CALL ME ROBERT!
World champ Bartosz Zmarzlik revealed Robert Lewandowski told him not to call him “Mr Robert” as the speedway star adjusts to stardom.
07 / 01 / 2020, 16:25
World champion Bartosz Zmarzlik revealed his football idol Robert Lewandowski told him not to call him “Mr Robert” as the respectful speedway star adjusts to life as a Polish sporting icon.
Zmarzlik beat the Bayern Munich striker to the Przeglad Sportowy prize – Poland’s equivalent of Sports Personality of the Year – on Saturday.
The Gorzow and Vetlanda hero was delighted to become the first speedway winner of the public vote since his mentor Tomasz Gollob triumphed in 1999.
These supporters showed that they can unite and do great things. I thank them very much for this, and I treat my victory in the poll as a gift from the fans.
Life in the limelight is fairly new to the friendly but shy 24-year-old. Zmarzlik addressed Lewandowski as “Mr Robert” during his acceptance speech. But the Polish goal-scoring great – just seven years Zmarzlik’s senior – was quick to put speedway’s world No.1 at ease.
Zmarzlik told Przeglad Sportowy: “I just didn't know if he wanted me to call him by name. It may be normal for people living abroad, but it is different in Poland. My parents taught me to respect my elders.
“Only after the official part of the ceremony did Robert explain to me that I should call him by name. I don't think there's anything unusual about it.”
Zmarzlik has been spotted watching Lewandowski in action at the Allianz Arena in Munich and also cheering on the Polish national football team at PGE Narodowy – home of the PZM Warsaw SGP. So he admits they had met before.
He said: “Once, at the invitation of the PZPN president Zbigniew Boniek, I had the opportunity to visit the changing room of the Polish national team and then I shook Robert's hand. But there was no time for a longer conversation.
“This time when we met, we had a bit more time. For me it was a great experience to meet him because I have always been a big fan of him and I admire him as an athlete.”
Zmarzlik loved the opportunity to rub shoulders with Poland’s sporting stars and admits he’s growing increasingly comfortable in such illustrious company. He said: “For me, every visit to the Sports Champions Ball is an amazing adventure and an opportunity to meet people I have only known so far from television.
“I must admit that every year I find myself feeling better and better in this company. I try to learn from each experience and have the impression that I stress less and less about giving speeches on stage.
“Only four years ago I had huge problems with pronouncing even one sentence, and now I know how to deal with it.”
Zmarzlik dedicated his prize to the tens of thousands of fans throughout Poland and beyond who voted for him, underlining just how popular the sport is in his homeland.
“My victory is a triumph for the whole sport,” he said. “Few people in Poland realise that more than 2,000 more fans come to speedway matches in the PGE Ekstraliga than to Ekstraklasa football matches. These supporters showed that they can unite and do great things. I thank them very much for this, and I treat my victory in the poll as a gift from the fans.
“Of course, this success would not have been possible were it not for my team that takes care of my equipment all year round. Thank you very much to my mechanics Seweryn Czerniawski and Grzegorz Musial and tuners Ryszard and Daniel Kowalski.”