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Monday, October 03, 2011

Polish soccer fans wave massive "Jihad" banner at Israeli team

From Australia's news.com.au: 

ANTI-racism groups are outraged after Polish soccer fans waved a "Jihad" banner at an Israeli team.

Anti-racism groups have called on European football's governing body UEFA to punish Polish club Legia Warsaw after fans brandished a "Jihad" banner during a Europa League match against Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv.

"This is yet another case of anti-Semitic behaviour by extremist groups active in Polish football stadiums, and it could have been predicted," said Rafal Pankowski of the campaign group Never Again.

At the start of Thursday night's Group C home game in Warsaw - which Legia won 3-2 - a group of fans unfurled a huge banner stretching across three blocks of a stand.

Written in Arabic-style letters, it read "Jihad Legia". The banner was green, which is one of Legia's colours but also that of Islamist groups.

"Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behaviour 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," added Mr Pankowski, who runs the UEFA-backed Football Against Racism in Europe network.

Miroslaw Starczewski, deputy head of security at Poland's PZPN football association, said Legia could be hit hard by UEFA.

"Legia should pay the price for this," Mr Starczewski told the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

"A fine is the most likely penalty. And UEFA may even ban Legia fans from the second leg in Tel Aviv."

Legia's away game in the Israeli city is scheduled for December 15.

Under its disciplinary rules, UEFA could levy a fine of up to a million euros ($1.4 million).

Far-right and anti-Semitic banners and slogans are notably shocking given Poland's World War II history, when millions perished at the hands of occupying Nazi Germany, including the overwhelming majority of Europe's Jews.
Will we hear the "Jihad means inner struggle" defense?

(h/t Silke)