WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s prime minister on Tuesday defended the controversial decision to pay high bonuses to the national soccer team for its World Cup performance amid high inflation and hardship in the country.
Mateusz Morawiecki said he believes that the players have earned some kind of a bonus by advancing from their group, Poland’s best result at the tournament in 36 years.
“This success is worth any money,” Morawiecki said on wPolsce.pl pro-government TV.
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.)
Poland advanced from Group C after defeating Saudi Arabia, drawing with Mexico and losing to Argentina. It was then eliminated in the round of 16 by defending champion France 3-1.
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.
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