Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Fine Riot

Poland’s soccer season again ended with fans rioting this week, as Legia Warsaw and Wisla Krak?w fans demolished a chunk of Belchat?w’s stadium quarter of an hour from the end of the Polish cup final.

The game ended in a dour 0-0 draw, with Legia winning on penalties. But it was the dozens of fans involved in the fighting live on TV that grabbed the headlines.

“The hooligans who hold our state by the scruff of the neck,” Gazeta Wyborcza columnist Rafal Stec wrote on Thursday.

Only three fans were arrested, astounding commentators around the country who had watched the scenes on TVN.

“This is an enormous embarrassment for Poland,” national coach Leo Beenhakker told Wyborcza. “If I organised the national team as badly as the organisers did this game, I’d be out of a job.”

With Euro 2008 just three weeks away, the scenes were an echo of the handful of riots in the run-up to Poland’s appearance at the World Cup in Germany in 2006. The trouble then fed fears that the Poles would be a handful for police at the tournament, although finally there was little trouble.

Legia, who faced UEFA sanctions earlier this year for a riot by fans in Vilnius, Lithuania, have said they will not apply for tickets for UEFA Cup games next season to be allocated to fans.