Following riots which took place at the end of the Polish Cup final in Bydgoszcz, both participating clubs’ stadiums have been closed to all fans for one game.
After a tense 120 minutes ended in a 1-1 deadlock, Legia Warsaw beat Lech Poznan in a straightforward penalty shoot-out 5-4, which sparked off a pitch invasion by both sets of fans. Celebrations by Legia supporters were met with confrontation by the losers’ “pseudo-fans” as the media refers to the unruly element, meaning a pitched battle ensued. Troublemakers of both then turned on to the police who tried to break up the disturbance, ending in the all-too-familiar scenes which still rear their ugly head in Polish football all too often.
The football hooligan problem in Poland has never been solved and with Euro 2012 just over a year away, authorities at both a footballing and political level are taking matters very seriously. Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk stepped in, calling the fans behaviour ‘medieval’.
Meanwhile, playing in an empty stadium is not going to help Lech Poznan’s already receding chances of playing in Europe next season. It is hard to believe that the reigning champions, who put up some fine performances in this campaign’s Europa League, eventually only just going out to this season’s finalists Braga, are struggling in the domestic league. They must now secure at least a runners-up spot in order to qualify, and it seems, hold onto their best players. There is little doubt that failure to play in Europe next season will spark an exodus of talent. Midfielder Dimitrij Injac has already expressed his desire to leave while Latvian striker Artjoms Rudnevs, who made his mark with a hat-trick against Juventus, is being wooed by several Bundelsliga clubs. .
For true football fans Poland’s league, despite being regarded as mediocre, is proving to be one of the most interesting in Europe. With six rounds to go only 18 points separate the leaders Wisla Krakow from fourteenth spot and so theoretically, Polonia Bytom, who are just two points above the relegation zone, could still end up as champions.
Wisla Krakow are favourites to win their thirteenth title and either way, barring a drastic fall in form, should make it into Europe next season. The fascinating question is, apart from Legia who have already qualified by winning the cup, who else will join them them?
There are four clubs with genuinely realistic chances: recent newcomers to the big-time Jagiellonia Bialystok and Lechia Gdansk, in-form Slask Wroclaw and still the most successful Polish club of all time Gornik Zabrze.