Shouldn’t somebody at UEFA be having a word with the Polish authorities and pointing out that there are much worse behaved fans in Europe these days than the English?
Over the past four international tournaments our fans have not caused any problems at all despite the fact that they travel in much greater numbers than any other supporters in the world.
The authorities in South Africa, Germany and Portugal never had any problems with those swathed in the flag of St. George whilst we didn’t qualify for Austria and Switzerland – something that was rued by those two countries.
For the fact is that these days the presence of English fans at a tournament is a massive positive for the hosts not a negative as it might have been many years ago.
Thousands of the English pour into overseas territories taking their money and their PASSION with them. They are now welcomed world-wide whether travelling with their clubs or their countries and it the Polish who now need to wise up – not our travelling fans.
Poland has virtually criminalised our followers before the tournament has even started. They have unveiled a set of terrifying measures which would be better suited to a film-set in which a tyrannical power sets out to control the population.
They have threatened to come down on English fans like a bag-full of anvils. They have threatened baton-rounds that kill; snarling dogs trained to bite directly in the testicles; powerful water-cannons and a sonic device that makes humans lose their bodily functions.
How dare they threaten English fans like this in Krakow? And it is directly a threat to the English because all these warnings are printed in English. What a great welcome. It is not only a provocative insult to the fans but to the team.
The England team is based in Krakow and that’s why the fans are there ahead of their games in the Ukraine. So this is not just a campaign of terror levelled at supporters – it extends to the team by association. The players are in a city-centre hotel. The idea is that under-controlled circumstances they can perhaps go out on the streets and maybe even mingle with the fans. Just imagine the level of excitement amongst the supporters. They will be rushing around, cheering and shouting and trying to get to our heroes.
Those are just the sort of circumstances in which the police-force of an intolerant state – Poland – could easily interpret joy and celebration as disorder and civil disturbance.
I can hear the order from the local commander now: “Bring out the dogs and start biting a few bollocks.”
In South Africa I never saw one single England fan arrested from start to finish of the competition. It was the same in Germany in 2006 and in Portugal two years earlier.
In 2008 we didn’t make the finals in Austria and Switzerland. It led to the dullest competition I have ever been to. No England fans and you have a feeble three weeks. Fans of other countries can drive across the Continent and visit their country’s games on a daily basis. But the English tend to go for the whole duration because of the cost of flying there and back – and the fact that we like sticking around.
So why are we being targeted like this?
Well, I’ve always believed there is a general anti-English feeling towards the English from the European powers. Some of it is down to our continued success in European club competition and there is palpable envy towards the success of the English Premier League.
English fans were of course involved in the dreadful disaster at the Heysel stadium in Belgium in which dozens of Italian fans were killed. But I’ve always maintained that the stadium was a crumbling wreck which should never have been the venue of a European Cup Final.
And memories are long and go back to the shocking seventies when without doubt English fans were the scourge of Europe.
But we have learnt from our mistakes in the last 30 years. We have rebuilt our stadiums one-by-one and re-educated football fans how to behave.
There are going to be plenty of other nationalities of supporters in Poland who are currently some of the worst behaved fans in the world.
The Croatians are there. I’ve never felt so intimidated inside a football stadium as when England played in Croatia in 2008 when we won 4-1 thanks to a Theo Walcott hat-trick .
The Russians are in attendance and their hooliganism levels are legendary as are those of the Greeks and the Poles themselves.
I’m betting that the English fans will be some of the best behaved at the tournament – providing they are not provoked by what looks like and over-zealous Polish police force.
And I really don’t think much of the welcoming committee.