Tag Archives: police

Euro 2012 – inside the stadium

On Sunday, my wife and I attended the Euro 2012 Group C game in Poznan, between Ireland and Croatia. Unlike Ian, I had been able to source tickets through the UEFA website, although not through the initial general lottery, but rather when the tickets came on offer later. As an Irish person, the 3-1 defeat to Croatia was hard to take, but was a great experience to have attended. I won’t cover the football in too much detail, as that will have enough coverage elsewhere. However, some other points of note are covered below.

Poland/Poznan as a host

My initial feelings around how Poland was preparing to be a host to many other countries was that the expectations were very low-key and low level. Poznan normally works well as a tourist location, and has the Poznan International Fair, which occurs each few months. However, it seemed like a lot of people and businesses in Poznan were treating Euro 2012 as just an extension of normal tourist operations. However, with in the region of 60,000 to 70,000 extra visitors, across 3 match-days, it seems like there were no specific plans in place with how best to manage them, and make the most of the visits. The supermarkets and off-licences had long queues, while there were parts where there were no people at all visiting, only a few minutes from the city centre.

Poland as a Central European location

It seemed like a criticism of Ukraine and positive for Poland, when 12 of the ‘visiting’ 14 teams (apart from the 2 hosts) chose to base themselves in Poland. With most teams opting to stay in Poland and fly into Ukraine if needed, it seemed to point at the availability of facilities in Poland versus in Ukraine. However, another factor was Poland’s central location, and thus availability to most of the qualifying countries as an easy-to-reach location. This was highlighted in two ways. Firstly, the Czech Republic team had the best draw when it came to location. The closest Euro 2012 location to Czech Republic was Wrocław and all of their games take place there. Not even the hosts have that luxury, as they have a change of venue at least once. This allows the Czechs most convenience with the border being only one hour by drive from Wrocław.

However, this was also highlighted in two other ways. When driving from Kraków to Poznań on Sunday, there were many cars with Croatian flags and number plates also travelling north. This showed Poland’s worth as a central location. We even saw two cyclists who were travelling from Croatis (presumably taking a few days to get to Poznań from Croatia). While travelling near Wrocław, we also saw many cars from Germany, who seemed to be returning from L’viv after watching Germany win 1-0 against Portugal on Saturday night. Whatever about available infrastructure, most locations for Euro 2012 seemed to give options to most fans to travel to the games.

Ireland vs. Croatia

Inside the stadium versus television

In the Municipal Stadium (Stadion Miejski)in Poznań, there was a great atmosphere. The stadium design means that noise reverberates and echos to make a great atmosphere. However, there were a few signs where the stadium did not feel fully finished, despite officially reopening almost 2 years ago in September 2010. When the first football games were played there were a number of concerns raised by UEFA, and while most seem to have been addressed, there were small points noticeable. For example, there were a few points where covers for plug sockets had been broken and in other places where plastering had not been fully completed to the best of standards. However, for the game between Ireland and Croatia, there was a great atmosphere. About 70% of the audience was Irish, with most of the remainder Croatian and while the result meant the Croats had reason to sing, the Irish fans continued to give support. Due to the stadium shape, this gave a great atmosphere, although this may not have translated as well to the television screens.

Stadion Miejski in Poznan

When watching some other games on TV, the crowd seems somewhat muted. However, having been in the stadium I can say that it does not seem to reflect the amount of singing which takes place. Furthermore, when watching a game on TV, it seems that most stadia are all the same with the same ads scrolling past and so on. This seems to be a ‘curse’ of the modern stadium where it is designed with commercial effects in mind rather than for the fans.

National Anthems

Clashes, Fights and other disturbances

It was interesting to visit the Rynek and fan-zone in Poznań. With thousands of people collecting there, and much alcohol being consumed, it was easy to see how some clashes could occur. However, what made it most interesting was that the clashes that occurred seemed to be more between fans (of one nationality) and police, rather than between opposing fans. The Irish fans in particular seemed to be looking for the party and something to forget the economic reality. However, the Croatia fans did let off some fireworks and flares to celebrate scoring goals, only for the Polish stewards and police to step in. A video of fans on Poznań’s Rynek seems to support this, showing fans attacking police rather than other fans. This also seems to align to the story of Russian fans attacking Polish stewards last Friday. Thus, it is interesting to see the response prepared for future such situations, should they occur over the coming couple of weeks.

Polish Army Helicopter patrolling Poznań

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The Wire & its view of Polish-Americans

The Wire is an American drama series that ran between 2002 and 2008, and it is one of my favourite TV shows. It was a programme aiming for absolute levels of realism as much as possible. It was a critic’s favourite, but many viewers were slow to catch on to the series, due to the complexity of story lines and characters. Even now, I am re-watching the third series and I find myself noticing little details missed on earlier viewing.

The basic premise of the show is that it is an American ‘cop show’ – but it is more than simply a drama series of police chasing bad guys. It is set in Baltimore, Maryland – an old industrial (sometimes known as rust belt) city. The central theme is how the police try to use electronic listening devices (wires) to catch and prosecute drug dealers on the streets of Baltimore. However it is a war that the police cannot win, as the city gets poorer and more people get lured towards drugs, either as dealers or addicts. This also leads to increased crime in other areas, giving the city the nickname of Bodymore, Murdaland.

There are 5 seasons of the show, and each has a different theme, with the core still being the interaction between cops and drug dealers. The first season introduces the ‘war’ being fought between drug dealers and police. The second season includes the industrial side of the city by looking at the docks and its workers. The third season explores the tangled web of politics in Baltimore. The fourth season shows the school system of the city. And the final season looks at the city through the eyes of the Baltimore Sun, giving the newspaper perspective on life there.

Polish-Americans are represented in the show in some prominent roles and characters. The two main areas in which they are shown are within the police force and as dock-workers. Major Stanislaus Valchek and his son-in-law Roland Przybylewski feature within the police forces, while Frank Sobotka, his son Ziggy and nephew Nick feature as stevedores working to load and unload ships on the docks.

Major Stanislaus Valchek

Major Valchek is a career cop, and is more of a politician than a policeman, as he tries to use all those around him to advance himself. He utilises favours and ‘suction’ with people in authority also. His son-in-law, Roland Przybylewski is also in the police force and Valchek tries to watch out for him, even though he does not think much of him. However, he wants his daughter to be happy, and so works to save Roland from some tricky situations.

Roland ‘Prez’ Pryzbylewski

Prez begins the show as an inept detective who has no street sense. His misdemeanours include shooting at his own police car and blinding a neighbourhood kid in one eye when thinking he was under attack. Each time, he is saved by his father-in-law, but eventually is ordered off the streets for a period. This is good for him, as he shows skills in office-based analytic situations. However, one last street mission results in him mistakenly shooting and killing a fellow officer and left pondering his future as a cop.

Frank Sobotka

Frank is the chief of the union of stevedores working on the docks. He is struggling with falling memberships in the union and less and less ships coming to the port. He tries hard to reverse the fortunes of the docks, but sometimes has to resort to illegal measures to find extra funds to lobby politicians in order to improve the dock’s fortunes. He goes about changing things in the best way he can, but by sometimes sacrificing relationships with family.

Ziggy Sobotka

Ziggy is Frank’s son and also works on the docks, but he screws up so often that Frank fires him a couple of times every month and re-hires him the following day when feeling guilty. Ziggy wants to make more of himself than simply being a dockworker. However, this leads him towards drug dealing. For the most part Ziggy is a comic character, as the scenes with his duck and fights with a colleague highlight. But as he gets more involved in drugs, this has serious consequences.

Nick Sobotka

Nick is Frank’s nephew and also works on the docks, but also wants to make more of his life, partly for his girlfriend and daughter as well. He too resorts to drug dealing though and as his family get more wrapped up in illegal activity, his world gets turned upside down very quickly.

To summarise, Polish-American characters feature strongly in The Wire. They tend to be portrayed in professions where Polish immigrants would probably have been employed, such as the police force and as dock workers. However, the ‘dumb Polak’ jokes or comments feature also, especially in the docks scenes. The Americanisation of names, both in pronunciation and spelling, also can be seen. For example, Major Valchek and Frank Sobotka both talk to Fr. Lewandowski (pronounced Loo-and-ouski) in St. Casimir’s church. One of the main aims of The Wire is to present as real a view of Baltimore as possible, and I feel that Polish-Americans are portrayed as being part of the city. They have positives and negatives – but all play their part.

However, the final word here goes to Major Valcheck here. As he reads of Frank Sobotka’s demise in the newspaper he actually speaks in Polish saying “Spokoj, Frank” wishing to show some respect to the tussles they had in the second season.

I would recommend the Wire to anyone with an interest in drama series, as it is a highly intricate view of life in an American city, including Polish-Americans living there.

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