On the early BBC World Service news this morning a reporter in Warsaw suggested that last night’s scuffles between Polish and Russian thugs (my word, the reporter said “fans”) were one more reason why the choice of Warsaw was a mistake. He has missed the point.
In 1987, I was living in Turin. One night at dinner in a restaurant, my host, a big wig in town, whispered to me that Platini was sitting at the next table. Naturally, I knew who he was but I think my host was so disappointed at my reaction, he didn’t bother to introduce me. After compulsory football six days a week for every one of my ten years in English boarding schools, I think I had a right to be diffident about almost sitting next to one of the most famous footballers in the world. I hated the game.
Of course, intelligence does play a role in football, as it does in most things, politics not least. But, as with President Obama’s gaff about Polish death camps (geographically correct, political dynamite), not his words but his speech writers`, Mr. Platini must be surrounded by some fairly ill-informed people. The thugs on the fringes of football are not there for the football, they are there for a fight. Even Mrs Gronkiewicz Waltz and her goons in the Town Hall, must have realised that. So why give them such a perfect excuse for a fight?
Why did UEFA schedule the Poland/Russia game on Russia’s National Day and why didn’t the Poles (and even the Russians, unless they wanted trouble, or perhaps they both wanted trouble) not prevent it? How dim-witted do you have to be?
If only, all those years ago, I’d shown more enthusiasm and befriended Mr. Platini, this might have been avoided or, at least, I might have saved him some embarrassment and some thugs their bruises.
Of course, I can’t imagine what was going through the heads of the Polish authorities, if anything at all. Can you?