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Poland's Euro 2012 stadium clears new hurdle
Published : 17 Apr 2012 19:47:13
Poland's national stadium, where Euro 2012 kicks off in two months, cleared a new hurdle on Tuesday with its first ever club game, pitting Polish league leaders Legia Warsaw against Spanish side Sevilla.
The friendly, which ended 2-0 for the Spanish side, was seen by the stadium management as a way for the staff to hone their skills.
Drawing 20,000 supporters, it followed the 58,000-capacity arena's February 29 footballing debut, a sell-out friendly between Poland and Portugal that was hailed as a logistical success.
Co-hosts Poland kick off the European Championship against Greece on June 8 at the stadium in the heart of the capital.
But with concerns about hooliganism running high, matches between Polish clubs have so far been off limits at the 1.9-billion-zloty (453m euro, $591m) ground.
Police have underlined the need to improve the security-communications system for higher-risk games.
The stadium had been due to make its debut on February 11, hosting the Super Cup between 2011 Polish Cup winners Legia and league champions Wisla Krakow.
The authorities called off the match three days beforehand, however, citing security fears.
Legia fans have repeatedly fallen foul of officialdom both at their own new stadium -- which lies over the River Vistula from the national arena -- and elsewhere.
This month they have been banned from three away games in a row due to trouble during a league game against Wisla in Krakow.
Legia's management has lambasted the violent minority, underlining that they keep racking up financial penalties for the club.
Ignoring the announcer's appeals on Tuesday, a section of the crowd set off flares and fireworks, a regular problem in Polish stadia.
There had also been plans to hold next week's cup final at the national stadium, but the Polish football association opted for the southern city of Kielce.
That decision came before the names of the finalists, Legia and Ruch Chorzow, were known, but the association was mindful that the 2011 edition in the northern city of Bydgoszcz between Legia and Lech Poznan ended with a pitch invasion and brawl.
Polish police say the hooligan hardcore number up to 5,000 in this nation of 38.5 million.
Long accused of failing to take the problem seriously enough, and aware of the Euro 2012 spotlight, the authorities were stung into action after last year's cup final and have bolstered electronic tagging and stadium bans.
The broad-brush approach has alienated many ordinary fans, however.
Poland's other Euro 2012 stadia are in the Baltic port of Gdansk, the western city of Poznan, and Wroclaw in the southwest.
Fellow host nation Ukraine's quartet are in Kiev -- the venue for the July 1 final -- plus Lviv, Donetsk and Kharkiv.