The Derby of Poland
Lech Poznań 1-0 Legia Warszawa (16:04:11)
Making his EFW debut, Bartosz Gazda.....
When somebody says 'derby,' most of you would probably think first of the Gran Derby, Derby d'Italia, Old Firm or Belgrade derby. The atmosphere there is electric, it's true, but on this sunny Saturday afternoon Poland also had its all-eye-catching fixture which could surely be labelled as the Derby of Poland, and I don't mean Silesia Derby. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce one of the classics of the Polish football league: Lech Poznań versus Legia Warszawa.
The rivalry between these two outfits is legendary and stems from many issues. First of all, since the late forties - when Poland was under communists influence - Legia were strongly connected to the army. Wojskowi, which in Polish means 'Military-men', tended to call on the best native players for duty in order to lure them away from other clubs and represent Legia instead. In Poland it was (and in many regions probably still is) seen as stealing, and so Legia became one of the least liked clubs on Polish soil. The bitterness reached its heights when Mirosław Okoński, a Kolejorz legend, was called up by the Łazienkowska-based team in early eighties.
On the other hand, Legia aren't too friendly with Poznań particularly due to what happened in 1993. The teams were heading into last fixture of the season with the chance to claim the title, ahead of ŁKS Łódź. Kolejorz could have won the league, but only if Legia and ŁKS drew their matches. But the opposite happened as Lech only drew and both of their rivals thrashed Wisła and Olimpia by 6 goals to nil, and 7 to 1 respectively. It was believed that Legia were cheating, but the only confirmed case of doping wasn't sufficient for punishment, as regulations stated that a team can only be disqualified if players had been using an illegal boost. This plural form (actually only one player used illegal boost) caused many problems but eventually Lech was granted Polish title.
Since our history homework is done, let's move on to some statistics. Saturday's meeting was the 105th (51 in Poznań) between these two clubs. Lech had thirty-one wins (twenty in Wielkopolska's capital), while Wojskowi have won for 44 times. However, the guests recent form in Poznań is dreadful. The last time they scored in Bułgarska was in 2007 and their last win here was in April 2004.
With all this facts in mind I left home at around 13.30 to snack on something in the city centre and catch up with my friend in order to arrive on Bułgarska before it became overcrowded. The game was scheduled for 15.45 so I had quite a lot of time to get ready.
As usual when Lech plays a match, an auxiliary tram chugs around the city to collect Kolejorz fans from all over. So I boarded it and rode all the way down to the Miejski Stadium. The ride was, as always, loud. Everyone chanted, jumped, hit the tram's ceiling so from the streets it must have looked devastatingly raucous. One of the most famous chants about how hated Legia is carried on 'til the end of the road.
After around 20 minutes we were heading to the gates, passing by tents with club's merchandise. There were more and more people coming and hanging just outside the stadium. We had to wait until our friend arrived, so we stood and watch people team up with their mates as well as chatting with two guys for a little while, who, unsurprisingly, were confident Lech would win and one of them even predicted the score to be two-nil to Kolejorz.
Anyway, when we got inside the stadium it was only just filling up. However, Kocioł, the stand of the most fanatic Lech fans, was nearly full as well as seats in the corner of stand I and IV, where Legia supporters were gathered. Both sets of fans were energetic from then onwards as they welcomed players, who loomed out of the tunnel to warm up. Then we had performance from very good-looking cheerleaders and game was about to begin.
The away fans in early
A sea of blue and white at the other end
When the players arrived on the pitch the blue-white scarves went up and every one sang the Kolejorz anthem. Kocioł ultras are really second to none in terms of a match setting in Poland and they did not disappoint yet again. Each of them held a coloured carton so when, during the anthem, hands went up - a fantastic banner appeared on stand II. It looked fabulous.
The game kicked off, but quite a few people, myself included, were a bit of overwhelmed by fantastic atmosphere and couldn't focus on the game. After a while, though, I calmed down and concentrated clearly on football. The first half was rather average, opening minutes excluded. Legia had chances, but each time were denied by brilliant Kotorowski. Later, there were more fouls than football, especially from Legia. Likewise, the linesman deprived Lech of few corners and free kicks, but what made the fans really furious was referee's indifference when Radovic elbowed one of Lech players. Kolejorz, though, had one clear chance, but Krivets hit side netting only. It was funny because in our sector it looked like a goal, so when we all saw the ball had suddenly escaped the net and hit the advertisement board, we were kind of disappointed.
During half-time we once again were lucky to see the girls dancing to World Cup hit-song 'Waka waka', which was followed by a traditional penalty-kick competiton. Kids had the chance to score against reserve goalkeeper, Jasmin Buric, from the spot. It must have been exhilirating for them, given they were supported by the never-tired Lech fans from Kocioł. We'd been also informed that 36,240 people were in the stands, 2038 Legia fans included. Only for Europa League fixtures had more fans gathered at the Miejski Stadium and, according to some sources, it was even more than when Lech faced Barcelona in 1988.
The away end was a mix of Legia Warsaw and Pogoń Szczecin fans who have a long term friendship.
The second half was really action-packed as the contest really started to meet the expectations of the most anticipated fixture in the whole league. Lech attacked and eventually scored, but the linesman flagged Rudnevs offside. A few minutes later we were trembling with fear when Manu found himself one on one with Kotorowski, who fouled and saw yellow. In truth, it could have easily been red since Kotorowski was the last man between the Legia's no. 9 and the goal. Luckily, that time the referee favoured us. Legia kept storming forward and had the best chance on 79 minutes, when a corner kick was taken and Vrdojlak's header hit the crossbar. Minutes later, though, super-sub Artjoms Rudnevs sent the whole stadium into raptures. He was exactly where he should have been, when Krivets' cross was deflected and finished Legia in cold blood. The Latvian dedicated the goal to his new-born daughter, Arina, by rocking the cradle with the rest of his teammates.
Legia fans, quite loud throughout the match given their number was small in comparision to home team supporters, were upset by how the things went. They burnt something and threw some objects at security. Hopefully, no one was injured and they were politely asked to stay in their sector, when the match ended. The final whistle had blown, players thanked each other and then teams thanked their sets of supporters and vice versa for fantastic afternoon. People started leaving, us too, but looking forward to another classico which took place that day, Real Madrid v Barca. Which one would you prefer to be at?
They didn't take too kindly to the late winner
The Stadion Miejski w Poznaniu will of course be a venue for the 2012 European Championships.
Thanks to Mishka at LegiaLive.pl for additional photos.
Bartosz is the editor of Reinventing The Metodo.
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