In another guest post on Rightbankwarsaw, Maciej Słomiński peers into the world of the Polish Ultra and, instead of threatening individuals, sees them for what they are, big babies who spit out their dummies far too often. The floor is his.
Empty stands are too common a sight due to the pouting of Polish Ultras
A recent riot during a game between Legia Warsaw and Jagiellonia Białystok was a throwback to the 1990s. Statistics show that trouble inside Polish stadiums has died down a bit in recent years. There is however a new problem, whereas the old set of ultras or hooligans just wanted to destroy whatever was in sight the new breed are a much more sensitive bunch.
The stands are now full of Young Werthers. Not that fans have developed a taste for singing poetry but they have become so sensitive that any discussions or negotiations are not really possible. The result?….empty stands. It has come to a point where supposed “real fans” are not attending games while “picnic fans”, often ridiculed by the hard core for not being dedicated enough, sit in silence unable to create any kind of atmosphere. The often heard refrain from hardcore support is: “If we agree to this, what will happen next? Will we have to sit during games like in England?” Cue protests.
Not that Ultras are afraid of proving their point – two years ago the universally liked Włodzimierz Smolarek’s minute of silence was interrupted by Lech Poznań fans, Legia Warsaw showed an “arbeit macht frei” banner during a league game with Widzew, while a Rudolf Hess flag was seen in the Lechia Gdańsk stadium. This may have been quite a while ago but the hard-core always explain : “It’s a metaphor. If we didn’t hit so hard we wouldn’t be heard”. In this aspect Polish fans remind me of supporters of Glasgow Celtic (best fans in the world TM) who are ashamed of nothing but offended by everything. Maybe it’s their perceived Catholic guilt?
Radosław Osuch, a football agent and well-known wheeler-dealer, (Artur Boruc, his former client refers to him as a cheat, oszust in Polish) bought Zawisza Bydgoszcz when they were in the third tier and brought them back to the top tier after 19 years in the wilderness. Everything was fine until Osuch together with the police refused to let ŁKS Lódź fans (Zawisza’s chums) in for a league game against Widzew Lódź. Obviously LKS fans did not come to discuss the latest box office hits with their city rivals but to cause trouble. After this Osuch was called a scab, a police informer etc. and from the next league game the stands emptied.
There is a saying in Polish – ‘When you don’t know what’s the cause of the problem, it’s always money.’ So the real issue was that Osuch was going to strip Ultras from match-day income from catering and club memorabilia. The Ultras did make an effort to oppose their errant owner and “Osuch = Pinocchio” banner appeared everywhere from the halls of the handball World Cup to ski jumping events.
Another recent example is Wisła Kraków. Their supporters failed to come to an agreement with the club over what percentage of ticket prices would be handed over to them. Cue an empty ultras-stand for a recent league game with Ruch Chorzów. But this wasn’t the end of the story, in fact quite the contrary. Wisła’s Ultras fired flares into the stadium from a nearby bar, owned by a fan and a guy who sits on the Wisła board. The board member was subsequently suspended from the position and around 500 people (those who were in the vicinity of the bar) were handed stadium bans.
Jacek Bednarz who’s the Chairman of a one-person board (he’s got a law degree and is an ex-Legia Warsaw player and director which makes him a fifth columnist in the eyes of sensitive fans) declared he will fight the Ultras until he wins. He says he doesn’t care about the future as it’s his last job in football. It’s clear no-one wants any dialogue– it’s like a Gordian knot.
Obviously Legia Ultras, who claim to be best in the world (like Celtic, I’d like to see an honest ranking on this front), refused to support the team for a long time due to issues with the previous owner. At the moment they are fine although you never know if their poor little souls are not being offended as I write this.
Thanks go out to Maciej for this, you can follow him on Twitter here and look out for articles written by him for WSC and The Guardian. He gets around.