Hi all. My name’s Chris Lash. I’m a 31 going on 32 year old Polono-Ukraino-footballophile, Reading fan and history buff, living and working in Warsaw (Polish Warszawa – pronounced Varshava) I’ll be here during the Euros writing about the Polish experiences of the tournament, the esoteric nature of life in the capital and the high and lows of a large international tournament on the shores of the Vistula.
I aim to be out on the streets talking to local Poles about how they see the tournament, posting photos, sharing interesting news stories and generally trying to get excited, even if Warsaw isn’t, in the whole massive shebang.
If truth be told I’m a little bit worried about how the city’s going to deal with such an enormous event. Sure they’ve built a wonderful new stadium
, yes Warsaw in general has a great transport system but the city has a couple of important problems. I see them as follows:
1)Culturally – Poles are normally incredibly friendly to foreign visitors, in fact Polish hospitality is legendary, but the city is not used to experiencing such a large amount of foreign visitors in such a short period of time. Large parts of the Polish capital really are not accustomed to being around large numbers of foreigners so it will be interesting to see how fans and locals interact. There will however be an army of volunteers aiming to help fans find their way around the city, and there are a lot of young Poles who speak excellent English. Hopefully this will make Warsaw easy to navigate during the finals.
2)Transport 250,000 fans are estimated to be in the city on a match day. Again Warsaw is not used to such huge numbers of non-Varsovians at any one time. Somewhat akin to the Olympics in London I’d expect many locals to get out of the city when these masses of foreigners come in. It doesn’t really help that large sections of its transport network is out of action at the moment as they are building a second underground line. Good call there Warsaw city authorities! This may be the main problem during the tournament to be perfectly fair, but again hopefully things will not be that bad. The city is not so big anyway so fans might find themselves walking!
3)Football culture – I really don’t think Poland has a long-standing culture of football. Yes Poland finished third in the World Cup in 1982 and had great players such as Grzegorz Lato and Zbigniew Boniek but Polish society doesn’t really get excited about football. This is mainly due to the problems with hooliganism in Poland, problems which are comparable to those faced in England in the 1980s.
Here are some lovely scenes from a couple of years ago in the city of Lodz (pronounced wonderfully Woodge) – about an hour by train from Warsaw:
But it’s not just that, the Polish national team has been starved of success. The last time it got out of the group stages of a major tournament was back in 1986 when they were taken apart by a dose of Brazilian Samba soccer.
But as with any tournament it all depends on how well the hosts do. If the Poles can get out of a relatively easy group with Russia, Greece and the Czech Republic I expect people to get behind their team and the city to come alive.
Anyway I don’t want to say everything at first sitting. Hope you’ve enjoyed the first instalment, I expect I’ll come back to some of these themes between now and the end of the tournament. So check back regularly and enjoy the ride!