ONE of the great characters of WA football, Eddy Czekalowski, has passed away. He died on December 27 at the age of 80.
Eddy was closely associated with the Cracovia club all his life – but he was often spotted at other grounds, wearing a huge smile and ready to regale his many friends with the latest joke, of which he knew many. He was also a dedicated supporter of Perth Glory.
He played for Cracovia in the club’s golden years when greats like Polish international Paul Sobek and Ziggy Pieda, who went on to become the WA State team captain and coach, were brought out from Poland, along with two other top players – Wally Musial and Henry Lukoszek.
Cracovia made history in winning the First Division crown in 1966, becoming the first team to do so after gaining promotion.
Sobek got the title-clinching goal in a final fixture win over Azzurri, which was played at Perry Lakes Stadium and, according to the 1967 SFWA Yearbook, attracted about 5,000 Cracovia fans, many of them in traditional Polish costumes.
The Yearbook describes the vital goal: “Seventeen minutes into the second half Azzurri conceded a free kick just outside the penalty box.
“A wall of Azzurri players viewed the situation with some trepidation as hot-shot Henry Lukoszek, the State League’s new champion goalscorer, calmly teed up the ball and prepared for the blast-off.
“But as Lukoszek moved forward, so did centre-forward Paul Sobek, his foot numb from the effects of a pain-killing injection administered at half-time.
“So, instead of a Lukoszek cannonball, it was a delicatedly-placed Sobek chip shot that curled over the heads of the Azzurri defenders and past the groping fingers of keeper Milano Milanovich into the top right corner of the net. It was the only goal of the game.”
Cracovia had been relegated after failing to win a match in the State League in 1964 – but immediately bounced back after winning the second division title in 1965 with the addition of the four Polish stars, whose expenses had been generously met by many in WA’s Polish community.
The club built on its success in 1967, winning the D’Orsogna Cup with a thrilling 5-3 final victory over East Fremantle Tricolore, coming from three behind at half-time to snatch an amazing triumph. Cracovia, in fact, played in four successive D’Orsogna Cup finals, although won only the one.
Eddy said that the highlight of his career was playing alongside the likes of Sobek and Pieda, who have both been inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA. The pair stayed on in WA at the end of their footballing careers, but Musial and Lukoszek returned to their native Poland.
Eddy was also great mates with another former Cracovia player, Russell Whitson, who was a member of the Football Hall of Fame Committee until his death in 2008.
Eddy and Russell made a huge contribution to helping preserve the history of the game in WA, teaming up to shoot videos of many of the significant local games.
And they left behind a wonderful legacy with a video recording of the State team’s famous 2-1 victory over Australia in 1983. Steve McCaffrey and Ronnie Campbell got the goals for WA. Eddy said he was never comfortable when they made the video, having to climb a tall tower at Inglewood Reserve and looking nervously down at the ground.
Eddy, who served on numerous Cracovia committees and was a Life Member of the club, was awarded the Polish Sports Gold Medal for services to football outside Poland.
PIC ONE: Eddy Czekalowski. PIC TWO: Cracovia’s great Poles (from left) Paul Sobek, Wally Musial, Henry Lukoszek, Ziggy Pieda.