Uefa condemned the violence on the streets of Warsaw before Tuesday’s Uefa Euro 2012™clash between co-hosts Poland and Russia, saying it was determined that the “festive atmosphere” would continue throughout the tournament.
Police detained 184 people, including 156 Poles and 24 Russians, after several bloody clashes in the capital. Teargas and rubber bullets were fired as Polish and Russian fans fought running battles and attacked riot police.
Authorities had been braced for a confrontation before the game with relations between the two countries poisoned by centuries of conflict and the Soviet domination of Poland for more than four decades after World War Two.
Violence erupted as thousands of Russian fans, flanked by police, crossed the Vistula river on the way to the stadium. There were also reports of fighting in the city centre fan zone and scuffles after the match.
“Uefa condemns the isolated incidents that occurred yesterday in the city of Warsaw prior to and after the Poland-Russia match, when some groups of known troublemakers pelted the police with missiles and attacked fans irrespective of the team they were supporting,” European soccer’s governing body said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Those arrested and charged will have to be dealt with by the relevant authorities.”
In contrast to events outside the stadium, the match passed off peacefully inside with no segregation between the sets of supporters. Unlike in many domestic leagues across Europe, there were not even stewards standing between the rival fans.
The light-security policy ended close to fulltime when hundreds of riot police lined the side of the pitch at the end housing the Russian fan contingent.
Uefa’s statement implied that this show of strength had been over the top.
“Uefa’s philosophy is to create a welcoming environment coupled with a low-profile approach to policing.
“The focus should be on facilitating the enjoyment of the matches by genuine football fans and isolating the tiny percentage of troublemakers. Uefa is in a constant dialogue with the public authorities in order to achieve this aim.
“Uefa is determined that the overwhelmingly peaceful and festive atmosphere that has so far pervaded Uefa Euro 2012 will be continued right up to and including the final in Kiev on Sunday July 1.”
Earlier, Warsaw police spokesman Maciej Karczynski said riot police were deployed along the perimetre of the pitch because “we had intelligence that there could be incidents in the stadium”.
- Polish and Russian soccer fans clash before Euro 2012 game in Warsaw (photoblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Euro 2012 bloody battles erupt as Poland, Russian fans fight in Warsaw (with video) (vancouversun.com)
- Football fans clash with riot police in Warsaw (itv.com)
- War and peace: England’s footballers relax as rival Polish and Russian fans fight pitched battles in Warsaw (thesun.co.uk)
- Russia, Poland Fans Clash Before Euro 2012 Match (nytimes.com)
- Euro 2012: Poland and Russia supporters clash before match in Warsaw (guardian.co.uk)