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The Warsaw Voice » Society » May 27, 2011
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From the Editor
May 27, 2011   
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No one is innocent here, and let him cast the first stone who thinks that he is. Every country has struggled, or is still struggling, with hooliganism at soccer stadiums. Europe and Latin America have provided many dramatic examples proving that in a crowd of soccer fans, the worst instincts come to the fore, and unbridled brutality is de rigueur. Many countries have also proved that they can handle this with a mixture of well-thought-out educational measures and such convincing means of persuasion as fines running into the thousands, long prison sentences and lifetime bans on watching games from the stands.

After years of what was in fact acceptance of this disease, the Polish state has decided to fight it. I say “state” intentionally, because the state is responsible for the safety of its citizens, even if it is clear that the state is not the organizer of soccer games. In an election year, meanwhile, there is strong identification of the state with the government, and danger to citizens is proof of the government’s powerlessness. The parliamentary elections are coming up this fall, so after the latest violence at the Bydgoszcz stadium Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who incidentally is a soccer fan, could no longer do nothing. Poland is hosting the European soccer championships next year together with Ukraine, and the prospect of this major opportunity to promote the country turning into an major embarrassment is not an attractive one.

How to eradicate the weeds is another matter. As Marcin K±cki, a columnist for Poland’s leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, aptly wrote, after years of impunity ordinary stadium hooliganism has not only degenerated to the level of organized crime but has also “seeped into the soccer business.” This makes the challenge much tougher, so the prime minister’s determination is not surprising. His belief that the only effective solution is to form a huge coalition pressing for justice and good manners has led, among other things, to several Polish soccer clubs being stripped of their earnings. Their swift decision to join the coalition proves that reaching into someone’s pocket is as painful as it is sobering.
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