that is?
Man United, Palmers FC and Steaua Bucharest, the one in the 4th division…
You think United can beat Barca tonight?
I reckon United can beat anyone!
As a PSG fan, I must agree…