Grzegorz Bolesław Lato (Polish pronunciation: [ˈɡʐɛɡɔʐ ˈlatɔ]; born 8 April 1950) is a Polish former professional football player and manager who played as a winger. He was a member of Poland's golden generation of football players who rose to fame in the 1970s and early 80s. Over a decade, he represented Poland at five major tournaments starting with gold at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich and ending with a third-place finish at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. He reached the peak of his career at the 1974 World Cup, where he was the leading scorer and the only Pole to-date to have won the honour. After retiring from his playing career, he had a brief stint as manager in several clubs in and out of Poland.

Grzegorz Lato
Lato in 1979
Member of Senate
In office
Preceded byJózef Frączek
Succeeded byWładysław Ortyl
25th President of the PZPN
In office
30 October 2008 – 26 October 2012
Preceded byMichal Listkiewicz
Succeeded byZbigniew Boniek
Personal details
Born (1950-04-08) 8 April 1950 (age 74)
Malbork, Poland
Political partyDemocratic Left Alliance
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

Association football career
Position(s) Winger
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1966–1980 Stal Mielec 295 (117)
1980–1982 Lokeren 64 (12)
1982–1984 Atlante 45 (16)
Total 404 (145)
International career
1971–1984 Poland 100 (45)
Managerial career
1988–1990 North York Rockets
1991–1993 Stal Mielec
1993–1995 Olimpia Poznań
1995–1996 Amica Wronki
1996–1997 Stal Mielec
1997 AO Kavala
1999 Widzew Łódź
Medal record
Men's football
Representing  Poland
FIFA World Cup
Third place 1974 West Germany
Third place 1982 Spain
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1972 Munich Team
Silver medal – second place 1976 Montreal Team
*Club domestic league appearances and goals
Copy of G.Lato medal and autograph in Sports Star Avenue in Dziwnów

Lato, as a member of Democratic Left Alliance, was a Polish Senator for the Rzeszów region, between 2001 and 2005.

On 30 October 2008, he was elected president of the Polish Football Association (PZPN). As president of the PZPN he oversaw the Euro 2012 tournament, which was co-hosted by Poland. He was succeeded by Zbigniew Boniek on 26 October 2012.

Club career edit

Stal Mielec edit

Lato was born in Malbork. He arrived at Stal Mielec as a teenager in 1966. Over the next 14 years, he led Stal from the Second Division to the top tier of Polish football and its most successful era in its history. During his time there, the club would go on to win the Ekstraklasa—the Polish First-Division—twice, in 1973 and 1976, as well as be regular participants in European competitions. This era of success culminated with their appearance at the quarter-finals of the 1975-76 UEFA Cup. He inspired the club's good form with his prolific goal scoring, amassing 111 goals in 272 appearances. He was the top scorer of the Ekstraklasa during the 1972–73 and 1974–75 seasons.

Later career edit

In 1980, having turned 30, Lato was finally free to leave Poland to pursue his career abroad. Despite his age, his international performances had garnered him interest. Lato ended up receiving a personal invitation from Pelé to play for the New York Cosmos. However, he ultimately decided on settling in Belgium playing for K.S.C. Lokeren, scoring 12 goals over 2 seasons. By 1982, Lato decided to move on, signing for Atlante F.C. in Mexico where he amassed 15 goals. In 1984, he played in Canada in one match in the National Soccer League.[1] He spent the rest of the 1980s playing amateur football in Hamilton, Ontario for Polonia Hamilton—a club founded by Polish immigrants.[2] In 1991 he decided to retire from football.

International career edit

Lato represented the Poland national team for 13 years during the 1970s and 80s earning a total of 100 caps. He won his first cap under legendary Poland coach Kazimierz Górski in a qualifying game for the 1972 European Championships against West-Germany. The game ended as 1–3 loss. He was able to translate his prolific domestic goal-scoring record onto the international stage, where he became renowned for his striking prowess, especially in big games.

World Cup edit

1974 World Cup edit

Lato (left) at the 1974 World Cup during a match against Brazil

The highpoint of Lato's professional career came during the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. Poland had a tough first round, having been seeded in Group 4, along with Argentina and Italy as well as Haiti. Lato went on to have immediate impact. In Poland's first game against Argentina, he scored 2 goals leading Poland to a historic 3–2 win. Buoyed, Poland hammered Haiti in the next game 7–0, with Lato adding another 2 goals. Finally Poland beat Italy 2–1, to end the group-stage as undefeated winners of Group 4.

In the second round, Poland were seeded into Group B with West Germany, Sweden and Yugoslavia. Lato continued his great form as the tournament progressed. Poland defeated Sweden 1–0 and Yugoslavia 2–1, with Lato contributing the winning goals in both games. Poland's final game of the group of was against West Germany. The Germans had also defeated Sweden and Yugoslavia, tying both teams on points. Thus, the game would prove decisive in deciding who would finish Group B 1st or 2nd—the winner would go to the final, the loser would go to the third-place play-off. Poland played a strong game, often threatening the West-German goal. However, Lato was unable to score and Poland succumbed to a 1–0 defeat—their only loss of the tournament.

Poland's final game of the tournament was the third-place playoff against holders Brazil. In a tight game, Lato again proved to be the difference, scoring the only goal and leading the Poland national team to a Bronze finish. He ended the tournament as top goalscorer, having scored 7 goals.

1978 World Cup edit

Lato had arguably had been Poland's best player at the 1974 World Cup. However, by the time of the 1978 tournament in Argentina he was unable to replicate his great form. In the first round, Poland were seeded in Group 2 with West Germany, Mexico and Tunisia. Poland did well, winning the group by drawing 0–0 with West Germany, and winning against Tunisia and Mexico, 1–0 and 3–1 respectively. Lato, however, was only able to score one goal, albeit a decisive one against Tunisia.

In the second round, Poland found themselves in the "group of death" against Argentina and Brazil—both tournament favorites—and Peru. Lato couldn't resurrect his form from four years prior, only mustering a single goal against Brazil. Poland ultimately finished third place having been beaten by both the hosts Argentina and Brazil 0–2 and 1–3 respectively. Poland managed to beat Peru 1–0 but that wasn't enough to secure 2nd place in Group B and they were duly eliminated. Having played in all of Poland's 6 games, Lato ended the tournament with only 2 goals.

1982 World Cup edit

Lato was 32 by the time Poland qualified for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. His age was getting the better of him and he lacked the electrifying pace that defined his earlier career. Lato was still a first team player, but during Poland's 7 games at the tournament he managed only a solitary goal in Poland's 5–1 thrashing of Peru in the first round. However, several players had risen in a new generation of great Polish players, chief among them Zbigniew Boniek—who scored a hat-trick against Belgium—were able to fill the void. Despite his lack of goals Lato still contributed to the team play and played and important role. In the end, Poland reached the third-place playoff against France. They went on to win 3–2 and Lato added another Bronze World Cup medal to his collection.

Olympic Games edit

Lato won medals at two Summer Olympics football competitions: a gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

His final game before retirement was on 17 April 1984, a friendly against Belgium. He was subbed off in the 85th and Poland lost the game 0–1. Lato amassed 45 goals and the third highest goal scoring total in Poland national team history, second only to that of Robert Lewandowski and Włodzimierz Lubański. He also had an impressive goal scoring record of 0.43 goals per game.[1] He was the first Polish player to reach a century of caps.

Managerial career edit

In 1996 he graduated from the School of Coaches of the Polish Football Association. After finishing his football career, he became a coach. Initially, he coached in Canada where he became manager of North York Rockets(1988–1990). He then returned to his old club Stal Mielec (1991–1993 and 1996–1997) before coaching several other Polish clubs: Olimpia Poznań (1993–1995) and Amica Wronki (1995–1996). He had a brief stint in Greece as manager of AO Kavala (1997) before he finally returned to Poland and eventually retired from managing with Widzew Łódź (1999).

After football edit

Lato, as a member of Democratic Left Alliance, was a Polish Senator for the Rzeszow region, between 2001 and 2005.

In October 2008, he was elected President of the Polish FA (PZPN). In an 2011 interview, Lato said that if Poland didn't progress to the Euro 2012 quarterfinals he would hand in his resignation from the position of President of the Polish FA. After Poland's 0–1 defeat by the Czech Republic on 16 June 2012—which officially knocked them out of Euro 2012 in the group stages—he refused to resign. He did not seek reelection and was replaced by Zbigniew Boniek, in October 2012.

Playing style edit

Blessed with remarkable acceleration, the talented right-winger consistently lived up to the high expectations placed upon him at the international level. Lato was not renowned as a crowd pleaser, but rather as a consistent team player. His great awareness on the pitch, coupled with his flexibility—he often played as a forward—allowed him to achieve success at the international and club levels.

Career statistics edit

Club edit

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition[3]
Club Season League Total
Apps Goals
Stal Mielec 1969–1970 I liga 18 6
1970–1971 Ekstraklasa 26 11
1971–1972 Ekstraklasa 23 11
1972–1973 Ekstraklasa 24 13
1973–1974 Ekstraklasa 30 13
1974–1975 Ekstraklasa 29 19
1975–1976 Ekstraklasa 30 14
1976–1977 Ekstraklasa 29 9
1977–1978 Ekstraklasa 25 6
1978–1979 Ekstraklasa 29 8
1979–1980 Ekstraklasa 27 7
Total 295 117
KSC Lokeren 1980–1981 Belgian Pro League 33 6
1981–1982 Belgian Pro League 31 6
Total 64 12
Atlante 1982–1983 Liga MX 36 15
1983–1984 Liga MX 5 1
Total 41 16
Polonia Hamilton 52 20
Career total 452 165

International edit

Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Poland 1971 2 0
1972 1 0
1973 6 3
1974 14 11
1975 10 8
1976 10 5
1977 12 5
1978 13 5
1979 10 3
1980 11 4
1981 3 0
1982 7 1
1983 0 0
1984 1 0
Total 100 45

International goals edit

Scores and results list Poland's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Lato goal.
List of international goals scored by Grzegorz Lato
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 19 August 1973 Varna, Bulgaria   Bulgaria 1-0 2–0 Friendly
2 2-0
3 26 September 1973 Chorzów, Poland   Wales 2-0 3–0 FIFA World Cup 1974 qualifying
4 15 May 1974 Warsaw, Poland   Greece 2–0 Friendly
5 15 June 1974 Stuttgart, West Germany   Argentina 1-0 3–2 1974 FIFA World Cup
6 3-0
7 19 June 1974 Munich, West Germany   Haiti 1-0 7–0 1974 FIFA World Cup
8 7-0
9 26 June 1974 Stuttgart, West Germany   Sweden 1-0 1–0 1974 FIFA World Cup
10 30 June 1974 Frankfurt, West Germany   Yugoslavia 2-1 2–1 1974 FIFA World Cup
11 6 July 1974 Munich, West Germany   Brazil 1-0 1–0 1974 FIFA World Cup
12 1 September 1974 Helsinki, Finland   Finland 2-1 2–1 UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying
13 4 September 1974 Warsaw, Poland   East Germany 1–3 Friendly
14 9 October 1974 Poznań, Poland   Finland 3-0 3–0 UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying
15 26 March 1975 Poznań, Poland   United States 7–0 Friendly
17 28 May 1975 Halle, East Germany   East Germany 2–1 Friendly
18 24 June 1975 Seattle, United States   United States 4–0 Friendly
19 6 July 1975 Montreal, Canada   Canada 8–1 Friendly
22 10 September 1975 Chorzów, Poland   Netherlands 1-0 4–1 UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying
23 25 July 1976 Montreal, Canada   North Korea 5–0 1976 Summer Olympics
25 31 July 1976 Montreal, Canada   East Germany 1–3 1976 Summer Olympics
26 16 October 1976 Porto, Portugal   Portugal 1-0 2–0 FIFA World Cup 1978 qualifying
27 2-0
28 15 May 1977 Limassol, Cyprus   Cyprus 3–1 FIFA World Cup 1978 qualifying
29 29 May 1977 Buenos Aires, Argentina   Argentina 1–3 Friendly
30 12 June 1977 La Paz, Bolivia   Bolivia 2–1 Friendly
31 7 September 1977 Volgograd, Soviet Union   Soviet Union 1–4 Friendly
32 21 September 1977 Chorzów, Poland   Denmark 4–1 FIFA World Cup 1978 qualifying
33 5 April 1978 Poznań, Poland   Greece 5–2 Friendly
34 26 April 1978 Warsaw, Poland   Bulgaria 1-0 1–0 Friendly
35 6 June 1978 Rosario, Argentina   Tunisia 1-0 1–0 1978 FIFA World Cup
36 21 June 1978 Mendoza, Argentina   Brazil 1-1 1–3 1978 FIFA World Cup
37 6 September 1978 Reykjavík, Iceland   Iceland 2-0 2–0 UEFA Euro 1980 qualifying
38 21 March 1979 Algiers, Algeria   Algeria 1-0 1–0 Friendly
39 4 April 1979 Chorzów, Poland   Hungary 1–1 Friendly
40 29 August 1979 Warsaw, Poland   Romania 3–0 Friendly
41 26 March 1980 Budapest, Hungary   Hungary 1–2 Friendly
42 4 April 1980 Brussels, Belgium   Belgium 1–2 Friendly
43 22 June 1980 Warsaw, Poland   Iraq 3–0 Friendly
44 29 June 1980 São Paulo, Brazil   Brazil 1–1 Friendly
45 22 June 1982 A Coruña, Spain   Peru 2-0 5–1 1982 FIFA World Cup

Honours edit

Lato's star in Władysławowo, pictured in 2006

Stal Mielec

Atlante F.C.

Lokeren SC




See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Koep, Bob (23 December 1987). "Polish soccer star to coach Rockets". Toronto Star. p. B4.
  2. ^ "HISTORY". HAMILTON POLONIA F.C. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  3. ^ Grzegorz Lato at
  4. ^ "Eric Batty's World XI – The Seventies". Beyond The Last Man. 7 November 2013. Archived from the original on 5 July 2022. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  5. ^ "Nowiny Rzeszowskie : organ KW Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej. 1972, nr 242-268, 270-271". (in Polish). Retrieved 28 January 2024.
  6. ^ "Nowiny Rzeszowskie : organ KW Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej. 1972, nr 242-268, 270-271". (in Polish). Retrieved 28 January 2024.

External links edit

Awards and achievements
Preceded by FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe
Succeeded by
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Robert Zawłocki
President of Polish Football Association
30 October 2008 – 26 October 2012
Succeeded by