Thursday, 14 June 2012

Football championship musings

More careful readers are wondering why this post has appeared at all. I was going to be on holiday, yet for the whole fortnight preceding the outset of it, I had been struggling problems with sore throat, then I came down with laryngitis (the prescribed antibiotic did not cure me), which eventually morphed into a fully-fledged bronchitis, with typical symptoms, such as wheezing in the chest and high fever, in the eve of my departure.

So eventually, instead of setting off to get some rest and enjoy sightseeing, I ended up stranded at home and for three days even in bed. I wonder why some people call it “leisure”. You feel off-colour, dizzy, your activities are confined to reading books and newspapers or watching films. Admittedly, touching the culture is highly commendable and even recommendable if in your everyday hustle you have little time to do it, so staying in bed gives a chance to catch up. Inactivity tears me apart!

I got a sick leave, so holidays I took at work will be cancelled and I will be entitled to take days off later. As for now, I am on my way to recuperate for good and plan to set off again on Sunday. Unfortunately I will also have to return on Sunday to fulfil all my obligations at work. But I will manage to squeeze my plans into that short period anyway.

Being on a sickie also helped me avoid all tribulations triggered in Warsaw by Euro 2012. I did observe the football craze last Friday, on inauguration day. Hundreds of fans were hanging around the centre of the capital from early morning. In the afternoon the city was full of fans, dressed in white and red attires, most heading towards the National Stadium or the fan zone. Fortunately I was not attacked by anyone, as inadvertently I was wearing blue jeans trousers and a blue shirt with white stripes, so I was clad in colours very similar to the Greek flag.

The worst day during the championship in Warsaw was supposed to be Tuesday, when Russia : Poland match was played. Before the sporting events, Russians fans decided to march collectively towards the stadium. Some said this parade was held to commemorate 400th anniversary of siege of Moscow, but Russians have not screamed out any political mottos. The Group was attacked by Polish hooligans (not mistake for football fans) and eventually 184 persons, including 156 Poles, were detained. Some have already faced charges.

It was not meant to be an uneventful day, but unlike many commentators, I realise it could have been much worse. Widespread riots have not broken out, relatively few innocent people have been injured, I have not caught out any reports of shop windows or cars vandalised. Polish policing forces and true football fans have risen to the occasion. Both Polish and Russian fans merrily celebrated the 1:1 draw until late night – this is how the football fiesta should look.

Nevertheless, I am still appalled by the atmosphere that surrounded the game. Many Poles’ attitude towards the event was that it was a matter of honour to beat Russians, our ever-lasting enemy and tormentor. The key goal was to wpierdolić ruskim (literally and to put it mildly, ‘to beat up Russians’), both on the football stadium in the match, as well as to show the Russian football fans they have not come to a friendly country. Some hools did manage to demonstrate their hostility towards Russian football fans, but generally relationships between the two nations have not been shuttered in the wake of reprehensible incidents.

The political backlash has also made my hackles rise. Generally the match had a political and historical setting and given the rancour between the two countries, this was hard to avoid. But reactions seem inappropriate to me.

Deputy Mariusz Błaszczak from PiS pointed out that rowdy Russians have provoked a scuffle. OK, taking into the stadium a huge “THIS IS RUSSIA” transparent was out of place, but the very march had no political purport. If there was a sporting event in Russia on 15 August, Poles should also be granted a right to stage a march. Even if Russians were to demonstrate their superiority over Poles, the best way to cope with such acts is to let them pass unnoticed. Do not respond, if the have a peaceful character!

Major of Warsaw apologised to all football fans for misdeeds of Polish hooligans. Agreeably, a proper official gesture following the street battles. But why the hells has prime minister Tusk apologised to president of Russia for the hapless goings-on? Such acts of violence do accompany football matches, so why hell should this become a topic of official talks between the statesmen? Is the foreign policy towards Russia indeed run on knees?

In ancient times wars and conflicts were suspended during Olympic games. Now animosities are unlikely to be shelved. Instead the atmosphere of impending clash is being heated up by sensation-chasing media and politicians who never miss the opportunity to play on voters’ emotions… This will take generations to change.

For an optimistic ending, Poland still stands a chance to stay in the championship, if our team wins with Czech Republic on Saturday. This is conceivable, and if it happens, despite my lack of faith in the Polish team, I will be immensely proud of them.

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