Historical hatred added extra Polish fervour to Foxes’ win over Legia in Leicester
Many Poles living in Leicester and Leicestershire turned out at the King Power Stadium to support Leicester City in Thursday’s game against Legia Warszawa, just because they have a fierce dislike of Legia. Maciej Wojcik finds out why.
It is not surprising that Leicester City has Polish people among its fans. For real fans of the game, it is just impossible to live without attending matches, so at some point after moving to a new country, some will change the club they support as well.
But last Thursday, in the King Power Stadium stands, Polish could be heard much more often than usual, even without counting the away support sector. There are historic reasons that some people came to watch the game perhaps a bit more as ‘anti-Legia’ rather than as fans of the home side, cheering on the Foxes.
Eryk, 23, a food production operative, said: ”My favourite team is Pogon Szczecin. I will attend LCFC against Legia hoping as much as possible to see Legia lose the game. To say I don’t like them is to make an understatement.”
Warehouse operative Mateusz, 33, shed a bit more light on the reasoning: „Lech Poznan are always in my heart! You want to know why we hate Legia? First, see YT clip titled ‘Legia Kurczak’, where a toddler is holding Lech’s scarf and chanting: ‘This is how we were brought up to hate this team, and without cause, and for no reason we sing to the whole world today: Legia the chicken, Legia chicken, Legia Warsaw is an old chicken!’ Originally there should be another word instead of ‘chicken’, but, you know, it’s the kids’ version. This is a very, very old tradition to hate Legia, every Lech fan follows that. Why? Perhaps because they are from the capital city. Maybe because of their fans, who are known for very ugly behaviour. Of course I will be there!”
Lorry driver Pawel, 45, said: “Me and my two friends support Wisla Plock. Everybody knows that Legia was stealing young talented players from other clubs. People remember that and that is the main reason to hate that team. We will support LCFC!”
Marek, 48, a delivery driver) added: “My club is GKS Katowice. I am mad enough to order my club flag with the statement ‘LEICESTERSHIRE’ on it for one purpose: to display it in front of Legia fans. I hope that will make them upset, because we hate each other. One of the most famous GKS players was Jerzy Wijas, who played for the Polish national team as well. He was brave enough to refuse to play for Legia. They used their connections in PZPN [Polish Football Union] to make it unable for him to play at central level. For a couple of years he had to play for very local teams because his licence applications were rejected one after another. There are more stories like that one. Nothing is strange that we hate Legia!”
However, not only ‘anti-Legia’ Polish spectators were present inbetween the Leicester City fans. Lukasz, a 40-year-old self-employed welder, said: „For me it is just a family day out. I am not about being a fan who attends every match of the team he has chosen. We are just hoping that we are gonna see good football in a good atmosphere created by fans. And yes, we will support LCFC, because we are living here.”
The claim Legia Warszawa’s fans are also known for ugly behavior was shown during their stay in Leicester. Graffiti with „CWKS” (an abbreviation from „Centralny Wojskowy Klub Sportowy” [Central Military Sports Club]) or a capitalised “L” letter within a crowned circle, the Legia fans’ logo, remains on their route to the stadium and back.
Leicester City fans were disgusted with some Legia fans’ behaviour, such as setting off flares and clashes with police, with 12 officers injured and seven Legia fans arrested, as reported by the Leicester Mercury.
But what of the claims about „stealing young talented players”? Back in the 1970s and 80s, when Poland was under communist rule, Legia Warszawa belonged to the People’s Army of Poland, and it was mandatory for every man to serve at least two years in the army. It was possible, however, to have playing for Legia Warszawa counted as service for the army. This created an unfair advantage for Legia Warszawa, because other clubs had to train players or pay for them, but Legia did not. This is very common knowledge among Polish football fans, and is confirmed not only in leading press titles about sport, but is mentioned on the official Legia website as well. Whoever refused, got into trouble, as Jerzy Wijas found out. The story about him also has media coverage.
Will ‘anti-Legia’ fans who watched Thursday’s match be converted into proper Leicester City supporters? After they saw the Foxes’ 3-1 victory over Legia, there is a chance of that. Time will tell.