WARSAW, Poland -- Poland’s prime minister on Tuesday backed down from his initial declaration to award bonuses to the national soccer team for it World Cup performance amid high inflation and hardship in the country.
It was a sudden reversal by Mateusz Morawiecki, who just hours earlier said he believed the players had earned some kind of a bonus by advancing from their group, Poland’s best result at the tournament in 36 years.
But following controversy fuelled by high inflation and general uncertainty, Morawiecki eventually said on Facebook that “there will be no government means” for bonuses for the players.
He said that lack of sufficient financing is among the problems standing in the way of Poland's soccer development. He added that state money will be dedicated to amend that.
Earlier in the day he was saying that the national team, including star striker Robert Lewandowski, had earned a bonus.
At a meeting before the team left for Qatar, Morawiecki promised players a “very good reward” if things go well. Media reports said there was talk of at least 30 million zlotys ($6.7 million.)
With a budget deficit, high spending on defense and inflation of over 17% hitting the nation, government spokesman Piotr Mueller recently said there would be no bonus for the players and the money would be spent on training children and developing the soccer infrastructure.
Some angered Twitter users said the taxpayers' money could be better spent on helping ordinary people at the time of war in neighbouring Ukraine and spiking costs of living and general uncertainty in Poland.
In a podcast last month ahead of the game with Saudi Arabia, Morawiecki said there is “no sport in Poland that would be more political than football. In the good and bad sense of it.”
The bad sense he described as the state trying to “appropriate” the sports people.
“Today, such things are taking place no more,” Morawiecki said then.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports