Warsaw warzone

To no one’s great surprise, UEFA’s worst nightmare came true last night when supporters from Poland and Russia were involved in a series of clashes before and after Tuesday night’s Group A game.

Police in Warsaw claim to have made over 183 arrests and expect to add to that number as investigations continue, while 24 people required hospital treatment for injuries received during the trouble.

If young men, fuelled by alcohol, a misguided sense of patriotism, or just chronic stupidity, want to fight each other, then it’s extremely difficult for the authorities to stop them. However, it is never a good idea to invite the trouble, which is what happened when the Mayor of Warsaw permitted several thousand Russian fans to march from the city centre to the stadium, prior to last night’s game.

That march was deemed provocative by the host nation, which given the historical enmity between the two countries, should have made the authorities think twice about allowing it to proceed. Further provocation for the Poles came with the unfurling or a huge banner with the words ‘This is Russia‘ emblazoned up on it. I’m ambivalent about the banner: it’s inoffensive, humorous, but one can see why it would rile the hosts.

The banner was caught on camera by World Soccer editor, Gavin Hamilton, who was at last night’s game.

It’s such a shame that the trouble both here and at other venues, is in in danger of overshadowing what so far has been a wonderful football tournament.

Latest race news

UEFA have announced they are to investigate allegations of racist chanting directed at Mario Balotelli during Sunday’s Euro 2012 game between Italy and Spain in Gdansk.

Fans’ Embassy of Football Supporters Europe (FSE) have detailed the abuse Balotelli received from Spain supporters.

There was confusion yesterday after Italy coach Cesare Prandelli insisted there had been no racist abuse

“That’s absolutely untrue,” he said.

However, eye witnesses said the abuse was clearly audible.

Thomas Herzog, member of the FSE Fans Embassy team for Spanish supporters, said: “We were present during the match inside the football stadium and stayed inside the stand of the Spanish supporters over the entire course of the match.

“At some point during the match then, about 200 supporters started monkey chants when the Italian player Mario Balotelli touched the ball.”

Oh dear.

Gdansk for nothing

Thankfully, while the fans might not be able to behave themselves, at least we can rely on the people running the show do their jobs efficiently, with little fuss and without causing offence. What’s that you say? The deputy mayor of Gdansk has praised football supporters for behaving like white civilised people?

Jesus! We might as well pack up out bags and go home now.

Andrzej Bojanowski made the controversial remarks in a radio interview.

“I thank residents and city employees for behaving like normal civilised white people toward our guests who have in turn also behaved like normal white people,” he said in the broadcast.

Local translators said the Polish phrase he used during the broadcast was not intended to cause offence, but when put into English it may have been construed as racist or offensive.

A few hours later Bojanowski was issuing a grovelling apology.

“I apologise to anyone I may have hurt with the clumsy phrasing I used this morning in a live broadcast. I simply wanted to thank residents and guests, whatever the colour of their skin,” he wrote.

John Terry must be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Causing offence

It’s been a while since Antonio Cassano has courted controversy. Weeks, possibly months in fact. He has been ill, lest we forget.

But after an ill-considered rant about playing alongside gay people, he’s back in the spotlight, doing what he does best – apologising for being a cretin.

During a press conference, the forward was asked a question about an Italian television personality’s claim there are two gay and two so-called “metrosexuals” in the national squad. Before discussing Cassano’s response, I’m intrigued about the use of the term metrosexual. In Britain, the word is fairly innocuous and is merely a synonym for ‘well-groomed’, although in a city like Middlesbrough, it’s used more loosely and is applied to any man who has changed his underwear in the previous week.

“What’s a metrosexual?” Cassano asked the questioner. He should have quit while he was ahead, but he blundered on by adding: “If they’re queer, that’s their problem. I hope there aren’t any queers in the national team.

“But if they’re queer, it’s their business. Are there any? I don’t know.”

After the exchange, Cassano turned to the translator and said: “You’re not going to translate that to the Polish press, are you?”

There’s dumb and there’s dumber.

However, quicker than you can say PR disaster (Relazioni con il pubblico disastro – in case you’re interested) Cassano released a statement apologising for his remarks.

He said his comments had been misinterpreted and he did not want to cause offence.

“I sincerely regret that my statements have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups,” said the statement on the official website of the Italian Football Federation.

“Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I cannot question the sexual freedom of other people. I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected.”

Laudable sentiments, but the damage had already been done.

Fabrizio Marrazzo from the Gay Centre in Italy, condemned the player .

“Cassano says ‘cassanate’ (stupid things) about gays, showing his arrogance and irresponsibility,” he said.

“Unifying sport and homophobia gives a dangerous message, especially to the young.

Press Gang

No prizes for guessing which person the Polish press have focused upon this morning.

Jakub Blaszczykowski – known as “Kuba” or, as the Polish edition of Metro calls him, Kuba “The Divine” Blaszczykowski. Well, if Pope John Paul II is in line for a sainthood, then divine status for Blaszczykowski can’t be far behind.

“Kuba! Goool!!!” wrote Gazeta Pomorska, while Dziennik Zachodni goes with “Kuba, Thanks!”

Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko, who celebrated his goalscoring exploits in the co-hosts 2-1 victory over Sweden, by having his car pranged.

For Russia, it was back down to earth with a bump.

Gazeta moaned that Dick Advocaat’s team, despite playing very well in patches, were “not as fresh as the hosts at the end”, concluding that “unfortunately the myth of our invincibility has been dispelled”.

The mood was scarcely better in the Czech Republic, where the unbearable lightness of being a football fan was evident.

“For every 20-30 minutes of beauty that our team offers, we have to pay twice as much with nerves, suffering and despairing looks at the clock,” says Sport.

Which brings to mind, the line from the film Clockwise.

It’s not the despair Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.

“The Czechs cheated death after the drama,” Sport added somewhat melodramatically, noting that a below-par performance from Greece helped as the Czech team “is unlikely to meet another team with such mediocre offensive skills.”

The glass of Budweiser is definitely half empty then.

Goal of the day

Jakub Blaszczykowski will never have to buy himself a drink again in Poland, after this stunning strike earned his side a 1-1 draw with Russia.

A memorable moment for the whole of Poland, perhaps best encapsulated by the reaction of 100,000 people in the Warsaw Fan Park.

Blunder of the day

Petr Cech, normally the most reliable of keepers, had a momentary loss of concentration during the Czech Republic’s 2-1 win over Greece. The Chelsea goalkeeper is now a doubt for Friday’s game against Poland. He, along with team-mate Tomas Rosicky, are currently undergoing scans: Rosicky on his Achilles, Cech on on his bruised ego.

Quote of the day

“When England’s players ran out against France, of course there was an emotion – I felt it.”

Former England coach Fabio Capello reacts emotionally to seeing his former players in action. Imagine how his agent and accountant felt at that moment: both of them were in tears when they heard he’d given up the England gig.

And the band didn’t play on

Pukka pies, the sponsors of the England band barred from attending the Euro 2012 opener against France, have made an official protest to UEFA about the exclusion.

The band travelled to Donetsk, Ukraine, for the opening match, but despite assurances from UEFA and the Football Association, they weren’t allowed to take their instruments into the stadium.

A Pukka Pies spokesman said: “The way the band has been treated leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It’s very disappointing and we will be making an official representation to UEFA. We will be doing everything we can to make sure the band takes its rightful place at the England versus Sweden game in Kiev.”

Interestingly, the deicsion to ban the band has gone down very well with England fans. Reaction on Twitter has been unanimous. The Guardian reports that of 117 comments on the band’s Pukka Pies Facebook page, not a single one was supportive. Similarly, a poll in the Mirror, shows 2/3 of respondents support the ban.

All of which is a little unfortunate for the band themselves, who have travelled 2500 miles by van to support the team. So, how about a compromise: let the band in, but only on the condition that they drown out the tiresome and deafening stadium announcer.

The egos have landed

What’s the time Rafael Van der Vaart? What’s the time? What’s the time Klaas-Jan Huntelaar? What’s the time? What’s the time Nigel de Jong? What’s the time?

It’s implosion time!

Well, they’ve been together two weeks now and the rift (see World Soccer Daily, June 12) has gradually widened to the much-anticipated chasm and with Germany looming the horizon tonight, a canyon of recrimination beckons for Holland.

It’s like a modern day version of Heathers, with an increasingly-agitated Wesley Sneijder in the Christian Slater role, prowling among the rival factions, threatening to blow up the training camp.

Here’s the story so far:

Rafael Van der Vaart got the ball rolling by complaining about his omission from the starting line-up for Holland’s opener against Denmark.

“I am very disappointed,” Tottenham’s midfielder was quoted as saying in Voetbal International. “The coach has his preferences, I am not part of them and I don’t think that is going to change.

He and Huntelaar held talks with Dutch coach come-UN peacekeeper Bert van Marwijk, in which they expressed their disappointment. As they left, in ambled Dirk Kuyt, although he may have been trying to locate the football he miscontrolled earlier in training.

The Liverpool forward felt he deserved to start for Holland, this despite spending so much time on the bench at Anfield last season that he started to bring his own cushion to matches.

Bringing up the rear was De Jong, who although he did start against the Danes, was unhappy to have been substituted midway through the second half. Sources say he is unhappy at what he believes to be the preferential treatment given to Mark Van Bommel who, as you probably know is the son-in-law of Van Marwijk.

In to the row steps Sneijder, who clearly has had enough of the internal bickering.

“It is time we let go of these pathetic egos,” he said. “If somebody is creating a mess [within the squad], I will stand up against them.”

Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Dutch dressing room if they lose to Germany tonight.