In a dramatic turn of events, Dutch law enforcement authorities brought the Legia Warsaw football team’s bus to a standstill after their recent Europa Conference League fixture against AZ Alkmaar. The confrontation led to the arrest of two Legia Warsaw players, Radovan Pankov and Josue Pesqueira, following a squabble with stadium security.
Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has mandated immediate diplomatic intervention. He affirmed, “I’ve directed the Polish foreign ministry to decisively investigate the incident. All Polish players and fans deserve just and lawful treatment – any deviation from this standard is unacceptable.”
In the tumult, even Dariusz Mioduski, the president of Legia, alleged he was assaulted while trying to mediate the situation. Eventually, the Dutch police detained Josue, the Portuguese midfielder, and Serbian defender Pankov, and refused to allow the team bus to leave.
The Dutch police later verified that they had apprehended a Serbian citizen aged 28, and a 33-year-old from Portugal, following a charge of misconduct. The players were subsequently freed on Friday afternoon and repatriated to Poland, yet they remain as suspects in the ongoing investigation.
In the wake of the event, UEFA, the governing body for European football, has instigated its private inquiry.
Mioduski addressed a news conference on Friday, “This is an outright scandal. I have attended matches from Kazakhstan to Portugal in many years, and while I have witnessed disturbances instigated by rival fans, I have never seen the team, management and staff members face off against security and the police. Such an occurrence is globally unprecedented.”
Within the larger narrative, a subplot surfaced about a cavalier group of Legia supporters storming an entrance gate before the game kickoff. As a result, the Dutch police were left with no option but to deploy tear gas to safeguard the stewards and their own ranks. This scuffle led to some Legia supporters illicitly entering the visitors’ section without proper ticket verification.
In light of the incident, the police declared the precincts around Alkmaar station and the stadium as a potential safety hazard. Furthermore, they undertook preventative searches of Legia fans following rumors of them harboring explosives.
In response to the entire episode, Alkmaar’s mayor, Anja Schouten, expressed her condemnation of the excessive and unacceptable violence did by supporters, while police chief Hamit Karakus revealed an ongoing investigation to pinpoint the individuals responsible for the serious disturbances.
AZ Alkmaar, a club that was recently fined 80,000 euros (£68,670) by UEFA for their fan base’s conduct, will host Premier League side Aston Villa for a group game on 26 October and again on 9 November. Meanwhile, Legia Warsaw will play against Villa at Villa Park on 30 November.
Analysis by Polish media outlets paints these incidents as repeatedly “scandalous”. It is crucial for the populist right-wing government in Poland, which is aiming for an unprecedented third consecutive term in office, to react firmly against the allegedly unjust treatment of Legia Warsaw players, given that Legia is one of the biggest clubs in the country, attracting an average home game audience of more than 21,000, the highest in the Polish top-tier Ekstraklasa.