NOT-SO-FRIENDLY: A disgrace country, 53 Polish football fans caused 29,000 euros in damage in Lithuania.
VILNIUS - An international football friendly between Lithuania and Poland on Friday was marred by rioting by the Polish fans who traveled to Kaunas for the match. Lithuania was using the friendly match as a well-needed warm-up before they took on Spain in a Euro2012 qualifier on Tuesday, but the concept of friendliness was absent amongst the 1,300 to 2,000 Polish fans that made the trip north, with at least 200 clashing with police and security personnel before the match had even begun.
Police had spot-checked cars with Polish number plates that were headed in the direction of Kaunas and managed to confiscate a number of baseball bats and various types of fireworks, but the fans improvised upon arriving in Kaunas, using bottles and rocks as weapons as they rioted in the streets surrounding the stadium. Understandably, some weapons still made their way to their final destination with a number of flares going off in the crowd.
It is understood that the fans, for the most part, were heavily intoxicated and had originally planned to fight with Lithuanian fans, but upon learning that only a few hundred Lithuanians would be attending the game, they then decided to divert their attention to the police. Fans from rival Polish football clubs further exacerbated the situation by fighting amongst themselves.
Once the match began, the rioting did not cease with police employing the help of dogs and tear gas in an effort to detain the rioters. At least eight Poles were treated by medical staff at the grounds and one security officer had to be taken to the hospital, allegedly suffering from stab wounds.
Fifty-three Polish supporters were detained by police after the incident with a further eight held in prison cells over the weekend for further questioning.
An estimated 29,000 euros of damage was caused to the stadium and the surrounding area as a result of the riots with the Polish football federation expected to foot the bill. Lithuanians worked around the clock in an attempt to repair the approximately 250 damaged seats amongst other items before they host Spain in their biggest home game of the year on Tuesday.
The football correspondent for Poland’s second biggest newspaper Rzeczpospolita wrote that when traveling back through Lithuania to Poland on Saturday, “everybody in Lithuania was looking at us like people from a country of savages.”
The incident has gone beyond the footballing community with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also chipping in on the matter, telling Poland’s most popular daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that he is ashamed of the behavior of the “Polish bandits” in Kaunas, before also calling them “hooligans in national colors” who should not be treated lightly by policemen just because they are wearing those national colors.
With Poland preparing to co-host Euro 2012, it is an incident they could well have done without, with questions arising as to how their fans will behave during the tournament; something that the Polish football federation has admitted is of concern.
For the record, the Lithuanians had little trouble with their lower ranked neighbors, winning the match 2-0.
Despite the extended layoff from international football, there were no signs of rustiness with Saulius Mikoliunas, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead after 19 minutes when Poland failed to adequately clear the ball from their own zone.
In the 30th minute the lead was doubled when Edgaras Cesnauskis hit the mark from the edge of the area.
Poland lifted their offensive efforts in the second half but still failed to find a way through the Lithuanian defense, which remained steadfast.