West Ham Poland - 15 Years of Support
One of West Ham United's largest supporters' clubs, West Ham Poland, celebrates its 15th birthday in April 2021.
With members drawn from all over the Central European country, and Polish fans based in England and all over the world, West Ham Poland is a group of loyal and committed Hammers.
To celebrate their birthday, we spoke to founder Łukasz Papuda about how West Ham Poland was formed, how it has grown, its support for goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański and its ambitions for the future...
West Ham Poland was formed in April 2006. What is the story behind the formation of the supporters’ club?
West Ham has always had fans in Poland thanks to its beautiful history and a working-class character – the essence of English football.
In the 2005/06 season, my friend and I were fascinated by Alan Pardew's team and their exciting first campaign following promotion from the Championship, especially the time between February and March. We fell in love with West Ham when Anton Ferdinand scored an absolute screamer in the game against Fulham, then the Hammers defeated Arsenal in a crazy match at Highbury.
We started to read more about the team and decided to create West Ham Poland – an internet platform connecting Polish West Ham fans all around the world. It turned out there are a lot of us!
Everyone was surprised and happy that finally there is a place where we can talk to each other in our native language, exchange views, arrange joint game-watching in local pubs, and cheer on our team together.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank Anton Ferdinand for this goal against Fulham. We wouldn’t have made this far without you!
Who were the founder members?
I founded West Ham Poland together with a friend of mine, who has since left the team. Over the years, many new faces have joined our team – people who were writing articles, social media moderators, web developers...
Some of us were very good at organising joint meetings, while some were helping others to get the tickets. We had a few guys who volunteered to organise West Ham Poland branded gadgets. It’s amazing how many people were building West Ham Poland over the years without asking for anything in return.
Currently the team consists of 13 people who work every day to ensure that our community receives a solid dose of information about West Ham.
Where are you based? Where did you/do you meet to watch matches on TV?
We are everywhere! West Ham Poland is not about membership or hierarchy.
We don’t have an office. We don’t collect monthly contributions and we don’t have a chairman. I would say we are community managers who are connecting people, helping the others to interact.
Our community is open; it gathers online around our whufc.pl website, social media channels on Facebook and Twitter and our mobile app. This is where West Ham fans get to know each other and for example find other Hammers fans from their neighbourhood. I myself have met many fantastic people this way when I was living in different cities in Poland. You want to go for a pint and watch a West Ham game? Ask on whufc.pl. You need a ticket for a game? For sure somebody will help you out here.
How has West Ham Poland grown?
It’s been quite a journey! We’ve made our way from a small website to a well-organised and broadly recognised football community.
There are thousands of us using West Ham Poland channels every month. You can see our growth in the technology we use – the whufc.pl website, and we also invested a lot of effort into the development of our social media channels. A few months ago, we launched the West Ham Poland app which was a real game changer.
Beyond technology, we are constantly working on our content quality. We write about West Ham games, transfers, and we translate the interviews with players.
Last year we even started to write about the West Ham Women’s team. There are a lot of talented journalists in our editorial team – we also have social media managers and moderators and web developers, and West Ham fans who want to contribute with their talents.
For me personally, the most memorable moment was an invitation from a Polish television channel to the pre-match studio in 2012 when West Ham were playing in the Championship. It was a tangible proof that we are doing a really good job and that our West Ham Poland brand is strong.
Have you been to London for trips to watch matches in person? Have you been to any away matches?
I think at every West Ham game there are some fans from Poland. Many of our followers are Season Tickets Holders. As for myself, I was at the London Stadium recently in 2018 at the game against Manchester United.
I know that Polish fans are sometimes also present at pre-season tours. Some years ago, we went to Germany in a larger group to see West Ham games in Cottbus and Dresden. The friendly match in Gdynia, Poland in 2009 was also a memorable event, where we had the opportunity to gather in a quite big group.
However, we do not focus our efforts on organising trips. As I mentioned before, we want to give others a platform to interact and help them find travel companions when they need it.
How is West Ham United regarded in Poland?
Of course, West Ham is not at the same level of recognition as FC Bayern or FC Barcelona. However, Hammers are well known and there are many reasons behind it: Bobby Moore and the 1966 World Cup, the crazy times of Paolo di Canio, The Great Escape led by Carlos Tevez, amazing performances by Dimitri Payet, the transfer of Lukasz Fabianski or even the current season, in which we remain high in the Premier League table.
Also, the fact that many Poles live in London is very important for the popularity of West Ham. For many football fans, West Ham is the essence of English football due to its history. If you love the Premier League, there's a good chance you'll fall in love with West Ham sooner or later!
Our mission is to gather all the West Ham fans together, but also to convince people that supporting the Hammers can be a beautiful love story.
Has the signing and the form of Łukasz Fabiański increased West Ham’s popularity in Poland?
Łukasz is a hero in Poland! It’s not only about how good he is but also about his professionalism, exceptional mentality, intelligence. Many people in Poland are sure that Łukasz Fabiański is currently the best Polish goalkeeper, and this is not only coming from the West Ham fans.
His transfer to West Ham was important to our community. Since he moved to east London, you can watch West Ham on a Polish TV channel almost every week. Before the transfer, it was much harder to find a broadcast. So, thank you for having Łukasz at West Ham and if you guys want to find more players like him, please send your scouts to Poland! They are already in Czech Republic so it’s not far away! We can help with some pre-selection!
How have you kept in touch during COVID? What have you done to watch the matches and support each other?
COVID has obviously limited the number of in-person meetings of West Ham fans and attending games is also not possible. We quickly understood that we and our online channels are even more needed now during the pandemic. We are doing our best to keep a positive mood in the community and keep people engaged on the matchdays.
We are doing well but of course everybody at West Ham Poland is waiting for the stadiums to open again. I’m sure that once the pandemic is over, many of us will choose London as the first travel destination.
How are you celebrating your 15th birthday?
This anniversary is a good moment to reflect on what we have achieved over the last decade and half. We all have jobs, families, and responsibilities.
Despite that, for the last 15 years we have devoted our time every day to make West Ham popular in Poland. I think everyone in the team deserves to pause for a moment and say ‘good job’ to each other.
From my side, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of West Ham Poland the past 15 years. At the same time, we want to assure the entire community that this is just the beginning of our journey.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to be more numerous and be able to meet more often. We want to be close to the Club, feel like a part of it and know that thanks to the fan club, West Ham is more accessible to us.
We want to be better and better! The world is evolving, and we need to keep up with these changes. I would like to introduce new forms of interaction with fans, such as for example videos or podcasts. We have been dreaming of launching a series of gadgets and t-shirts for our followers for a long time. We hope it will be possible soon.
The last plan of mine is to support a Champions League team next season. Fingers crossed for the team! We West Ham fans know that dreams can easily fade and die, but please make this one come true for our 15th anniversary!