WARSAW – Poles were happy and Russians disappointed after their 1-1 draw in Tuesday’s Euro 2012 football duel in Warsaw, a high-voltage face-off preceded by clashes between hooligans and police.
“The main thing is that we didn’t lose, even though it would have been worth more to win,” Jerzy Borowczak, a former Solidarity union leader at the freedom fighting Gdansk Shipyard turned member of parliament told AFP.
“We’ll win against the Czechs, we’ll have five points and we’ll make it into the quarter-finals,” he added enthusiastically at the stadium exit.
The union’s iconic leader Lech Walesa decked out in a red-and-white Poland scarf was also cheering in the stands, as were Poland’s similarly dressed President Bronislaw Komorowski and football savvy Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
For 30-year-old Poland fan Slawek from the eastern city of Lublin, “the Polish team was transformed, they fought till the end.” He too is convinced Poland will win against the Czech Republic.
The fans od tournament co-hosts Poland left the stadium singing, appearing almost as elated as if they had won.
“I was really afraid before the match and I’m happy that we didn’t lose. It was especially important to not lose against Russia. Anything is still possible,” said 40-year-old Tomasz Jamroz.
Even more optimistic was student Marcin from Plonsk, a town near Warsaw, who said “we were this close to winning. We’ll clobber the Czechs.”
Russian supporters, who were much harder to spot at the stadium exits, did not hide their disappointment.
“Bad match for the Russians. They were like the dead, staying in one place, not moving. It will be very hard against the Greeks,” said Maksime from Moscow.
The majority of the fans at the 50,000-seat stadium were Poles.
Security was the major concern off the pitch as tension was stoked by centuries of bad blood and suspicion between the two countries, coupled with pockets of fans on both sides with a reputation for violence.
Police used an arsenal of tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and pepper spray and detained dozens of brawling fans from both sides ahead of the match but no major incidents were reported after the final whistle.