Polands soaked pitch-invaders hit with stadium ban
Two Poland fans who became overnight Internet stars after invading their national stadium's waterlogged pitch when a World Cup qualifier against England was called off have been banned from matches for two years.
"I'd been dreaming about doing this since I was a kid," 41-year-old Adam Dziewulak, whose sliding belly-flop in the soaking turf has gained cult status, said as he was led handcuffed into a Warsaw court.
Quizzed by the judge, however, he said: "I didn't realise what the consequences would be". He asked the court to be lenient, noting he had spent two nights in a remand cell.
"I was charged with invading the pitch during a sporting event. I'd like to underline that at that moment, I'd heard with my own ears that the sporting event in question had been postponed. I did it on the spur of the moment after a burst of adrenalin. It might sound a bit ridiculous, but I think I provided a bit of entertainment for the fans and that lowered the tension in the stands," he added.
He was also ordered to serve a year's probation and to pay 110 zloty (22 pounds, 27 euros, $35) in court costs. His fellow televised invader received a similar punishment and a ruling was pending on a third man who was not caught on camera.
Under Poland's anti-hooliganism law, pitch invasions carry up to three years in prison, community service or a fine of several thousand zloty.
The fans were arrested on Tuesday in Warsaw's Kazimierz Gorski Stadium after managing to slalom around pursuing and stumbling stewards amid a deluge, roared on by supporters in the packed 58,000-capacity arena.
A tongue in cheek video of their antics, set to the music of the television series "Baywatch", had already drawn almost 633,000 views on Youtube by Thursday.
Supporters created a Facebook group under the jokey banner "Free the Heroes of the National Swimming Pool", with the number of "likes" topping 81,000.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk also defended them.
"What they did didn't hurt anyone. In my opinion they don't deserve to be punished," Tusk wrote on Twitter.
"You have to ensure stadium security, but this was an exceptional situation," added the premier, an ardent football fan and Sunday league player who in the past has locked horns with supporters who fault broad-brush measures against hooliganism.
The England match had an extra edge for Dziewulak, as he is one of hundreds of thousands of Polish immigrants in London.
After the hearing, his tone was less contrite.
"I don't know if what I did was bad. If I've become a positive hero, that's good. This was a protest against a totally absurd situation where a guy flies 2,000 kilometres for a match and gets told it's off. When you think of the millions they spent on this stadium, this could have been sorted out," he said.
Fans and pundits have been questioning why the roof of state-of-the-art stadium -- an arena built for last June's Euro 2012 tournament -- was not closed before the planned match. The Polish football association and stadium authorities are still trading blame.
Poland and England went on to draw 1-1 in the rescheduled fixture on Wednesday.
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