As a follow-up from yesterday I happened to turn the radio on this morning to the excellent Polish equivalent of radio four, Trojka, and what was on? You guessed it, an hour long radio phone-in about the Euros and Polish fears and hopes surrounding it.
The amiable presenter invited people to call in asking the question – ‘Will there be a Eurogeddon in Poland in the summer.’ Interesting enough they covered most of the issues that I was talking about yesterday (and stated that 300,000 Poles planned on leaving the capital during the tournament) so I’ll give you a bit of a run-down.
The program was a diverse mix of calm, confident officials involved with the running of the tournament and the country’s infrastructure during the finals, neutral journalists and negative, angry, ironic and overly optimistic callers. This was all kept together by the presenter, who ably guided the listener through the dross.
The first guest on was a spokesman for Pl.2012 the organisation put together by the Polish government to co-ordinate the finals. He presented a slickly positive view of the challenges facing the country in hosting the Euros. The roads (which in Poland are terrible) according to the spokesman would be fine, the stadiums were great, special trains are being organised to cope with the extra visitors and city transport – well it would cope with the arriving hordes.
Next we heard from a spokesman for the Warsaw city council who confidently stated that the city’s transport infrastructure would easily deal with the extra traffic.
Then the fun began as the host opened the lines up to the general public. Poles are known for unbridled enthusiasm mixed with bitter negativity. The calls were a good example of this. Just like phone-ins in London about the Olympics there were the usual complaints about spending too much tax money on things which bring nothing to the country, that the government has done a terrible job of getting it ready and so on.
However some went further with their negativity. One rather taciturn man complained about the fact that none of his friends are interested in football and resented that city authorities were trying to get people to take part in festivities!
One lady was particularly enraged at the prospect of the Euros. She practically screamed down the phone at the presenter saying that ‘Poland needs FACTORIES and not stadiums and games!!!’ and that the tournament was completely useless. She also ranted about how all the nation’s young were abroad and that the government should spend money on them instead. She ended (and this is when the presenter gracefully transferred to a different caller) by screeching ‘WE NEED WORK AND BREAD NOT STADIUMS!!!’ a number of times. She won’t be tuning in to catch a bit of Czech Republic-Russia then.
Another man had a very creative take on negativity. He confidently predicted that more people would die at the Polish Euros then any other football tournament in history. His theory went as follows: there will be lots of rich, young Western Europeans in big cars driving around in Poland used to Western good quality roads. The difference in quality would thus produce tragic results. Sounds like a positive chap.
Another caller had a more positive take on the negativity raining in from all sides. To him the high level of traffic jams during the tournament would make the atmosphere better as it would give football fans a chance to honk their horns out of windows!
It wasn’t all criticism though. A number of callers, helped by the presenter who bravely fought back the nightmare visions conveyed to him, were rather more positive. One listener admitted that Poles ‘are our own worst critics’ and another ‘We’re really good at getting mobilised at the last minute.’ One dismissed the wave of moaners, stating that it would be good for Poles to see great football and that it didn’t matter about the traffic jams. Finally a listener wrote in to tell the audience that ‘this was one episode of the program he wouldn’t listen to because of all the negativity.’
So I hope this has given a bit of an insight into the Polish soul. I think it might take quite a bit of convincing for Poles to dance in the streets as Fernando Torres (or Robbie Keane you never know) strikes the winning goal in a knock-out game. But hopefully this tournament will prove me wrong.
Stay with me to find out,