Polish fans inspired by 1920 conflict

Polish fans leave the National Stadium after a Euro 2012 match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw,...

Polish fans leave the National Stadium after a Euro 2012 match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw, on June 8, 2012. (Jerzy Dudek/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:13 PM ET

WARSAW - While players from the Russian and Polish teams are asking fans to remain calm approaching Tuesday's key Group A encounter, newspapers aren't being shy about turning up the heat under a simmering pot.

The game is a key for Poland's hopes of advancing at Euro 2012. But the game is capturing more attention because of political overtones.

It began with a planned march by Russian fans before the game to celebrate one of their national holidays. Poles woke up Monday to blaring headlines and interesting pictures in some of their newspapers.

Most of the pot-stirring was done by the Super Express paper which ran a mockup picture on its front page. It had Poland's coach Franciszek Smuda on horseback, carrying a sword and dressed in a 1920 Polish army uniform, hearkening back to the country's victorious battle against the Bolshevik army, known as the Miracle on the Vistula.

The headline read "Faith, Hope, Smuda" playing off the old Polish army saying "Faith, Home, Motherland."

"In 1920 (the Russians) also thought (they would win) ... they got a spanking," the newspaper said. "(Tuesday) they will get the taste of defeat again because Poland's team will show them Miracle on the Vistula 2."

The Vistula river runs through Warsaw, near the National Stadium where the game will be played.

The Polish edition of Newsweek had a front-page picture of Smuda saluting, in the uniform of Jozef Pilsudski, commander of the Polish troops in the 1920 battle.

The headline read: "Poland-Russia: The battle of Warsaw 2012."

Smuda said he was "not interested" in the historical and political issues between the countries.

"We in general are not thinking about this at all," he told a news conference. "We are thinking about football ... what takes place on the streets we are less interested in that. We are concentrating on the game."

It's not as if Poland and Russia don't have a history. Poland lived under the USSR's thumb for 40 years before the government's overthrow in 1989.

A march by Russian fans no doubt would stir up some unpleasant memories of that time.

Among those planning to march was Aleksey Vissarionovich.

"Yes, yes we march," he said. "No problems, no. We just celebrate a national holiday, drink a little beer, have fun at football match, is nothing to worry about."

About 5,000 Russian fans were expected to march.

That was part of the great concern for Euro organizers.

Drinking, marching, national songs and a tense soccer match had all the makings of a highly volatile cocktail.

For a tournament that has already had its share of ugly incidents, the pre-game episodes were causing people to squirm in their seats.


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