The Shmooze

‘Jihad’ Banner Unveiled at Polish Soccer Match

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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In the latest news about the anti-Semitic behavior of European football fans, supporters of Poland’s Legia team unfurled a huge “Jihad” banner during a recent Warsaw game against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The banner was green, and “Jihad Legia” was written across it in white Arabic-style font. Green is one of Legia’s team colors, but it is also the color of many Islamist groups and parties.

“Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behavior for years and they had a chance to express their hatred of Jews again when Legia played an Israeli team, this time adopting a pseudo-Islamist guise,” Rafal Pankowski, who runs the UEFA-backed Football Against Racism in Europe network, told AFP. The UEFA is European football’s governing body.

Legia’s spokesman Michal Kocieba said the club did not approve the banner, and that the matter is being investigated.

There have been official calls for the team to be penalized, both financially and on the field. “A fine is the most likely penalty. And UEFA may even ban Legia fans from the second leg in Tel Aviv [scheduled for December 15],” Miroslaw Starczewski, deputy head of security at Poland’s PZPN football association, suggested.

Racism and hooliganism in the stands are reportedly being watched closely in Poland, as it is slated to host the 2012 European Championships together with neighboring Ukraine.


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