Polska! Polska! Swapping the Green for the Red against a new "Auld Enemy": Euro 2012 Blog Day 7
Holy God! Being Polish for the night is tough work. About an hour before last night's Poland v Russia game, we wandered into a hotel bar for a bite to eat. What we found was a room full of Polish fans in high spirits, preparing for a party.
As the caterers were laying out an impressive spread and putting the vodka on ice, the organiser clocked us drooling over the chicken wings. She told us it was a work night out and they had catered for 50. Only 30 turned up so she asked if we wouldn't mind helping them get through all the food. No better men! Waste not want not I say. As we tucked into the spare ribs, they replaced our Irish Jerseys with Polish T-Shirts and painted our faces red and white. Adopted Polski's, we didn't put up a fight. As the food and drink continued to flow, we shamelessly switched allegiance for the remainder of the night. As the man behind the free bar refused to take a single Zloty from us, we presumed we had died and gone to heaven.
The game itself was strangely intense. This was the big one. A bitter derby between two countries with huge histories. As the camera hovered over the Polish stadium, it landed on the Russian section draping the flag "This is Russia", laying claim to the land previously colonised and reminding the locals of the suffering under Soviet Rule in Communist Poland.
This certainly wasn't the first Russian invasion of Poland and the match went much deeper than a game of football. We had already heard the news of a Russian fan killed in a riot prior to kick-off. We suddenly felt uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough to leave though! The two buckos sipping free bottles of Tyskie as our Polish friends were angrily remonstrating with the telly.
When Russia scored, there was complete silence. It visibly hurt them. Losing this game would mean elimination and that would be sore, but elimination at the hands of Russia would be excruciating and we genuinely started to cheer on the Poles as if they were our own.
Poland's equaliser sparked massive celebration, and massive relief. We probably cheered as loud as anyone. We poured out to the main square to frantic celebrations. It was as if they won the cup. What a sight it was, as the Irish and Polish fans united in celebration of a 1-1 draw. Bizarre. And it was a heartwarming gesture from the Irish too. This was our thanks for how fantastic they have been towards us, how they welcomed us and how they put up with us!
We were too caught up with the celebrations to capture anything on video, but Hector's recording of some of the scenes will show you what last night was like in Poznan square.
As more and more fans arrive to Poland today for the remaining fixtures, I hope they haven't had their spirits hampered by the Croatia game. Impossible is nothing. The closing lines of "Green is the colour" are still ringing in my ears and we have to believe.
There's something about us as a nation that the history of our football seems to encapsulate. Call it pluck, belligerence, guts or a cussedness, that means we never give up. We've overcome old foes, and taken to the streets, we've beaten the giants of the world game and come back from the dead. We have played with a passion that has won our teams many admirers around the world.
Football may just be a game, but it says something about who we are, and that in itself is not insignificant. If football has done anything in the 134 years since it arrived here, it has allowed us to dream....and Ireland, in 2012, needs to dream.
There is 1 Comment
Jun 14, 2012 at 8:05am
Loving the adventure so far....
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