Lech Poznan Ultras, the origins of Polish cheering

A fandom that has amassed the hooligans culture and breathed new life into it.

“The rules were as follows: the police beat us, we beat the police, nobody went to court. Today, if the police beat us, you go to court.” Thoughts of a Miedź Legnica fan, excerpt from the tape Z pamiętnika Galernika. Magic Lat 90 Tych (“From Galernik’s Diary. The Magic of the 90s”), that is, the unfiltered memories of a ŁKS Łódź fan in the form of a diary, form our starting point for an in-depth analysis of the Polish ultra movementwith a dutiful focus on one of the fans who has contributed most to its creation over the years: the Lech Posen.

In view of the double confrontation between Fiorentina and Poland, valid for the quarter-finals of the Conference League, our eyes will also be fixed in the stands and off the pitch spent in Europa League 2015 where the two fans had already met.

Lech Posen or the Polish Ultras movement

Poznan, the capital of Wielkopolska, a trade and railway hub of fundamental importance for the entire continent, could only be a protagonist in the development of Polish fandom – which, as is so often the case in Eastern Europe, is linked to and reflects the historical and social -cultural events of the country of affiliation. It is no coincidence that the first forms of aggregation were seen in the stands in the early 70s when Polish citizens came into contact with some European fans going through the curtain during European cups such as Saint-Étienne and Feyenoord.

The first tendencies to defend territory against opponents are emerging and rivalries appear to be largely based on the membership of some clubs in state institutions. The case is emblematic Legia Warsaw, born under the aegis of the army, and still today an object of hatred due to its ancestral debt to the capital, but Lech itself was also affected by the influence and funding of the railway. In any case, the birth of the first groups (ŁKS Łódź, Polonia Bytom, Legia Warsaw) appears only partly as a spontaneous phenomenon, stifled by a context in which any form of individualism could not find a place and had to be brought back to the state monopoly.

There Spread of communist authorities it was immediately expressed in the desire to centralize the movement, to finance its activities, to organize social events and trips.

In fact, by the end of the decade, Poland had about thirty clubs with an organized group of supporters, mostly made up of clubs workers and students: a social base that was no different from the rest of society and could hardly be a source of dissent.

Lech Poznan fans, another category of fans

The scenario changes in the 80s, ei Kolejorz (Eisenbahner, nickname of Lech Poznan fans) tragically begin to appear on the scene. The political and economic crisis, an inefficient and out of control bureaucratization, but above all the changed international conditions The conditions of the Polish people deteriorate and the regime begins to fall.

In this climate of social unrest and even more accentuated repression by the authorities, organized groups are being ravaged by English-style hooliganism. The first consequence of such love at first sight was an escalation of hooliganism, and during the 1980 Polish Cup final between Lech Poznan and Legia Warsaw, clashes resulted in one dead and hundreds injured, although official estimates are still unknown. Meanwhile, Gdańsk stands on the stands, a city whose port is the symbolic site of the revolt solidaritythe first signs of union appear and chants like “Precz z komuna” (“Down with the Communists”).

With the swan song of the communist world in 1989, the turbulent transition period to a market economy and democracy began for the country. The social and political structures tried to quickly adapt to western values ​​and even the grandstands tended to look up to the English model. Skinhead clothing from Dr. Martens, shaved heads and flight jackets, along with a growing and consolidating spiral of unprecedented violence, bear witness to this the admiration for the hooligans from across the English Channel more than for the ultras world in general.

The The nineties and the birth of organized groups

It was precisely in this period of upheaval and foreign influences in the early 1990s that the organized fan scene in Poland changed and Poznan took on a central role. In October 1995 in Bratislava, on the occasion of a national team match against Slovakia, the Lech fans, who had been marginalized until then, joined the hooligans from Arka Gdynia and Kraków: the ALC or “Triad” had just been bornthe coalition of groups that will be almost unbeatable in clashes with others by the beginning of the new millennium company Rivals who will soon form an antagonistic bloc.

In the same decade, the LPH group (Lech Poznan Hooligans), currently the leading group of white-blue fans, appears in Sector 6 of the Miejski Stadium, which is still nicknamed “Kotłem” (Cauldron) today. Two subgroups still exist, the Brygada Banici And Young freaks 98decide to meet under this acronym and they mark a turning point in the national movement. Like the rest of the groups that arose after the dissolution of the regime, these too, almost as a physiological reaction, adopt exaggerated nationalism tending towards far-right ideologies, legacy which will remain alive to this day.

The nice fans of Lech Poznan

Around the turn of the millennium Lech hooligans dominate every collision was right, both in the stands and outside. Until then, however, the words “agreed” and “external” had remained alien to the vocabulary of Polish supporters, marked by fierce clashes with the police on the same steps, pitch invasions, trains attacked with all available weapons, in short, at almost absolute, which did not deviate too much from what was breathed in other European countries.

The ustawki: Clashes agreed

With the “law on safety at mass events” (Ustawa z dnia 22 sierpnia 1997 roku o bezpieczeństwie imprez masowych) so that the violence will at least gradually decrease. Since 1998 it has therefore been recorded for the first time ustawka, the prearranged fightbetween fans of Arka Gdynia and those of Lechia Gdansk.

In the early 2000s, a debate arose among all organized groups about the convenience of the ustawki, now more and more necessary to avoid any kind of interference from above. Despite Lech’s relegation to the second division from 1999 to 2003, the LPHs re-legitimize their role by summoning all the top of the country’s main organized groups to their city. From the meeting of 2004 was born “Poznan Pact” which established some specific rules (at least on paper) for any fights: respect for the opponent, equal number of participants in the fight, no dangerous objects and a predetermined location. All accepted the terms dictated by the Pact, except Wisla and Kraków.

The fights in the forest, settled and body to bodyare a specialty of the Polish scene (but not only) and are the reason why most fans train very intensively on a regular basis martial arts like MMA and boxingalso with regard to real organized tournaments.

The perspective on the other two distinctive features of Polish fans, viz the massive use of smoke bombs and the creation of spectacular and provocative sets, is changing around the 2001-02 biennium, when real functional differentiation between hooligans and ultras groups begins. Following the local ultras movement, large flags with the social colors of the clubs and increasingly complex scenographies appear in the stands, which until recently were absent.

If you want to trace the current org chart of white and blue backers, this distinction is pretty obvious. In fact, in those years Ultras Lech and E-Lech ’02 were born, two groups that today collaborate in the creation of the sets and always report to the LPH.

Wanted to remember some of her most artistically successful recent works that have been overheard Dedicated to Pablo Escobar accompanied by the inscription “Pelota or Ploma‘, in the game against Legia Warsaw in 2020, is just one of the many spectacular backdrops Kolejorz is showing the world. In terms of content, there are two that deserve closer reading because they underscore the nationalist political line of the Blue and Whites. The first dates back to February 23, 2019, again against historical rivals, and pictured a boot that crushes the head of a German soldier on the ground.

The banner read: “Poznań residents have not given up… the German kept his face to the ground”with the intention of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the “Wielkopolska Uprising” for Polish independence that broke out on December 27, 1919.

The second, staged during a match against Jagiellonian Islands in 2016, instead consisted of a cardboard Polish flag lying on a sheet tracing the cover story Roja, a film released in the same year, and the writing “Death to the Enemies of the Fatherland”. In the film, after the assassination of his brother, the supreme commander of the Home Army, in the spring of 1945, 20-year-old Mieczyslaw joins a paramilitary unit to liberate the country from Soviet tyranny.

Ironically, on the 97th anniversary of the Wielkopolska Uprising of 1918/19, the association SKLP (Stowarzyszenie Kibiców Lecha Poznań), founded in 2014 as a continuation of the association, joined the celebrations Viara Lechia (People from the Lech). In fact, since 2003, also due to the constantly increasing costs of the sets, there has been a kind of institutionalization of the movement with which Birth of numerous official clubs, responsible for relevant civil society activities. In the case of Lech, the official association Wiara Lechia, Besides the fact that it has become a fan-founded football team with the 2014 redesign, it is involved in organizing away games, fundraising, public relations, including humanitarian and commemorative ones.

Officially, this association does not support hooligans, but in practice all groups, although working separately, work together and report to the LPH extension.

It is essential for the Lech fans to appear en masse at the away games, and that of Florence will certainly be no exception. We must pay attention to one of the hottest fans of the European scene, capable of turning entire cities upside down, as in the case of the Champions League preliminary round in Sarajevo, when there were more than 30 injuries in the duel with the hosts under the hotel of the guests, but also to dictate trends: “The poses‘, adopted by Manchester City fans or jumping into a hug with their backs to the pitch, was probably born in the late ’60s thanks to the Kolejorz. Your legacy has not been lost.

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