photo - Jaroslaw Kociszewski
Anti-racists groups, such as the Warsaw-based Never Again NGO, have complained to UEFA about a ‘Legia Jihad” banner which was hung from the stands.
“This is yet another case of anti-Semitic behaviour by extremist groups active in Polish football stadiums, and it could have been predicted,” Never Again’s Rafal Pankowski told the AFP news agency.
Warsaw police are investigating the incident.
The match, between Legia and the team from Israel (won by the side from Warsaw three goals to two) may be yet another embarrassment for the Polish football association (PZPN) ahead of next year’s Euro 2012 football championships, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
In August, police in Lower Silesia investigated outbreaks of racist abuse at a match between Polish premier division teams Slask Wroclaw and Widzew Lodz.
Chants from Wroclaw supporters, who were playing at home, denounced the Widzew team as “Zydzew” (Jews), shouting: “Jews, Jews, Jews, all of Lodz are Jews."
The central city of Lodz was the site of an infamous Nazi death camp during WW II.
UEFA, the European governing body, had reminded Legia ahead of the game Thursday night that any racist or other offensive chanting by fans during the game could result in the match being called off by the fourth official, as empowered by the UEFA executive committee in July 2009.
But editor of the Hebrew Section at Polish Radio’s External Service, Jaroslaw Kociszewski, who was at the game, says that despite the sign displayed before the match saying “Legia Jihad” – which can be seen during many domestic fixtures at the Warsaw stadium – Legia fans were boisterous, but generally well behaved.
“ I heard no anti-Semitic chanting and saw no aggression,” Kociszewksi says.
“There is a new atmosphere at Legia’s stadium,” he says, referring to the newly refurbished ‘Pepsi Stadium’. “Families are returning to the ground and the police presence was not over-bearing or provocative.”
“You can see the ‘Jihad’ banner at many Legia home games,” he adds.
The Never Again NGO, which runs the ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ in Poland is not convinced, however, that the Legia Jihad banner was so harmless.
“Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behaviour for years and they had a chance to express their hatred of Jews again when Legia played an Israeli team, this time adopting a pseudo-Islamist guise,” says Rafal Pankowski. (pg)