Nasi wysłannicy z Londynu i Łodzi - Petter Larsson z City University i Maciej Stańczyk z Gazety Wyborczej - przemierzają kraj w poszukiwaniu największego sukcesu i porażki Mistrzostw Europy w Piłce Nożnej UEFA - Euro 2012.
During our whole trip we have met people from Lodz and after hearing so much, mostly bad things, about the place, it felt natural to spend the last weekend in Poland finding out if
Of course, both those statements were wrong. Lodz might not have any of the world’s seven wonders in it, but the city seems to be full of cool people, urban lifestyles and nice hangouts. At least where I went.
Katowice and Lodz remind me of each other and of my beloved Malmö that I tonight will see for the first time this year. They are industrial cities going arty with warehouses and old factories completely blooming of galleries, clubs, and restaurants. Everything in the city is built in old factories, surrounded by many big nice parks. Malmö was a grey, dangerous and ugly place 15 years ago but has now grown to be a beautiful cultural centre, greeting foreigners to Sweden as they arrive on the bridge from Copenhagen.
Add Poland’s – and probably one of Europe’s longest bar streets full of stylish people and I see no reason for leaving (well, apart from having a flight back home to see my parents for the first time in more than half a year).
Even though Lodz didn’t host any games this tournament the Euro was definitely present. Big screen TV’s seemed to be a feature as common as the famous murals on walls all over the cities and cycling through the main street during a game I could easily follow the action by simply switching screen from bar to bar.
Perhaps not hosting the tournament has lead to a smaller shock and depression when there are no more Poland games or games at all. This would mean that the Euro now is more alive in Lodz than in many host cities.
Many people from Lodz are suffering from some kind of complex, feeling a bit ashamed to say they are from there – just like many Polish people I meet in London seem to be a bit ashamed of saying they’re from Poland.
But if you’re not interested in seeing old churches or famous dead people’s coffins, then visiting Lodz is a great way of seeing the new Poland – the stuff whole Europe seems to have got a taste for this summer.
It’s hard to compare atmospheres in different cities as it depends on games, weather, politics and other factors, but on the whole we have definitely got some impressions of differences.
Gdansk and Tricity gave the feeling of a chilled-out Mediterranean coast town where the locals and the South European fans got along like old friends. Gdansk, facing the Baltic Sea, was also full of Scandinavians on their trip down to Ukraine and had the most multicultural vibe of all cities.
Warsaw was the city of great masses and crowds. Despite being physically standing with our heads in each other’s armpits, Warsaw was also the city with the longest distances between people. Most people were nice and happy but the constant presence of skinheads and drunks seemed to make everyone a bit reserved. Warsaw was the most difficult city to talk to strangers in.
Krakow is not a host city and didn’t have the Euro atmosphere. Instead, tourist groups who thought Euro was a currency and Tyton was something you smoke had invaded the place. Krakow’s atmosphere was good. People were friendly and talkative but that was probably a result of their tourism rather than of the Euro.
Wroclaw was the city with the best Polish atmosphere. In Wroclaw’s small streets and nice parks, people in red and white were singing and dancing as if they all were Brazilians on a costume party with a Poland theme. Before, during and after Poland’s last game there was a happy and jokey vibe between the Poles and Czech fans.
Poznan had been lucky to get the happiest fans to visit their little city, but the inhabitants of this pearl also did a great job. In Poznan we saw the best interactions between locals and foreigners in any of the host cities. The market square seemed to be a perfect place for boarder-crossing love to grow.
After realising that the city was full of touts who still hadn’t sold their tickets, I decided I wanted to see a quarterfinal in this Euro too. Before last night’s game there’d been a lot of talk about economy and I couldn’t help but thinking about what a poor business the black ticket market seems to be. The guys who’d been walking around in the city earlier, laughing about any suggested price under 150 Euro, were now standing outside the arena with hundreds of tickets, hoping that a really big family who had forgotten to buy seats in advance would show up.
I got a 320zl ticket for 150zl and got to my seat in the Greek section for the national anthems. Apparently Maciek had paid about half that amount but missed the first 15 minutes and even though it was a good opening I thought to myself that it wasn’t really worth 5zl (a beer!) per minute.
I sat next to a woman from Gdansk who, because of her profession, wanted to be anonymous in the blog. I’d hope she was some kind of spy but she turned out to be a teacher.
She said it would feel very empty in the city after the Euro as this whole event had become some kind of habit for Gdansk’s inhabitants, but added: “Luckily it ends in the middle of the summer and it won’t hit us too hard as we have quite a lot of of foreigners from Germany and Scandinavia coming here at this time anyway.”
The game was worth every zloty and there is a chance that I can tell my grandchildren that no other game in the tournament had seen that many goals scored.
The German fans impressed with their quantity and strength and their Greek opponents – just like on the pitch – were fighting and singing until the end.
The blue sea just below me booed as Angela Merkel was shown on the big screen and the Germans probably sung something back about money, but after all it was quite a nice atmosphere for being a game before which the TV producers had been advised to turn down the volume from the stadium to avoid hearing the fans shouting nasty things to each other.
Gdansk Arena was mighty and nice but two things caused some irritations in the crowd:
Half the toilet was shut down during the quarterfinal so people got to spend the whole half time break queuing for it.
All fans that wanted to go back to the city centre (which was most of us – around the arena there isn’t too much going on) had to go to the trains through a tiny little Alice in Wonderland-sized gate to the trains. We got stuck in a big bunch of irritated people, of whom many Germans who said it was “worse than Ukraine”. And have you ever been to the mighty Maracana Stadium in Brazil, trying to get to and from there when there is a game, you’d see it as quite a failure when also the Brazilians in the crowd thought it took too long time and left.
I didn’t mind it taking time – I rather enjoyed every second of it as this probably was the last Euro fan crowd I would be stuck in this year.
On Gdansk’s streets yesterday we met another example of the new generation German supporters that, like the new generation German players, aim to change the picture of their country. A group of guys with cameras, fake moustaches and a football, who called themselves “The Spirit Of Football,” had travelled to Euro to make a documentary about the spirit of football.
They said their aim is to cross boundaries through the global language that football is and wanted to transfer core features of the sport such as fair play, team spirit, respect and fun, to everyday life.
They let everyone who kicked the ball back sign it and filmed while I fixed it on my forehead for a while, put it on my neck, flicked it back up on my forehead and then threw it back to them. Then they asked what I thought was the spirit of football and I suddenly I’d realised we’d met another group of missionaries, travelling around Euro trying to meet and talk to as many people as possible.
The group from Erfurt, Thuringia, with one under-cover Norwegian (they are everywhere – I even met four Greeks who spoke Norwegian and said they were half-Greek) continued their walk through the city and could later post pictures of many people, including the German Federal Minister of Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich, juggling or signing the ball, on their Facebook page.
The last picture of the ball from yesterday is when it is out of air and a guy wears it on his head. The capture says: “UEFA-rules: No balls allowed in the stadium. Hats are.”
I am looking to follow the mission of the boarder-crossing, networking, new generation Germans as ours is coming to an end.
As expected, a few political messages were delivered by the fans on Gdsnsk's streets today. But with a jokey undertone and many laughs.
A group of Germans held up a sign saying: "Our billions you can have, the trophy you won't get."
Mario, another German, got a lot of attention holding up a picture of the German flag and their Prime Minister Angela Merkel, saying "Hello Mama". He was quick to add that it was just for fun, he loves the Greeks and was looking forward to partying with them tonight.
The Greeks answered by holding up a flag twice as big as two German bank offices. On the flag it said: "Where democracy was born."
Euro-crisis or not, let's see who will pay who tonight, cause this Euro is blooming.
The German football supporter is not longer a fat beer-drinking man. We bumped into our friend from the train, Johannes from Berlin, who had folded out his massive flag and hung it on the Poseidon statue in Gdansk. He talked about the new generation of German fans. He said: ”We are not like the fat men who are just sitting in the bars thinking we will win anyway. We do something about it.” He said the new generation of fans needed this tournament to get some experience but would be ready to take over in the 2014 World Cup.
His friend Kornelius from Frankfurt had just joined the group. He bought a flight two hours before his plane would take off, got to it and had bought a ticket just a few hours ago.
But it’s not just the Germans who can hang up their flags and make themselves feel at home. Theano and Paris had just arrived from Warsaw and said they love Gdansk. The tall and beautiful Theano, who had to pose on pictures with about two hundred people every minute, said: ”It’s so beautiful here, we even have Poseidon here.”
Ostatni mecz Euro 2012 rozgrywany w Gdańsku już dziś wieczorem. Ulice po raz ostatni zapełniły się kibicami.
Niemców i Greków jest jednak mniej niż Hiszpanów i Włochów dwa tygodnie temu. Nie ma tłoku. Jest za to mnóstwo koników, którzy atakują pytaniami o bilety od dworca po pomnik Neptuna. Gdybym miał wskazać, kto bawi się lepiej, powiedziałbym - Grecy. Kibice niemieccy blitzkriegiem zajęli za to wszystkie miejsca w ogródka i restauracjach.
- Dla nas to bardzo ważny dzień, także z powodów poza futbolowych. Niemcy narzucili nam swoje warunki przy planie oszczędnościowym. Mam nadzieję, że pokażemy im, że rządzimy na boisku - opowiadał mi Dymitr, jeden z greckich fanów.
Niemcy są w mniej bojowych nastrojach. Ale za to pewni zwycięstwa.
- Wygramy na pewno, ale jeśli nie, i tak będziemy się dobrze bawić - mówił z kolei Helmut, przedsiębiorca z Frankfurtu.
GRECY ROZWIJAJĄ FLAGĘ
A NIEMCY ZDEJMUJĄ KOSZULKI