Lithuanian police arrest dozens of fans

Lithuanian police arrest dozens of fans
AFP, VILNIUS

Dozens of Polish and Dutch hooligans were arrested on Thursday before and during a Europa League match between Lithuanian side Tauras and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, who have a hardcore following among Poles.

“Fifty-one Polish and 13 Dutch football fans were detained, including three Poles during the game for illegal firecrackers,” police spokeswoman Vitalija Gintautiene said.

The men were detained in Lithuania’s second city of Kaunas, where the home team lost 3-2 to a last-minute own-goal.

Gintautiene said most were detained for aggressive behavior, abusing passersby or drunkenness. She said fans also threw firecrackers during the game.

Earlier, local media reported that Lithuanian border guards had confiscated baseball bats from a handful of fans of the Polish -capital’s top-flight club Legia Warsaw.

Legia supporters have a longstanding alliance with those of ADO Den Haag, based in the Dutch capital The Hague.

Hooliganism is a top concern in Poland, amid efforts to stamp it out before the country hosts next year’s European Championship along with neighboring Ukraine.

Tauras hail from Taurage in western Lithuania, but Kaunas, in the center of the country, was picked to host the fixture as it has one of the cash-strapped Baltic state’s few international-level stadiums.

Local officials also cited security concerns for choosing the venue.

The city has bitter recent experience with hooligans from neighboring Poland.

In March, 48 Poles were arrested amid clashes with security forces as Lithuania beat visitors Poland 2-0 in a friendly.

Former Poland international Grzegorz Lato, who now heads his country’s PZPN soccer association, apologized to Lithuania for the fans’ behavior.

Polish authorities say there are up to 5,000 hardcore hooligans in the nation of 38 million, in gangs modeled on England’s once–notorious “firms.”

Last month, about 20 fans of Polish second-division club Pogon Szczecin — from a traveling crowd of just 300 at a friendly in Germany with Union Berlin — were arrested in clashes that left 19 police officers injured.

On the domestic front, the Polish government and police have called for an extension into next season of a ban on away supporters imposed for the final league matches of last term.

The get-tough approach followed violence at the May 3 cup final between Legia and Lech Poznan.

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