When she faced racism, she started crying on the field [WYWIAD] Lawrence Innaly from Gornik Zabrze tells how he came from Germany to Extraklassa

He's playing so well that one of Gornik's fans recently sent him a message: “What do you eat to make you so fast?” Lawrence Inali scores after an assist from Lukas Podolski who convinced him to move to Zabrze. In an interview with Weśle, the German winger spoke about the origins of his extraordinary speed, his athletic parents and how he stopped enjoying football at the famous German club. Enali also describes the circumstances in which he was subjected to racism from… fans of his club in Germany. – They called me a nigger and shouted: “Get out to Hanover!” – he remembers.

Jakub Radomski: I came to Gornik last summer from the third Bundesliga. I played for Rot-Weiss Essen and, as a German journalist told me, I went from being a fan idol to a player who was often booed. What is the reason for this?

Lawrence Inaly winger Gornik Zabrze: After my loan from Hannover to Rot Weiss, I had a good start. I scored my first goal in the match against Duisburg, which is one of the biggest derbies in Germany. Everything started well, I felt the coach's confidence, the freedom on the field and the joy of the fans. But then something bigger went wrong. I started reading and paying attention to what appeared in the media. There were a lot of ideas in my head. I also had a tonsillectomy, after which I became weak and felt like a corpse on the pitch. I lost 4 kg, lost my stamina and was excluded from the team due to poor physical condition. When I came back, there was racist attitude, even from my fans.

Will you tell me about it?

It was a regional cup match against 1. FC Bocholt. Extra time went and the score was 1-1. Once I heard from the stands that some Essen fans were calling me “nigger” and shouting: Get out to Hanover!. By then, in my mind, I was done. There were 10 minutes left in extra time, so I put it out of my mind for a moment and focused on the game. Then the penalties. I was chosen as one of the five. I approached the ball, and fortunately I was able to think mainly about sending the ball into the goal. I hit it. But when we won the series on penalties and the referee blew the final whistle, all the adrenaline disappeared. I started crying on the field. I was shocked and said to myself: Oh my God, what just happened here?. My teammates, who were shocked by the situation, also approached me and we went to the locker room together.

genuinely? I didn't want to play for Essen anymore, but somehow I persevered and played some good matches. Some fans wrote to me then that they loved me and that they needed me in their team. But there were also those who showed that they still had a problem with me. You know how it is – the haters are usually louder than those who praise.

It's last summer. Where did you get offers other than Gornick?

From the second division club in the German League, from the Netherlands, but I felt that Poland might be the best option. I was on vacation when Lukas Podolski, who had previously contacted my agent, called me. When someone who won the World Cup with Germany calls you personally, it's something special. Poldi convinced me that Gornik plays at the top of the Polish league, at a good level, where you can become an idol in the stands and go up to better competitions.

Lawrence Ennaly in the match against Roach Chorzo (2:1)

What kind of person is Podolsky?

cooperating. And funny. When you're with him in the locker room, you have to keep your distance. Lots of distance. A few days ago, during training, a Japanese player from our team, Soichiro Kozuki, fell on the grass several times. “Boldy” entered the locker room after classes and started mocking: Man, I just laid there and cried today. Everyone laughed, and Kozuki wasn't offended. He knows how “boy” he is. But on the field, I work very well with Podolski. He helped me in scoring a goal against Jagiellonia Białystok (2:1 to Gornik – editor's note) and in a goal in the Polish Cup match against GKS Katowice (Gornik won 4:0 – editor's note). He has a very strong left foot and I have speed. Maybe this is the perfect combination to destroy your competitors in Ekstraklasa?

That's right, your speed has already been measured at over 35 km/h in the Polish League. Where does this feature come to you?

Part of it comes from the fact that as a child I combined playing soccer with short-distance running. I ran in the club, classes were held once a week. I remember I was the best in the 800m, but I also did well in the 100m, and I think that allows me to do a lot of sprints in one match today. I loved running, but football was always my priority and biggest dream.

Is there anyone on Ekstraklasa as fast as you?

Right defender for Piast Gliwice, who I played for not long ago.

Arcadius Berka.

Yes, I was impressed. Very dynamic player. It would be great if there was a chance to race again.

Who is the best player you have played against in Poland so far?

Captain Jagiellonia Bialystok, Taras Romanchuk. I liked the calmness he maintained on the field. He also had a lot of experience. This made everything very easy for him. I also like watching Christopher Velde from Lech Poznań, because he solves situations on the pitch wisely.

How do you compare the level of Ekstraklasa to the Bundesliga, in which you played eight games as a Hannover player?

I see three teams in Poland at the level of the first Bundesliga. These are Legia Warsaw, Lech, and Rakow Czestochowa. They can play there, even though they will be in the second part of the table. The rest of the Ekstraklasa is already at the level of the 2nd Bundesliga.

Do you know who Łukasz Piszczek is?

naturally.

You have something in common. When he came to Germany and was a Hertha Berlin player, he was retrained from a striker or winger to a right defender and he turned out to be excellent in that position.

It was a little different for me. I started attacking and on the flank. When I was 12, the Hertha U13 coach said he would play me once as a left-back and once as a right-back. Things went very well, and after I moved to Viktoria Berlin, I continued to play as a right-back for some time. But obviously I didn't turn into another Beszczek, because when I was 15 and playing in the U-17 team, I took a position on the wing again. And so it stayed. Wings were also my idol. First I loved Neymar and now I love Vinicius Junior. It's amazing how the latter behaves in front of the opponent's goal. And how easily goals and assists reach him.

How did your adventure with football begin?

Too early. I was four years old and started at a modest country club, because my family and I had not lived in Berlin for many years, but just outside Nuremberg. My relatives say that from birth I was obsessed with digging up everything I could find and learned new things quickly. Apparently I started walking when I was seven months old, and everyone around me was shocked. Sports were very present in my family, because my mother played tennis, swimmer, and was a soccer player, and my father was a boxer. My father was a bit of a crazy man. When I was 10 years old, we moved back to Berlin as a family and I started training at Hertha Berlin.

Hertha Berlin is a club you have many clubs with, right?

When I played with her in the under-14 team, I was told that I was too small, too skinny and lacked strength. Before, I was competing with older players, and suddenly I hear these words and at the same time they are telling me to stay in the same group for another year and train with my teammates. And with the same coach I stopped playing with.

It didn't make sense, so I said no. Fortunately, Victoria stepped up. This club may be the smallest of Berlin's clubs, but moving there turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my career. At the end of my stay at Hertha Berlin, I forgot that football can be a beautiful and fun game. Fortunately, in Victoria, I found a coach who trusted me.

I also joined the Berlin national team. There is a custom in Germany where young players from the capital's clubs form one team competing with their peers from other parts of Germany. I went to the tournament and did well. There, Schalke 04 scouts noticed me and invited me to tryouts, which I passed. When they said they wanted me at home, I didn't hesitate for a long time, because Schalke is a really big club and he was also able to train for years.

– The best player you played with in Germany?

Malick Thiaw, we were together at Schalke. He deserves to be a Milan player today. The second is Lazar Samardić, who also plays in Italy, but for Udinese.

And the best player you played against there?

Youssoufa Moukoko for sure. And also the times of the Schalke match and the Borussia Dortmund matches. This man was born in 2004, two years younger than me, and when we faced him he was like a cheetah, faster and stronger. Even I couldn't catch up with him.

You spent the 2021/2022 season at Hannover and played eight matches in the German second division. Why not more?

I joined the first team from the U-19 team. Everything happened so quickly. My first appearance with Dynamo Dresden, the coach trusted me, and family and friends were present at the match. Everything seems fine. However, the first team coach thought I could be better prepared for the second level of the Bundesliga, and said I would play more in the reserve team to get into the right rhythm. The result was that in October and November I played one match after another, at various levels, almost without interruption. At that time, I was also a young player who may not have been ready to face some challenges.

Enali, after scoring a goal in the match against Jagiellonia Białystok (2:1)

As I talked to you, I got the growing impression that you are the type of player who feels best when he feels important somewhere and at the same time gets space for himself.

There's something about that. I have to feel free on the field, and if someone blocks me, I lose confidence in myself. After arriving in Poland, I felt bad for a while. Everything was new, I missed my loved ones. It seemed like the whole world was telling me that I wasn't from here, and this problem also affected my appearance in the team. But now it's great. Gornick's fans seem to love me. I get a lot of messages. One of them wrote that I had become his role model, and another asked: “What did you eat to make you so fast?” (He laughed).

What our fans do in the stands is amazing. They're crazy. The atmosphere of the match against Lech Poznań (0-0 – editor's note) cannot be described in words. Although I must admit that I also liked Widzew Łódź Stadium. Small facility but very noisy. The stands are close to the field, just the way I like it. You look around and everything is red. There was also an atmosphere there.

In Poland you have two cats with you.

One of them is Nacho because when he was born he had big ears. They looked like nachos, seriously. The second – Chelsea – had to be named after a football club. I loved Barcelona as a kid, but I'm even more fascinated by Chelsea. My best memory is the team in which Didier Drogba, Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel played. If Chelsea played Barcelona today, I would support the team from London.

Enaly and his cat Chelsea (Photo by Jacob Radomski)

Who will win on Monday – you or Ligia?

We are very close to each other at the table. Gornick certainly has the arguments to win. We have had some great moments in attack in recent weeks and our defense has been outstanding. We just have to keep calm: don't get excited or pressure ourselves with the idea of ​​possibly winning a European Cup. This is our time, our moment and we will try to show that on Monday.

Photo by Darius Hermers/Michal Schweduk (Newspix.pl)

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