Polish football hooligans make their presence felt at a Legia Warsaw v Lech Poznan match PIC: Reuters
Polish football hooligans make their presence felt at a Legia Warsaw v Lech Poznan match PIC: Reuters

An army of Polish fans are expected to descend upon Wembley for the England versus Poland game and huge steps have been taken to ensure the fixture does not attract the wrong headlines.

Ahead of England's crunch World Cup qualifying match, the Football Association has taken the unusual step of turning Wembley Stadium in to a mini Prohibition State by turning off all the beer taps.

Outside in the streets, the Metropolitan Police has drafted in Polish officers to stake out Tube stations and collar troublesome fans from Eastern Europe. Polish supporters have also been banned from all but five pubs in streets surrounding England's home of football.

This is not a very hospitable thing of our police to do, so why all the precautions?

Poles are an ethnic group who have quietly settled in large numbers in London since 2004 with next to no fuss. A strong focus on family and religion are the traditional bedrocks of their society, not threats to peace, law and order.

So is it not overly punitive to treat fans like kids by banning alcohol and preventing them from mixing with people who could be their neighbours?

The answer is yes - at least until you cast a questioning eye over Polish football.

For an English football fan with a ticket to the ultra-sanitised Wembley Stadium, learning about how prevalent racism and violence are today within the Polish club game is like looking into the past.

Poland's problem with hooliganism has been compared to England's own affliction during the 1970s and 1980s. Given that hooliganism in England has been effectively purged, the closest comparison would be to Italy's 'Ultras' - with more sports-casual wear.

It was Italian Ultras who partially destroyed Arsenal fans' favourite pie shop earlier this month. Not one of them was arrested in relation to the rampage before kick-off in the Arsenal versus Napoli game.

In Poland, the epicentre of disorder is the city of Kraków, where fans of Cracovia and Wisla Kraków regularly meet up and smash each other to pieces using an assortment of weapons - even axes.

These hooligans bring a high level of professionalism to their hobby by embarking upon Trojan-like fitness regimes and pumping iron, in order to build muscle - which is then deployed to inflict maximum pain on rival fans.

According to reports, there is currently a hooligan firm associated with every single professional Polish club. Some have been infiltrated by far-right groups which espouse virulent nationalism.

Firm names such as 'Terror Corps' (Pogon Szczecin FC) 'Psycho Fans' (Ruch Chorzów FC) and the 'Destroyers' (Wisla Lodz FC) tell you these fans probably are not content with just shouting colourful language at the referee once a week.

Polish hooligans hit the headlines across Europe last year, when 183 people were arrested over a single fight during Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Polish and Russian fans clashed in the street after Russians provocatively marched through Warsaw to mark their country's national day.

Four years ago, Poland fans showed the British public just how dangerous they could be by injuring 11 riot police before and during a match against Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Meanwhile, black players plying their trade in the country regularly face racist insults and a racist football culture which belongs in the distant past. The situation is getting better, but not quickly enough.

There is more to Polish football than rampaging thugs, however. Enter the 'Poznan', a celebratory dance guaranteed to bring the carnival atmosphere to any football stadium. Manchester City fans today link arms and jump up and down with their backs to the pitch, after seeing Lech Poznan fans do the same during a Europa League tie between the both sides.

At Wembley tonight, Poland are playing only for pride as the team has no chance of qualifying for the World Cup, next year. Turning their backs on the pitch and bouncing up and down instead could well be the best fun they will have.