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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Poles Apart

Poland is a country in thrall to the eighties in much the same way that Britain seems to venerate the 60s.
This is mainly due to it being a great era of hope and change, something that the casual visitor to Poland will pick as soon as he hears the 80s music streaming from every radio station.
However as I found out recently the love of the 80s also extends to football. Staying with relatives in the East of the country at Easter, I didn't need asking twice if I wanted to go along to a match on Saturday.
The game in question was LKS Lomza against Sandecja Nowy Sacz in League Two East, roughly equivalent to the English Football League One/Two.
To get me in the mood for the 80s we travelled the 25 km to Lomza in a tiny Fiat known as a Maluch, the Polish equivalent of the Skoda or Lada. We ditched the car on the outskirts of town, transferring to another vehicle as my companion for the afternoon Piotrek advised me that the sight of a number plate from a rival town might lead to vandalism.
Things got stranger when we arrived at the entrance to the ground which was simply a narrow pathway blocked by a phalanx of security guards. To gain entry we had to buy a ticket (pictured below) from a woman sitting a car. Entry was a very reasonable 15 zloty (about £3.50). The ticket was then torn apart by a steward whilst we were thoroughly searched. This caused a problem when Piotrek's water bottle was discovered and he was advised that they should really confiscate the cap in case we threw the bottle onto the pitch, fortunately the steward thought he could trust us so we were able to walk into ground.
If an English ground grader hadn't already broken into a cold sweat at this point, he certainly would have done once he'd walked down the narrow path to the ground.
Like most stadia on the continent it was based on an athletics track although this seems to have fallen into disuse. Neither end was in use. All the spectators were confined to an open seated terrace along one length of the pitch. There was a similar one opposite, which was empty, topped by a Lords style media centre.
The 80s theme was maintained by an eight foot fence in front of our accommodation complete with locked gates and fire extinguishers manned by yet more security guards who were augmented by a vehicle from each of the emergency services. It was clear that 80s style hooliganism was still a problem in Poland although there was no sight of it due to there being no away fans.
The game began with the away team adopting a bold 4-2-4 formation whilst the home team put ten men behind the ball. It soon became clear that this was rather a mismatch, literally men against boys, Lomza not having the necessary sponsor to pay players of the standard required unsurprisingly fell to a 6-0 defeat, not helped by having their smallest player in goal.
Throughout their 700 or so supporters urged them on with fanatical support, and an increasing number of flags and instruments which continued to arrive throughout the match. The songs were all English in origin with the words adapted to local needs. Their display reached a climax just after half time. With the fifth goal about to go in the fans gathered in the centre of the terrace to co-ordinate a fantastic red and white tableau.
This was all to no avail but everything seemed cordial enough at the finish with the Lomza players queuing up to shake the hands through the fence of their supporters who really had given them whole hearted support in a lost cause.

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