Getty Images / Sandra Behne/Bongarts / In the photo: Krzysztof Nowak
May 26, 2023, 07:15
Krzysztof Nowak took a risk in his sports life. He left Legia Warsaw and went to Brazil. When later VfL Wolfsburg tried for him, he knew that he could not pass up such a chance. He was going to the top and then he got a terrible diagnosis.
Thanks to his skills and courage, Krzysztof Nowak was doomed to play in a strong league. After only two years of his senior career, which he spent in Sokol Pniewy and Sokol Tychy, he left for Greece. However, he did not spend much time there. In 1996, he returned to Poland to play for Legia Warszawa. He played one match in the capital team and left his homeland again. This time it’s permanent.
He took a completely unexpected direction. Brazil. In this country he played together with Mariusz Piekarski. They were the first Poles who played in the Brazilian league. They went to Atletico Paranaense Curitiba. Nowak was a player of this team until 1998, and Piekarski only for one season, after which he moved to Flamengo.
In Brazil, Nowak was watched by European clubs. As soon as the offer from Germany came, he wasn’t going to think about it. VfL Wolfsburg was supposed to be the perfect choice for him. So it was.
Before going to Wolfsburg, he was already a really famous footballer. He even made his debut for the Polish national team. In his first match in national colors, he scored a goal – our team then competed with Georgia.
And he was doing great in Germany, too. He became a fan favorite. Since 1999, we could talk about Wolfsburg as a team with a Polish trio. Apart from Nowak, Andrzej Juskowiak and Waldemar Krygier also performed in this band. They had more fun together.
The German “Bild” predicted a great career for Nowak. The Pole with the “10” on his back seemed to be a thoroughbred midfielder who is slowly climbing to the top. It quickly turned out that Wolfsburg could be just a stop on the way to a bigger club. At the beginning of 2001, however, Nowak’s world completely collapsed…
Fatal diagnosis. It started inconspicuously
Nowak gradually felt worse and worse. It started with nothing out of the ordinary. The cold fingers on his hands did not raise the footballer’s fears that something serious could be wrong with him. When the numbness in his arms added to this, a warning light went off for the VfL Wolfsburg midfielder. The fact that after the winter break in the meeting with Hertha Berlin played only 11 minutes was also significant.
Went for a more thorough examination. He got the worst diagnosis possible. ALS – a disease of the nervous system. Incurable. He ended his career before the 2001/2002 season. He wasn’t even 26 then. His counter of appearances in the Bundesliga stopped at 83. The Pole scored 10 goals.-
The disease gradually progressed. Nowak tried treatment in Germany, the Netherlands or the USA. Nothing helped. ALS causes gradual muscle wasting.
– I didn’t understand what was going on. Dad sat suddenly in a wheelchair. It attacked the hands first. After that, he couldn’t move from bed to wheelchair by himself, so my mother had to give him a boost. When he stopped talking, she asked questions and he answered by blinking his eyes – said the footballer’s son, Maks, in an interview with WP (more HERE).
Wolfsburg showed class
Although Nowak did not play, Wolfsburg extended his contract automatically for the 2001/02 season. The player received support. A foundation was established in his name, which raised funds for treatment, and after his death, took care of other ALS patients. It works to this day.
Krzysztof Nowak passed away on Mother’s Day – May 26. He did not live to see his 30th birthday. He dreamed of moving with his immediate family to a new home, but unfortunately he was not able to do so.
– I have the same nightmare several times a year. We are standing with the family at the cemetery, dad’s funeral is underway. I’m hugging a stuffed rabbit that I never parted with as a child. Suddenly, I put it in the coffin to lie with my dad, but someone pulls it out and hands it to me. I wake up and start crying. For a moment I think it wasn’t just a bad dream – Maria Nowak, the daughter of the former Polish representative, said in an interview with WP.
Krzysztof Nowak’s children practically do not remember a fully healthy father. He had been ill for over 4 years. At the time of his death, Maks was 10 years old and Maria 4.5 years old.
As a consolation, it must be admitted that the Polish midfielder is still loved by Wolfsburg fans to this day. They mention him on many occasions and always chant his name during matches. He also has a meaningful nickname – “Number 10 of our hearts”. It is extremely nice that the club did not leave the Pole alone during his illness and remembers him after his death. On May 26, his grave is visited very often. And not only on this day.
Nowak may not have been able to play in a big European club, which he dreamed of, but he did a great thing anyway. He gained the respect of the fans.
Dawid Franek, WP SportoweFakty
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