Trap's Army hug rival fans into submission
POZNAN LETTER:MY FRIEND reacted with astonishment to the news that Spain did, in fact need, a bailout. “What the . . .?” he asked. “A bailout? Have they lost another striker?” It took a few seconds for it to become clear that we were talking about the actual real world – ravaged economies, austerity, all of that. Because all weekend, Poznan has been locked into its own little Croatian-Irish rejection of anything approaching problems.
From Friday night to Monday morning, the Irish and their Croatian friends drank the Stare Miasto dry without coming up for air. From the start, the Croatians were outnumbered. They tried to make themselves heard and made a show of marching through the square singing their complex dirges. These were drowned out by 15,000 Irish men singing Stand Up for the Boys in Green. Before the Croatian drummers knew it, they had been reduced to providing rhythm for a particularly heartfelt rendition (is there any other kind?) of The Fields of Athenry.
At around midnight on Saturday, a local man in his 70s stood on the corner of the square looking in amazement at the bedlam unfolding before him. The antics – the songs, the drunkenness, the wilful daftness – must seem almost miraculous to the elder generation here, who are old enough to remember their city’s slow recovery from the devastation of the second World War and the many Sunday evenings during the Communist decades when the Market Square was deserted and silent. These were people who marched just for basic rights: all this drink and celebration and frivolity over something as privileged as a football match must be bewildering to them.
The Irish wasted little time in convincing the Poznan locals that their reputation for being happy drunks is based on hard fact and hard liquor. The best fans in the world gave a remarkable exhibition of all-day and all-night drinking. Some could handle it but you didn’t have to go far before you saw the fallen among Trap’s Army scattered across the square. A few green-shirted forms lay passed out in doorways and alleys, sound asleep, possibly having fallen victim to exhaustion as much as the local brew, which packs a hefty percentage. Others staggered uncertainly across the broad cobblestone square, caught in that state between losing and regaining their balance that looks like a permanent stumble. There is only word for this level of drunkenness: buckled. Lads were buckled. Everywhere.
In the early hours of the morning, some class of a riot “erupted” in the Main Square. It apparently involved a row between the Poles and the Croatians. There are several views as to why this happened: historical tensions, macho posturing etc. The most likely reason is that they just snapped once the Irish crowd in the tent outside Brovaria embarked on their 89th rendition of The Fields of Athenry.