Soccer-Ashes of Poland great Deyna back in homeland

WARSAW, June 6 (Reuters) - The ashes of one of Poland’s greatest players, Kazimierz Deyna, were placed at the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw on Wednesday having been brought home almost 23 years since he was killed in a car crash in San Diego.

A Polish honour guard, officials and hundreds of fans attended to mark the occasion and remember the gifted playmaker who was just 41-years-old when he died.

Poland coach Franciszek Smuda and Sports Minister Joanna Mucha attended a mass to initiate an all-day ceremony ending at the stadium of Deyna’s former club Legia Warsaw where his monument was unveiled.

“I am deeply moved and really happy that I’ve brought my husband’s ashes to Warsaw,” said Mariola Deyna, the player’s wife.

The ceremony was organised by Legia fans who had collected the money to build the monument to Deyna, who played for the club from 1966 to 1978 scoring 93 goals.

Nicknamed ‘Kaka’, he was a member of the Poland team that finished third at the World Cup in 1974.

He also won an Olympic gold medal in 1972, silver in 1976 and was named Poland’s footballer of the 20th century having scored 41 goals in 97 games for his country.

Although media-shy, Deyna starred in the 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’ as Paul Wolcheck along with Pele, Bobby Moore and actor Sylvester Stallone.

He was born in the small seaside town of Starograd Gdanski and was soon playing for the local team before moving to Legia where he delighted the fans with his skills.

In 1978, Deyna joined Manchester City but, hampered by injuries, made only 38 appearances and in 1981 signed for the San Diego Sockers of the North American Soccer League.

He made poor investments and struggled with gambling and alcohol problems before his tragic death in September 1989. (Reporting by Dagmara Leszkowicz and Adrian Krajewski; editing by Ken Ferris)