In 1996 Widzew won its third Polish championship title and secured a place for the team in the first qualifying round of the prestigeous UEFA Champions League. In the preliminary round the squad managed by Franciszek Smuda played against Danish Broendby IF.
Widzew won the Polish championship without losing a game. In the qualifying round of the Champions League the players from Lodz were faced with Broendby IF. The 1st half of the first game in Lodz ended in a draw. In the 2nd half after goals scored by Jacek Dembiński and Sławomir Majak the home team was winning 2:0 but the match ended 2:1.
Despite the victory, the squad from Lodz was not viewed as favourites in Copenhagen - Broendby was supposed to easily make up for the loss suffered in Lodz in front of their home football fans. Indeed, the home team was winning 3:0 in the 48th minute and they were almost sure to advance. Then, the famous “Widzew spirit” came into play. By scoring a goal, Marek Citko gave the visitors hope. Just before the end of the game, after Radosław Michalski crossed the ball, Paweł Wojtala scored the second goal. The end result 3:2 promoted Widzew to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
- After the final whistle we could not believe what had happened. It started getting to us when we were leaving the cloakroom and our fans who were waiting for us were thanking us for how well we had played and how passionately we had fought until the very last moment. The second important location was the Warsaw Airport where we were greeted by everybody, not only by Widzew football fans but by all the people who were there. We did something great for the Polish football - said Andrzej Michalczuk one of the heroes of that game.
In the group stage of the Champions League 1996/1997 the team from Lodz played against Borussia Dortmund (Champion League winner that year), Atletico Madrid and Steaua Bucharest.
7 August 1996
Widzew Łódź - Broendby 2:1 (0:0)
Goals: Dembiński (64.), Majak (73.) - Bjur (75.)
Widzew: Szczęsny - Wojtala, Łapiński (53. Bajor), Michalski, Szymkowiak - Wyciszkiewicz, Czerwiec (74. Szarpak), Majak, Siadaczka - Citko, Koniarek (62. Dembiński).
Broendby IF: Krogh - Colding, Olsen, P. Nielsen, Skarbalius - Bjur, Vilfort, A. Nielsen (86. Daugaard), Ravn - Bagger (70. Thoegersen), Moeller (77. Sand).
21 August 1996
Broendby - Widzew Łódź 3:2 (2:0)
Goals: Moeller (32.), Bjur (44.), Vilfort (48.) - Citko (56.), Wojtala (89.)
Widzew: Szczęsny - Wojtala, Łapiński, Michalczuk, Szymkowiak (63. Bajor) - Wyciszkiewicz (46. Dembiński), Czerwiec, Majak, Michalski - Siadaczka (76. Szarpak), Citko.
Broendby IF: Krogh - Colding, Eggen, P. Nielsen, Skarbalius - Bjur, Vilfort (75. Daugaard), A. Nielsen, Ravn - Bagger (69. Sand), Moeller (86. Hansen).