Janusz Gajos (Kieslowki’s Three Colors: White, Dekalog-Cztery) is referee Jan Laguna in Poland’s first League. Carrying a dark past, with related heavy drinking issues, after glory days as a player,  he seems like an easy target to corrupt in order to help fix games.

In Janusz Zaorski’s Pilkarski poker (1989), Poland’s entry into our list of films about football, scores are not settled on the grass field but rather in corridors, offices and brothels. A whole league, organizers, players and referees, set up a scheme of corruption  in fixing matches and ranks. Depending on various individuals, motivations are driven either by money, vengeance or simply fear of loosing  related benefits and standing. The sure thing is everyone as a personal agenda.

With grinding irony,  Zaorski and screenwriter Jan Purzycki skin alive the establishment, politicians and mine/ club owners, pictured as a collection of swines praising corruption as the sole way of cleaning the game.

The period in Polish football history (and society), depicted by Zaorski and Purzycki in Pilkarski poker, offers a perfect playground to an intricate, cynical and ferocious charge. The end of the Grzegorz Lato/ Zbigniew Boniek years, with the inevitable downfall of the Biało-czerwoni (the National Team) and matching major league,  corresponds with social and political turmoil leading to the upcoming Polish Round Table Agreement.

It bites.