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Poland football coach says sorry for 'sick' Euro 2008 tabloid war
Poland's national football coach apologised yesterday after a tabloid newspaper ran a gruesome depiction of him holding the severed heads of Germany's national trainer and team captain and demanded he slaughter them at the forthcoming Euro 2008 championships.
The photomontage in Super Express of Poland's Dutch coach, Leo Beenhakker, clutching the bloodied heads of Michael Ballack and Joachim Löw provoked outrage in Germany and threatened to overshadow the match between the two group B teams on Sunday.
The picture ran alongside the caption: "Leo, Give us their heads," arguing that Poland, which has never beaten Germany, had waited too long for a victory over its neighbour. The image followed another tabloid's take on the rivalry, which showed Ballack wearing a Prussian helmet and recalled a 15th-century battle in which Teutonic knights were defeated by the Poles.
"This picture is an absolute scandal," said Peter Danckert, chairman of Germany's parliamentary sports commission. "I hope that the Polish government will react to it in an appropriate manner."
Germany's tabloid Bild responded by stating in a provocative banner headline that Poland had declared war against Germany and calling it "disgusting".
Beenhakker said it was "mad, dirty and sick" and apologised to Germany, on behalf of Poland's squad. "We want to say sorry to the German people," he said.
The German-Polish football rivalry stems from the two nations' troubled history, namely Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, which sparked the second world war. The tabloid coverage has led to comparisons with the German-English rivalry and the Mirror's "Achtung Surrender!" headline during Euro 96, along with its pastiche of Neville Chamberlain's 1939 declaration: "Mirror declares football war on Germany!", for which the paper's former editor Piers Morgan was forced to apologise.
Germany will be spared such Anglo Saxon insults because of England's failure to qualify for the event. But plenty of other historical rivalries may be felt on the pitches of Switzerland and Austria, hosts to Euro 2008, over the next four weeks.
Of the countries that have qualified, sibling rivalry is said to drive the fierce competition that exists between Portugal (group A) and Spain (group D), who, despite their common heritage, use the football pitch to vent historical resentments over imperialist ambitions. Holland expresses its resentment for Nazi Germany's invasion in 1940. And Latin neighbours France and Italy, in group C, are long-time rivals due to Italy's domination prior to 1982 and France's virtual domination thereafter.
The European football union, Uefa, said last night: "We knew this encounter would be accompanied by a certain explosiveness, but we hope that what happens on the pitch will remain the central focus."
Poland coach hints at beating Germany for first time
VIENNA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Poland coach Leo Beenhakker hinted on Saturday that Poland could beat Germany for the first time in their Euro 2008 encounter in Klagenfurt of Austria on Sunday, so as to rewriting the team's record with their western neighbors.
"I know that we have never won against Germany, but what we can also say about history is that the two teams have never met each other in this tournament," Beenhakker told a pre-match press conference.
The Dutchman is confident ahead of the Euro 2008 Group B encounter at Woerthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt.
"We know that in 1996 Germany were champions, but since then they have not won any matches at all in the EURO finals. We're talking about history, and I did my homework," he added.
In the European football championships in 2000 and 2004, Germany was eliminated in the first round and did not win a single match.
"We will have our usual preparation, like we did for the qualifying matches," said Beenhakker, who lost third-choice goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski to injury in the build-up to the finals.
In the qualifying round of Euro 2008, Poland ended up with the first place in Group A, a big surprise for fans from home and abroad.
Germany coach Joachim Loew said he has noted Poland's healthy progress during Beenhakker's reign in the intervening period.
"Compared to 2006, Poland today have a much stronger team, they have improved and they played extraordinarily well during the qualifying round," Loew said.
For his own team, Loew said he was happy that all 23 of his players are fit for the curtain-raiser with Poland.
"We know about the strengths of the Polish team, but I believe that if we can implement what we know and, if we can dictate the pace on the pitch, we will be able to play and do so quite daringly, " Loew said
Brazil's Roger Guerreiro is Poland's new hope
He was born in Sao Paulo, and has played for Sao Caetano, Corinthians and Flamengo. He'd never set foot in eastern Europe until he joined Legia Warsaw on loan in December 2005 and yet the chances are that today Roger Guerreiro will trot out in Klagenfurt wearing a red shirt of Poland to face Germany in their opening game of Euro 2008
"If he feels Polish, if his heart beats harder when he listens to our national anthem, if he gives his all on the pitch, it could work," said the veteran centre-back Jacek Bak. "If not, there will be a problem."
In truth, there are problems already. Poland have been through this before, when their then-coach Jerzy Engel speeded through the naturalisation of the Nigerian Emmanuel Olisadebe after he had completed just three years of the usual five-year residency requirement. But he, at least, had a Polish wife; Roger has no link to Poland at all.
Olisadebe's goals fired Poland to qualification for the World Cup in 2002, but his career was checked by a series of knee injuries and he scored only twice more for his adopted country after the finals in South Korea.
The Olisadebe case enraged the right-wing lobby, which rather muted criticism from those who had no desire to align themselves with what were often overtly racist attacks.
Roger's speedy naturalisation, though, has been widely condemned, particularly as it has emerged that he is weighing up offers from clubs in Israel and Russia and could leave Poland after the tournament.
"Maybe soon we'll need the six-plus-five rule in international football," joked the TV commentator Maciej Iwanski last week.
Leo Beenhakker, Poland's Dutch coach, is scathing of his critics, accusing them of failing to live in the modern world. "He has his dream, and we share it with him," he said. "It's 2008. It's time to know the world has changed. I have deep faith in Roger."
He has not said it, but it has not gone unnoticed that Germany have included in their squad three players – Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Piotr Trochowski – who were born in Poland.
All, it should be said, left for Germany at an early age, but it is to try to combat such defections that Engel, now the vice-president of the Polish football federation, has instituted a programme to try to persuade players of Polish origin living in Germany to commit to Poland.
The real problem in the Roger case though is that there is a sense of betrayal. All through qualifying, Beenhakker told Polish football to cast off its habitual pessimism and "look on the bright side of the moon", insisting that they had players of sufficient talent to be successful.
He promoted a number of previously unheralded players from the Polish league – most notably Wisla Krakow's Dariusz Dudka, whom he converted from ordinary centre-back into highly effective holding midfielder – and as they qualified above Portugal, Serbia, Finland and Belgium, his methods seemed justified.
"It's seem strange," said Jan Tomaszewski, Poland's former goalkeeper and now a television pundit, "that he should say all this then go chasing for players from anywhere now we have qualified."
Roger's ability is not in question. His pace and intelligence darting in from the left inspired Legia Warsaw to the title in his first season, and although he was less effective after moving into a more central role last season, he was still man-of-the-match as Legia won the Polish Cup final.
He made his international debut against Albania last week, setting up Maciej Zurawski for the only goal and, probably more importantly, looks at ease within the squad.
Only the Grauniad could write something as sophomoric as “The German-Polish football rivalry stems from the two nations' troubled history, namely Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, which sparked the second world war.”
Yes, as we all know the previous millennium was without incident.
A large number of Poles have put Polish flags on their cars in the last few days. In my view they are in for a big disappointment despite the addition of non-Polish players in their national team.
Hmmm well a Pole scored the two winning goals...unfortunately he was not on the Polish team!
No, he's German. He was a baby when he and his family left Poland. He and his parents chose and choose to be German, not Polish.
This does not sound like someone who feels German talking :
Extract from above link :
KLAGENFURT, Austria (AFP) - Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski admitted he was suffering from divided loyalties after his goals sealed a 2-0 win which sank Poland and launched the German's Euro 2008 campaign.
Having turned 23 last Wednesday, Podolski combined with Germany's other Polish-born forward Miroslav Klose for his first goal on 20 minutes and followed up with an unstoppable volley on 72 minutes.
"We did the essential in winning our opener, but this victory does not over enthuse me as I am originally from Poland. All my family is over there," he said.
"I have two hearts - a German one and a Polish one!"
"I had some family in the stands and they were driving back home after the game, so I ran to them at the end of the game.
"I didn't really celebrate after the first goal as a mark of respect, I have a big family in Poland and was born there, I wanted to show some respect."
Media speak. He wore football boots with a special German flag on. Something no-one else did on the german side
I don't see how he can be seen as Polish
Podolski lived in Poland for all of 2 years as a baby. The rest of his life (i.e. the other 21 years), including his school and training years, he has spent in Germany. He's much more German than he ever was Polish. It would be strange if he didn't play for Germany.
He looks Polish
"The rest of his life (i.e. the other 21 years), including his school and training years, he has spent in Germany. He's much more German than he ever was Polish"
If you are bought up with a different culture because of your parents then you are never going to be 100% of the culture where you are born. I spent many years as a child very confused and bewildered by being in a country with one culture and having a different culture and language at home.
You don't need newspaper quotes to see he was clearly completely torn up when he scored the first goal. If I remember correctly he held his head in his hands and did not smile...
At least he is doing a good job for Polish/German relations. (maybe not on this board, but generally...).
"At least he is doing a good job for Polish/German relation."
Why do you think this?
"Given historically recent Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles, and his decision to play for Germany as a Polish Citizen, he is viewed as a traitor in Poland."
"Why do you think this?"
I meant in Germany. Seeing as they have such negative Polish stereotypes, wins from Podolski and Kubica (recent Polish winner of Canadian Grand Prix on BMW Sauber team which has three German team mates among others) are bound to reinforce a more positive Polish stereotype.
"Media speak. He wore football boots with a special German flag on. Something no-one else did on the german side"
What's a special German flag?