What are famous football rivalries in Poland

Ultras fraternally united

During the Second World War, Krakow was the only one of the Polish metropolises to escape physical devastation. If you walk a few minutes west through the district from the justifiably vaunted, magnificent old town Nowy Świat (New World), an unmistakable grassy open space suddenly opens up.

The Błonia, in English the Anger, extends in a triangular shape over no less than 48 hectares and has been in common ownership since the Middle Ages, usable for all residents. Until well into the 20th century, the area served as a cow pasture - and even today you would have the right on your side if you wanted to take your cloven-hoofed animals there.

Tangled ownership and ancient rights protected the meadows from potential exploitation interests of all kinds. And regular flooding by the Rudawa river, which turned the Błonia into an unhealthy, marshy lake district, did not make it excessively attractive. In short: the urban curiosity is still there and is now protected as a national natural heritage. John Paul II, the Polish Pope, had the opportunity to go to the field repeatedly and to prove his attraction on the Błonia. He easily filled the gigantic wasteland at masses several times.

1-0 Cracovia

But even more important: The Błonia separates Krakow's ballester opponents. The homesteads of Cracovia and Wisła are just a stone or two away from each other, if you would - God forbid! - Chop down the beautiful old trees of the Jordan Park, there would even be visual contact. Like Liverpool's Stanley Park between Goodison Park and Anfield, it slides between Cracovia's Józef Piłsudski Stadium and Wisła's much more powerful Henryk Reyman Arena. From the outside, both arouse associations with parking garages or furniture stores, only the roof structures for the floodlight batteries reveal the main purpose of the building.

The competition started right from the start. Both clubs were founded in 1906, but Cracovia a little earlier, so they can Pasy (The Striped) claim the honor of being Poland's oldest surviving football club. In general, the Cracow pioneers, together with the Lvivans, were the pioneers of Polish football. Here, in what was then Austrian Galicia, the game first gained popularity at a time when it was still out of the question in Warsaw, for example. Its delay in (not only) this respect is one of the many trump cards in the eternal competition between proud Krakow and the capital.

Henryk Jordan was a key figure in the early years. As a medical advocate for physical exercise, it was thanks to his initiative that physical exercise was institutionalized as a compulsory subject in Polish schools. He had come into contact with football in England and was now introducing it to the people of his hometown. For this purpose, Jordan set up a park-like area with several playing fields, running tracks and a swimming pool. Today there is a secluded green oasis, more of a place of leisurely refreshment than a sweaty retreat. The walking paths are lined with countless busts of Polish churchmen and generals.

Relation to Austria

In 1910 Cracovia joined the Austrian Football Association and eagerly competed against clubs from Vienna and Budapest. The fact that the Poles cut a fine figure may have contributed to the fact that the Hungarians invited the Polish national team to their first international match in 1921. No less than seven men from the starting line-up were the Pasy. During the First World War, Willy Halpern, a size from Hakoah Vienna, wore the colors of Cracovia at times. The keeper Halpern was the first player from the famous Jewish sports club to join Austria's team. In the 1921/22 season Halpern, meanwhile promoted to captain, was in the goal of the Hakoah team that competed for the championship with the sports club until the last round - ultimately unsuccessful.

The Krakow dominated the scene in the young Polish republic. With one exception, Wisła and Cracovia alternated with Pogoń Lwów for the first eleven years of organized gaming between 1921 and 1932. These were the most successful years of Pasy, the last title of which (of a total of five) dates from 1948. It was won under dramatic circumstances in a playoff against Wisła, after the opponents were tied at the top of the table after 26 matchdays. In the following years, the red-whites lost their supremacy, the long decline culminated in the third class in the 1980s. Improvement did not begin until 2002, when Comarch, the IT company, was finally able to find a powerful financier. Since then one has been working on a secure existence in the Ekstraklasa, but this project is not yet fully completed.

It went better for Wisła, but so did he Biała Gwiazda (The White Star) was only able to reconnect to earlier successes after the political change in 1989, after the clubs from the Upper Silesian industrial area had set the pulse of Polish football in the previous decades. On the threshold of the millennium, an unparalleled era of success began: In 13 seasons between 1999 and 2011 Wisła was able to accumulate eight of its 13 championship titles. If you were well ahead of your impoverished neighbor financially for a long time, the dimensions have now pretty much equalized. The total market value of the Wisła squad is currently estimated at 7.85 million euros, that of Cracovia at 6.80 million. Manageable numbers that are still enough for a midfield position in the Ekstraklasa field. By far in the lead is runner-up Legia Warsaw with a total of 23.65 million (all figures transfermarkt.de).

Cracovia's stadium on the southern edge of the Błonia is diagonally across from the National Museum, which fits in well with the club, which originated from a student environment, and its intellectual image, which was rooted in its early days. Half a century later this classification was to be recharged in a meanwhile completely changed world: In the socialist People's Republic, Wisła had been assigned to the Ministry of the Interior and therefore fell somewhat into disrepute. In a city that never had much to do with communism, the critical intelligentsia preferred to be seen by the Cracovia. Wisła lost its name for a while and became in Gwardia (Guard) renamed. In the period of the political thaw in the second half of the 1950s, these measures were then withdrawn. What remains is a not very advantageous title for Wisła supporters: "Dogs" was the vernacular also used by the representatives of the State Security Service, who were particularly despised during the dictatorship.

Not good gossip

The antagonism between the two clubs is pronounced, the Krakow love their traditional derby (balance after 190 duels: 85 wins for Wisła, 61 for Cracovia). But there are also many stories circulating about violence up to murder, mafia-like networks of sinister criminal gangs and an urban geography that is shaped by the division of the districts and housing estates among rival hooligan groups. Some of it may be true, but a lot is probably due to an exuberant fantasy that delights itself all too willingly in the sensation-seeking horror fairy. Assumptions of primitiveness or a lack of civilization are likely to resonate latently; When looking at Eastern European societies from the West, these are always quickly at hand.

The debate about how much anti-Semitism is actually in apparently relevant graffiti and ultra chants also belongs here. Both are usually directed against Cracovia, where Jews occasionally played a role during the founding period. While for some there is no doubt about the validity of the despicable event - anti-Semitism, as is well known, gets along well without Jews - others believe that the meaning of the word "Jew" has been completely gutted. It no longer denotes a concrete Semitic person who would be insulted or degraded, but rather generally stands for the gray pears that arise in a life.

Wisła then had the Jew, of course. And he was almost loved. The Israeli midfielder Maor Melikson, who ran for the White Star from 2011 to 2013, felt at home, according to his own words. Before his transfer from Hapoel Be'er Sheva, he had been warned of unpleasant Krakow surprises. It is also curious that the martial term "holy war" for the encounters between Wisła and Cracovia was originally used to characterize the tense relationship between two Jewish sports clubs: the socialist-Bundist-oriented Jutrzenka Krakow and its Zionist antipode Maccabi. The transfer allegedly goes back to the Jutrzenka defender Ludwik Gintel, who has switched to Cracovia and who, before a derby in the dressing room, is said to have said: "Well, gentlemen, let's go into this holy war."

Friendship!

On the fifth day of the Ekstraklasa, when STANDARD met Wisłas and Lechia Gdańsk, all that was far away. Very far away. But first things first, after all, the legislature has to go to the match Karta Kibica set. Only those who have this fan card can then purchase a personalized ticket - but only for the home games of the club that issued the ticket. Anyone who claims to want to be part of the league would need 16 of these ID cards in credit card format at a price of just over two euros each. In the Henryk Reyman Stadium they were brought by young women to men. The procedure, including the photo shoot in the air-conditioned rooms, was completed in a few minutes and, in view of the depressing heat outside, was felt to be a blessing. The fact that a seat in a prime location at a price of 38 złoty was extremely cheap did not cause any atmospheric disturbance. Top football in the best infrastructural environment for less than ten euros - where else can you get that?

Wisła and Lechia share a very special institute: fan friendship à la polonaise. As much as one can hate one another in other places, one loves one another just as much: going all out. The ultras of both sides gathered together on a grandstand, their banners in close harmony next to each other on the fence in front of them. But there were only a few of them from Danzig.

After the departure of a somewhat melancholy green dragon mascot, the stadium, which was currently a third full of 11,115 people, started out with the national anthem and didn't want to stop. This was followed by a detailed look-up with the Wisła song - the teams that were already waiting had to wait before kicking off. After completing the national duty with fervor, Wisła started with the freestyle. The poor Gdańsk defense conceded two goals in ten minutes, such a guest is praised. The red-white-blue-green fan union meanwhile let both teams cheer up alternately, an uninterrupted background noise, about as entertaining as a radio that was put on a long time. In view of the tragedy, the Danzigers will probably only have been there with half their hearts.

In the further course of the game, the White Star's superiority, based almost exclusively on appearance, namely the inadequacies of the opponent, eroded quite quickly. Lechia now combined quite smartly at times, with the Krakow pinpricks the awl broke with the second (bad) pass at the latest. The defensive ranks on both sides continued to be inviting; the Danzigers turned around as quickly as the rusting cranes in their famous shipyard. And the Wisłans also interpreted covering work more as a form of possibility.

When Lechia equalized, slowly rolled one or the other long suppressed Kurwa (vulgar for: prostitutes) from the tongues of the fathers in the family gallery - an almost unbelievable reluctance by local standards. Meanwhile with the Wisła-Ultras: disciplined joy. They persisted in their determination to celebrate togetherness. A bizarre spectacle. Krakow took the lead once again, and Danzig equalized again. 3: 3 - the perfect result of a not atypical kick from the Ekstraklasa brand: technically appealing, disembodied, rather leisurely.

If Lechia had scored again in the last few minutes instead of putting the ball on the pole, the general kindness would have been subjected to another ordeal. But as it was, on this most civilized Sunday evening, the impartial alone attracted demonstrations of disapproval. (Michael Robausch, 8/24/2015)