|Return to opening page
further information and viewing conditions
Germans fear trouble from Polish hooligans
Riots between hooligans or neo-Nazis, terrorist attacks from suicide bombers: The organisers of the World Cup in Germany believe they're well prepared for any event and so far, the tournament has passed off without incident. But the German authorities are now focusing on a specific flashpoint, Wednesday's game between Germany and Poland.
Polish hooligans are feared by the Germans and have a very violent reputation: just a few months ago a 70-year-old football fan was stabbed to death in Krakow because, according to his attackers, he was wearing the 'wrong' club colours. Another example of the extremes of the Polish fans happened in May when 5000 supporters of FC Legia Warschau went on the rampage at the end of a party to celebrate the championship. During the pitched battles with police, about 230 arrests were made and more than 50 police officers were wounded.
Because of that, and other incidents, Germans see the arrival of their troublemaking eastern neighbours as a major concern. One of the biggest problems is that so little is known about who the hooligans are, in contrast to the detailed information about Dutch and English troublemakers who have been tracked by the authorities over the years.
Polish police recently sent a so-called 'black list' to the German authorities which included the names of around 600 Polish hooligans who've been banned from stadiums in their home country. But sociologist Jacek Purski who has also been monitoring hooliganism in Poland has his doubts about the use of the list:
"There's not enough knowledge about the football scene in Poland. Who's on this list? Maybe there are some people who are simply setting off fireworks during matches - I don't know who's on this list."
And there's an even bigger problem. The clubs have a list on paper, but they don't know how to take on the hooligans. Polish police spokesman Krzysztof Hajdas says the authorities' powers are limited:
"According to our law, we cannot detain the citizens of Poland who have a stadium ban in our country, so if they do not commit any major crimes in our country, they are free to travel abroad."
So for the Polish troublemakers, it won't be difficult to go to Germany, after all they're going there to boost their already tough reputation. Even so, the clubs have used this opportunity to call for a 'ceasefire'. During the World Cup, the Polish hooligans are likely to put aside their club rivalries and, according to Jacek Purski, combine to fight the common enemy, "They want to be together as a national team against the rest."
With all the tough security arrangements at the tournament, opportunities for trouble should be reduced within city centres and stadiums. But remarkably, the Poles and the Germans have actually rehearsed their battles: six months ago around a hundred hooligans gathered in a forest in the east German state of Brandenburg for a fight.
So if the Polish team are humbled by the German side on Wednesday that could lead to rather more than just a good-natured drinking session. And if that happens there's the chance of yet another 'risk' match - against England in the quarter finals.
Thijs Papot 13-06-2006See also
Why is football so important?
The Origin of Football
Football or Soccer
Scottish Football Association