TEDDY NIZIOLEK WONDER GOAL VIDEO
There’s a Polish saying that “whitewaters can break down mountains” and on Sunday, the 24th of July, NYC Senegal was the force standing in NYC Poland’s way to becoming back-to-back Cosmos Copa champions. Despite Poland’s dominance on the New York City soccer scene, Senegal’s performances in the 2011 Copa had been so strong that they prevented Poland from taking the label of favorites.
No one could have possibly predicted that the man to make the difference would have been waking up four hours away from Flushing Meadows at 7 am. Teddy Niziolek was spending his weekend on vacation with his girlfriend on Lake George and was not planning on taking part in the Cosmos Copa Championship weekend despite the clear influence he had on Poland during the Group Stage and Quarterfinal rounds. Teddy missed the breathtaking semifinal that saw Poland defeat England in dramatic fashion, 7-6 on penalty kicks after the match ended 1-1 in regulation.
Today, however, was different. This was the Cosmos Copa final. From Queens to Krakow, people were watching from the stands as well as on the Copa’s livestream. This was not simply an African team playing an Eastern European team; this was a match that transcended into a connection with the entire world, capturing this essence of the New York City soccer experience.
Today, Poland coach Mark Kasprowicz needed his playmaker. Poland were without a few of their stars and were fatigued from their match in 100 degree heat the day before. Teddy obliged and made the four hour journey to Corona Park, arriving at the field 15 minutes before kickoff.
Already exhausted from the early wake up and the drive, Teddy put his boots on and only was able to have a few touches on the ball before the match began. Senegal did not disappoint, emphatically taking the lead in the 5th minute with an inch perfect header from Stephane Diop. The match looked to be falling in Senegal’s favor, but Teddy Niziolek and Zbigniew Puzio noticed that Senegal’s goalkeeper Malick Faye had a tendency of being too far from his goal line.
Then, out of nothing, the amazing happened and Cosmos Copa history was changed forever. Teddy Niziolek collected a pass in his own half, took a touch, looked up, and saw an audacious opportunity. He was 50 yards from goal, but in that moment, he knew exactly what to do. He put his head down, planted his left foot into the ground, and absolutely smashed the ball towards goal.
Everything went silent. The Polish fans chanting “Polska” and the Senegalese fans banging drums stopped, trying to catch their breath. As the ball glided over the Senegalese defense, Teddy and Mark Kasprowicz both thought it was going to hit the crossbar, as did Poland forward Damian Serafin, who began sprinting in hopes of following up the shot. Malick Faye was running back to his goal, praying that it would just stay out of his net.
The ball began to descend and Malick leaped backwards with a helpless effort to get a fingertip on the shot and push it away from goal. His attempt was futile and the ball slotted into the net, tucking in underneath the crossbar. It was a “postage stamp” strike, placed into the top right corner of goal. Like the calm before the storm, the crowd remained silent for a moment, sitting in disbelief.
In Eric Cantona-esque fashion, Teddy did not celebrate, but instead stood still, raised his arms, and circled around as if he needed others to confirm that what had happened was not a dream.
Then came the explosion. Poland fans erupted and had to be restrained from hopping onto the pitch while Senegal fans sat down in despair. Those “Polska” chants continued for a solid 5 minutes after the goal and Poland’s newfound confidence transformed their somewhat complacent side in the first half into an unstoppable, united squad for the final 45 minutes of the match. The rest is history.
Teddy’s shot powered Poland to back-to-back Cosmos Copa championships and left Senegal in shambles. It was a shot that will be remembered forever in New York City soccer history. The ball went in and changed everything.