The train rolled into Poznan station and the platform immediately filled with a sea of green shirts. We had been drinking steadily since getting on the train in Berlin. The eight cans of Berliner Pilsner had worked out just enough to sustain the two of us for the three-hour journey, and now, in the 30 degree heat of Poland, we were ready to get started.
I got my first taster of what to expect the previous night in Berlin. On a pub crawl with 200 other travellers and numerous Irish supporters, the train erupted to the chants of : “we all dream of a team of Gary Breens”, to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’. Irish, English, German, everyone in the carriage were chanting and bouncing along. The sound was deafening. The train was leaping from it tracks with everyone jumping in unison.
Now we were in Poznan town square, and it was much the same story, only on a much grander scale.
Many invaders have entered Poland. But unlike the Red Army, the Green Army was welcomed with open arms, and when they left, everyone was sorry to see them go.
Normally, it’s illegal to drink on the streets in Poland. But with an estimated 30, 000 Irish supporters descending on the city, the Polish police had the good sense to forget this rule for a couple of weeks. The off licences became the de facto bars of Poznan, as Irish supporters queued out of the doors to stock up on cheap beer and vodka, bypassing the comparatively expensive bars (£1.50 a pint, you must be joking!), and congregating around fountains in the main square to sing and dance the night away.
They clambered onto the fountains. They clambered onto the tables. They clambered onto the chairs. They sang. They danced. Spirits soared . Beer flowed. They had our arms on each other’s shoulders as they sang ‘the fields of Athenry’. They did the Poznan. And they did it all day and all night, every night, through till 7am.
There was no trouble. Back home there would have been. No question about it. Not from the fans though, they would have been the same. The difference would be the Police. Oh they were there in Poznan alright. A short trip up the back streets coming off the square and you were surrounded by vans and Police in black heavy-duty clothes and boots. But they were unseen, in the shadows, ready. But they could see that just leaving the fans to get on with it, however much noise they were making, however much they stood on tables, however much they stood on the fountain, and however many times they fell in it, they weren’t actually causing any trouble. They were just enjoying themselves, and the Police appreciated it. They got it. Back home the Police wouldn’t have stood for it. They’d have been obsessed with some absurd idea of order. Some inbulit aversion to the idea of large groups of people gathering together, singing, loudly, enjoying themselves. And in trying to stop the large group of people having their fun, in trying to keep the streets empty and quiet for some unbeknown reason, they’d have started a riot:
-“My God Sarg. They’re standing on the fountain…… singing!”
-“Singing? On the fountain? Jesus, who do these paddy’s think they are? Let’s kettle these fuckers! We must preserve the peace!”
A lenient, liberal approach to Policing preserved the peace., although not the quiet. Not only that though, everyone had more fun, and in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? The Irish had the time of their lives, and the people of Poznan loved them for it!