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War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski

In history, news, politics, society on June 16, 2012 at 00:19

 

From: War minus the shooting: Russia vs Poland at Euro 2012 by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, openDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net

‘War minus the shooting’ was George Orwell’s definition of sport, unpleasantly brought once more to mind during the recent battles between Russian and Polish football fans. There is a long history of animosity over sporting events between the two countries, but there could be a way forward, says Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.

The streets of Warsaw turned into a battlefield on Tuesday night, as Russian and Polish football fans clashed before, during and after a Euro 2012 group stage match. The scale of the violence was such that Vladimir Putin took the unusual step of phoning Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to appeal to his sense of responsibility, and to remind him that, as host country, Poland was under an obligation to guarantee the safety of all football fans who came to watch the championship. Putin also sent his special envoy, Mikhail Fedotov, to Poland to help Polish authorities investigate the clashes.

No other match at Euro 2012 has produced such tensions and emotions as this clash between Poland and Russia. But that perhaps is of little surprise, given the often unhappy history between the countries and the fact that for weeks before the game the Polish media had been so full of speculation about it.

After the match, Poles had many questions. Why were Russian fans allowed to use old Soviet symbols on their flags and t-shirts? Should the hammer and sickle motifs not be read as incendiary communist propaganda? And should the Russian fans be allowed to organize a patriotic march on their way to the Warsaw National stadium to celebrate Russia’s Independence Day (the anniversary of the Russian Supreme Soviet declaration of Independence passed on 12 June 1991), which unfortunately coincided with the match day?

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