As the goals continue to fly in, Tomasz Radzinski could be excused for having to pinch himself in disbelief at the sudden fame that has belatedly come his way.
“This is a dream come true,” admitted the 27-year-old striker, who is threatening to finish as top scorer in the Champions League.
It is a competition he used to watch enviously, hardly daring to believe that he could ever be among the key participants.
“Wow, but now I’m playing myself,” says Radzinski.
He has come a long way, literally, since his 13th birthday when his family left their native Poland for a new life in Germany.
With PE teachers for parents, Radzinski could hardly fail to improve his ball skills or hone a streak of athleticism that was to stand him in good stead when he chased through passes for the provincial club Vfl Osnabruck.
His next stop was Toronto Rockets when the family moved on to Canada. Radzinski was taken on board at the behest of Grzegorz Lato, the ex-Poland international, who had coached the local club. “Canadian football was not the highest level,” Radzinski says, reflecting on the exhausting journeys to away games that took the edge off stamina and skill. Such trips were nothing, however, to what was to come when the forward graduated to the international ranks. He remembers well one particularly arduous long haul, back from a World Cup qualifier in El Salvador via Guatemala, Mexico City, London and Brussels that took 28 hours in all.
By now Radzinski was playing his club football in Belgium, with Germinal Ekeren, thanks to his contact with another illustrious Pole, Wlodzimierz Lubanski. Radzinski helped to repay the club’s faith in him when scoring the decisive goal in their 4-2 extra-time win over Anderlecht in the 1997 Belgian Cup Final.
The forward had few qualms over his subsequent transfer to Anderlecht, but a far more difficult choice awaited him. Was he to concentrate on playing for his club or continue his arduous journeys on behalf of his adopted country?
“I had to make a decision,” he explains, “as the club were always fighting with me over that.” The upshot was that Radzinski reluctantly renounced further claims from Canada and effectively terminated his international career.
“Now I can only do my best for Anderlecht in Europe,” he said. As this season’s Champions League opponents have discovered, he is doing that rather well.
Club Anderlecht (Blg)
Born December 14, 1973
Previous clubs Vfl Osnabruck (Ger), Toronto Rockets, Germinal Ekeren (Blg)
International debut June 1995, v Turkey
International caps 13 (1 goal)
Honours Belgian Cup 1997 (Germinal Ekeren); Belgian League 2000 (Anderlecht)