An interview with a deaf footballer. We invite you to watch. Interview in Polish Sign Language. [Machine Translation: notice an error? Inform us].
[Tomasz Smakowski]: – A warm welcome to you. Today’s guest is a great spot star. Please introduce yourself so we can get to know you.
[Maciej Joniuk]: – My name is Maciej Joniuk. My call sign…
– Maciej when did you decide that you wanted to be involved in sports? What was it like?
– I remember when I was young, I was 8 years old living in Warsaw in a boarding school. The teacher at the boarding school offered me and the other boys a soccer match. We agreed. It was something new for me. Already being there, I didn’t know how to play.
– How old were you?
– 8 years old. Then at the game I scored a goal. My colleagues were so happy. They had great joy! When I saw it, I thought: “But cool!”. I scored more goals. My colleagues were very happy, they even tossed me up in the air with this joy. Then I felt that I fell in love with soccer. I felt that I was good at it. That’s why I decided to go in this direction. I started practicing to develop as a soccer player.
– In the beginning, you once got an offer to take part in a match. If you wanted to be a professional athlete, to go in this direction, to have a job related to it in the future, you could, being deaf, go to the AWF (Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego – University of Physical Education), for example? What is the choice?
– To become a soccer player, you need to train a lot, preferably join a hearing club. Train in the appropriate age categories, train from an early age, practice a lot, take part in matches, observe and move up to the next age categories until you reach the seniors. You have to practice all the time.
– Are there teams, clubs for the deaf? Did you have to be with hearing people? How is it better?
– As for the level of play in deaf clubs vs. hearing clubs, by far the higher level is with the hearing ones. The deaf have matches and tournaments several times a year. And they do. Hearing players have matches every week. They train every day or three times a week. As a result, they develop faster. And the deaf only practice occasionally, they rarely have matches. That’s why I think it’s worthwhile for deaf soccer players to be in hearing clubs.
– You’ve been involved in soccer since you were 8 years old. You achieved until you became a professional soccer player. What have you been able to achieve?
– When I was 8 years old I started training. I was growing up. In my high school days, I joined the school soccer club. The academy team selected the best football players from the whole school. We traveled to national tournaments. I won first, second and third places.
When I finished school, I got an offer to join a club for the deaf. It was a strong team in Poland. I trained, participated in matches, won medals from all over Poland. I won a lot of individual awards – king of scorers, best player.
Later, the national team coach noticed me, my good form, I scored a lot of goals. They called me up to the Polish National Team. I was very happy about that. I was regularly called up for matches, I traveled a lot to Europe and to various matches.
In 2015 I had a serious knee injury, a torn ligament. I had two surgeries on the knee. After the surgeries, I finished playing football, family matters came to the fore.
– Maciej, woooow! What is this! Are these your wins?
– These are my won team medals and individual medals.
– Beautiful. A very rich collection. Are these all of them?
– No, I have more. I didn’t count exactly, but about 50 medals. Also statuettes. I have won a great deal. In fact, I can’t count how many I have.
– I can’t count either, because I have zero. I haven’t collected anything all my life. Which medal is closest to your heart, which comes first? From competitions, championships?
– In 2007 I was at the Polish Under-21 Championships, and our team won third place. I won the MVP award for the first time in my life for the best player (Most Value Player). It looks like this. The most important medal I won was for 1st place in turf soccer. 11 people competed.
For several years I didn’t manage to win anything. When I joined the club, I succeeded and that was my big success.
Another one, the Polish futsal championship. Three years in a row I won first place. These are the 2 medals, and the third was probably left at home. Sorry. These are my most important achievements.
– You have 50 medals. Are these medals won in Poland? Have you traveled to European, world championships?
– Mainly in Poland. On the trips I didn’t manage to win anything. It was difficult. Others were stronger than us. We didn’t manage to get anything. It’s a shame. My dream was to have European successes.
– Maciej, we already know that you love soccer. Maybe you like some other sports or have some hobbies?
– Yes, I have other interests besides soccer. I like to play volleyball. It’s been a long time since I played. I like to travel. Cars, motorization, everything related to that. I like to go to the gym, I like to visit different countries. That’s all.
– Here in Poland, you have been constantly promoted, climbing the career ladder. Tell us, what is the support like in clubs for the deaf? Did you have an assistant to help you? Did you have an interpreter when the coach was explaining something? Did you have to guess what he was talking about yourself? What was it like?
– I had different coaches in my soccer career. When I joined the deaf club Mazovia, I had a hearing coach who could sign. He easily gave me information on what to do, how to train.
In the Polish National Team, I had a coach who was hearing, but did not sign at all. There was a situation where the coach asked one football player from our team to help translate for us. The football player agreed and translated for us.
I had a hearing coach, in a hearing club, where I was the only deaf person. The rest were hearing people. I was afraid if I would understand anything. It went well for me. The trainer spoke clearly. He knew I was deaf.
Then that trainer left, a new one with a thick mustache came. I was exhausting myself, I was not able to understand him. Fortunately, I didn’t have to understand him. He spoke, then in training he performed the steps and I imitated him. I recognized what to do. I was coping.
When it comes to deaf sports, most coaches of soccer, volleyball, basketball, athletics sign. Now it’s so mandatory that they have to be able to sign.
– I didn’t know about it.
Is it true that deaf athletes now have rich support and help from various clubs, organizations, have various trips? Is there more of this? I’ve heard from other deaf people that they have clubs, organized staff. Yes?
– There is the “Polish Deaf Sports Association” in Lublin. They are always organizing trips to European or world tournaments, in various sports: swimming, athletics, etc. They do everything so that deaf athletes have good conditions for training. So that they can focus on the sport, and not worry about lodging or food. They really do a great job.
– Congratulations on the medals.
– Thank you.
– Maciej, you showed me beautiful medals. But you have one more achievement. Are you a member of any club? Explain what this is about.
– When I posted the World Cup photo on Instagram, I got a private message from the Fifa World Cup Official with an offer to join the FIFA FAN MOVEMENT club, which means “fan movement” in Polish. I was surprised, I didn’t expect it. I had my doubts, but I accepted the proposal.
– What does membership in FIFA FAN MOVEMENT give you?
– In February of this year, the official draw for the European Under-20-21 Champions was held in Gdansk, Poland, and I received an offer to go to the draw in person. I didn’t expect it, I gladly agreed and went. On the spot I met former sports stars. Among them, footballer Bebeto – Brazilian footballer, world champion of 1994.I had the pleasure of talking with him for a while. The second footballer I met was Fernando Couto. Former captain of the Portuguese national team, a great defender. We talked, it was friendly.
I didn’t expect to meet such stars in my life. I always watched them on TV, and now I saw them live. It was a great experience for me.
I also met the coach of the Polish National Team Jerzy Brzęczek. I shook hands with President Zbigniew Boniek. There were various world stars.
In June I was at the Women’s World Cup in France, I got an invitation from FUN MOVEMENT. It was a match for the quarterfinals in women’s soccer. I watched it live at the PSG stadium (Parc de Princes).
Thanks to joining the FUN MOVEMEN club, I get to travel, visit stadiums and meet world stars. A really great experience.
– From what you say, it’s really a super experience. You told about the trips, the medals won. Have all your dreams come true? Do you still have something hidden inside ?
– As a soccer player, my dreams were partially fulfilled, but partially not. I lacked success at the European Championships. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. That’s what I’m missing.
As for my dreams to be fulfilled in the future related to sports, I would very much like to watch the World Cup final live as a fan. To experience such a final.
– I have a request, because we are definitely watched by young people, maybe they don’t have a set goal in life yet. Maybe you have some advice for them in the field of sports? Why should they choose this path? What would you like to say about this topic?
– When it comes to deaf athletes, I have a piece of advice: it’s not enough to have talent. Talent is not everything. Hard work leads to success. It is possible to conquer everything. An athlete must have a strong psyche. One cannot be soft, sensitive, nervous. One must be tough.
As for a deaf athlete who would like to achieve success, it is worthwhile for him to join a team of hearing people whether in swimming, soccer or basketball. Not every club for the deaf has the conditions to achieve the goal. This is my advice.
– Super. Maciej, thank you very much. You told me a lot of interesting stories. The ones from the past. About the emotions of the future. I enjoyed it very much.
I have a suggestion, would you like to join us as Sports Director at the World of the Deaf? Why don’t you agree?
– A nice proposal. I didn’t expect it. I need some time to think about it.
– Well, thank you for the interview.