As the Polish preparations for the Euro 2012 precede from truly shambolic to little-more-than-pathetic (compared to Ukraine, they seem on the ball and ahead of schedule) I come to wonder if Poland is really, truly jazzed about it.
My unscientific, broadly assumptive survey consists of me talking to my students. I interrogate them about their feelings about the Euro 2012, Widzew vs. Legia, and soccer in general. Coming into Poland, I presumed that they would be nuts about soccer. Technically, they are. They have fans that riot and scream and yell, but the rub is, is that I haven't met any of them. I have had class after class, student after student, and all of them claim to apathetic to soccer in any way shape or form. Most couldn't care less about the Euro 2012; they think it'll be an embarrassment for Poland and a hassle with all those pesky tourists clogging up the roads and subway and spending their money. Their apathy is appalling. Fans of soccer they may not be, but they need to look around them and see the massive investment in Poland's infrastructure. Plus, this is the chance for Poland to take center stage (Ukraine will most likely be limping behind, partially in Poland's shadow in the limelight.) Already, the UEFA has threatened Ukraine that Poland might have to host the bulk of the matches (Poland has confirmed they are ready, willing, and able) if Ukraine doesn't pick up the pace. The National Stadium is being transformed from a crumbling pit that hosts a flea market to a big muddy pit to a beautiful new stadium.
The Poles put up more of a fight against each other than against invading Germans and Soviets. (Oh, that's right. I went there.)
To say that I don't know any fans is a lie. A low-down, dirty lie. I actually know one, and he's a huge fan of Widzew Lodz, and an even bigger fan of AC Milan. He gave me a Widzew Lodz scarf, which I proudly displayed in my room. I was warned to never wear it in Warsaw or else I'd "get my ass beat."
I was later informed that Poland has a "league" of fighting armies or whatever. A hundred half-naked fans of one soccer team meets in a field with a hundred equally-half-naked fans of a rival soccer team, and they proceed to do violence upon each other. Sounds fun. This truly brings hooliganism too a new level.
To be honest, with all this talk of hooligans, and the silence of apathy, the most raucous display of fandom was on a bus in Kraków: a few youths chanted "Jazda! Jazda! Jazda! Biala Gwiazda!" Nothing too out of the way of fans in New England chanting, "Yankees Suck!" on the subway, at concerts, at Red Sox vs. KC Royals games, inaugurations, and Ted Kennedy's funeral.