Polish Football Spirals on Downward

by Jakub Krzyzostaniak

With a confident spring in their step, the Polish FA has continued their seemingly short-term goal of driving Polish football in to the ground. Whilst at the same time lining their own pockets of course. The headlines should be of the massive races for European spots and the relegation battle going on in the Ekstraklasa currently, or even the fact that Euro 2012 is just over a year away. Instead, corruption, hooliganism and fan boycotts are the headlines you’re more likely to see.

First up is the curious case of Lukasz Piszczek. The Dortmund defender, one of the few Polish outfield players who is getting regular game time in a strong European league, has been found guilty of selling a match a few seasons ago when he was with Zaglebie Lubin. While he did pay a sizable fine, there has been no other punishment. For the most part, it is being played off as, “Hey he was a young, naive player.” Plus, it’s never advantageous to ban a stalwart of your defense a year before the European Championships. Yet, when former captain Michal Zewlakow drank a bottle of wine on the flight from the U.S. to Poland, he was demonized in the press and cast-away from national team. Apparently, having alcohol on an intercontinental flight is much worse then full-fledged corruption in sport.

The Polish Cup Final should have been a celebration of two storied clubs continuing their rivalry amidst a tough season for both. Yet at the end of the day, hooligans from both Lech Poznan and Legia Warsaw stole the show. The Warsaw ‘supporters’ started off the post-match celebration with a pitch invasion. Never ones to be left out, a minority of Lech supporters decided to display their dismay at losing by demolishing their stand, throwing things at police, and kicking a camera operator. On hand were delegates from UEFA who were there to see how Poland was progressing in respect to Euro 2012. Nice impression, eh?

To make the appearance that they were doing something about the fan issue, the government went around shutting down stadiums and banning fans from traveling to away games. The solid 95% of fans who go to games and cause absolutely no trouble, were being punished for the 5% who were causing trouble. This led to widespread protests, from fans dressed in all-black refusing to cheer to signify the “death of being a supporter”, to my personal favorite of fans ‘throwing missiles’ which were just beach balls. So here comes the Polish FA on top of this with an absurd announcement of ticket prices for the upcoming friendlies against Argentina and France. The opening of one of the most beautiful stadiums in the country, Baltic Arena in Gdansk, may only be seen by a handful of people. Lechia fans have already pledged to boycott due to high ticket prices (most expensive in Europe) and even Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who hails from Gdansk has said he will not attend. Expect to see our Polish ‘superstars’ take on the France reserve team in a half-empty stadium. Oh the Euro 2012 fanfare, isn’t it wonderful?

I honestly look forward to the day when I can write an optimistic, positive outlook on Polish football. The FA though has no intention of that happening in the near future though…stay tuned.

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