Euro 2012 kicked off last night, as many of you know. We watched some of the games on the movie-sized screen in the Fan Zone.
Every host city has a Fan Zone where city residents as well as visitors can socialize and watch the games taking place around Poland and Ukraine. Entry is controlled for security, and while many zones charge an entrance fee, entry is free here. Crowds gather outside the fences to watch the games. Last night’s first game, a 1-1 tie between Poland and Greece in Warsaw’s new National Stadium, saw a decidedly Polska fan base intently following the action here.
An hour of soccer “shorts” followed – mostly historical films about championships gone by. The crowd was well oiled but good natured. Lots of Germany fans. Fewer Portugal fans. Lots of Ukrainian families waving flags and sporting painted faces.
The second game started: Russia v. Croatia, live from Wroclaw, Poland. I hadn’t thought about the significance of watching this particular game here in Lviv until the moment the Russian team got the ball and moved it down the field – then the booing started! There did not seem to be cheering for Croatia as much as booing against Russia. The Russians scored first, and two pockets of about ten people each erupted into cheers, while the rest of the thousands of viewers stood there and watched them.
The booing continued every time Russia moved the ball, with more and more people joining in. Finally, a group of young people started chanting something funny and jumping up and down on the spot. They were joined by more and more young people jumping up and down on the spot and chanting. Their behavior broke the tension. I’m still trying to find out what they were chanting.
I have had lots of opportunity to take photos of fans expressing their national identities. That project continues as I walk back and forth to City Hall and visit the Fan Zone in the evenings. It’s muggy today. I hope the weather cools a bit for the players and the fans in the stadium tonight. And I hope the rain holds off.