We end this mini-series with the story of Michał who went to 6 out of 8 stadia of Euro 2012. whenever he can, he also goes around Poland with his club Śląsk. Though on a daily basis he goes everywhere on a wheelchair.
StadiumDB.com: You've been to almost one third of Euro 2012 games – a rare achievement. Many fans who follow clubs in Poland decided to stay away from this event. Why did you chose to do the opposite?
Michał Fitas: It was the biggest sports event in our history. No-one knows when or if ever we get anything that big in our country. So despite chanting for my local side Śląsk Wrocław every day, I simply wanted to see it as a football enthusiast. It was more about observing than supporting, really. On many occasions I had a rather ambivalent approach to the final outcome of a game, thing I haven't felt ever before while watching football inside a stadium. The cultural aspect was interesting too. Other ways of life, of supporting, of partying. After all this was primarily a chance to have great fun, meet new people, work with them in the Fans Embassy and see some captivating places.
Right, working for the Fans Embassy – can you give our readers an idea of what you were doing? We already wrote about the embassies themselves, but how did it work out in practice?
On a usual day we were helping everyone, both foreign and Polish, to find their ways in Wrocław. The information point that our Embassy is, served supporters on many occasions – for tickets, public transport, getting to the stadium, rules inside the fanzone, Wrocław's attractions or just incidental cases like a lost wallet and so on. Fans were visiting us both inside the stationary embassy and in the streets. Obviously most people were there on matchdays and those were the three days of most intense work and full concentration.
Of all the stadiums you haven't checked only the two in eastern Ukraine. Among the remaining six, which one suits you most for a football game?
It was a specific Euro – first time ever distances between most outlying cities were close to 2,000km. If it wasn't for that, I'd gladly see all venues. My favourites for a matchday would be Gdańsk and Wrocław. Maybe because I've known those stadiums from league games already, but all of the remaining ones have their flaws that reduce comfort.
Could you name any disadvantages?
In Poznan and Lviv the sections for disabled fans are located right over the pitch. I think everyone knows very well that those aren't the best conditions for football. In Kyiv on the other hand, of which I was expecting the most, the upper tier under which we were located was severely restricting the view of the screens, other sections and even some 10% of the pitch. Warsaw's National Stadium has a very steep driveway for wheelchairs that few physically disabled people can get through on their own.
Taking into account the scale of Euro 2012, is there any comparison with the Polish league?
It's a completely different story. Personally I'm not into the commercial style promoted by UEFA. It was interesting to get insight on this event, but I'm definitely sticking with the league environment. More liberal in many aspects, less engaging (volunteers, law enforcement, services), lower prices and it's simply close to my heart. And what's most important – I cannot wait to get our Polish fanatic and fierce chanting throughout the game. The choreos, pyrotechnics, brilliant atmosphere. Apart from incidental cases, this was the aspect I missed most during UEFA EURO 2012.
So despite the interest still “against modern football”?
If modern football associated solely to commerce, balloons, picnic and poor atmosphere, then by all means “against”. For me ideal model would be one close to the German scene. In which fanatical supporters have their own section with their rules, where you can stand, do tifos, light pyro if in the hands of responsible and trained people. But this model also has a place for all the other fans who have their expectations from a matchday. Some want to bring kids, others only enjoy the essence of football. And there's the room for club being a brand and being able to make ends meet. Maybe utopian, but would be beautiful.
Before Euro 2012 there was a major problem with disabled supporter allocations. Did you encounter any difficulties?
No, I had no problems. One of the reasons was that I knew how this worked since I've been to 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008. So experience allowed me to get through. But it's another thing that procedures at UEFA aren't completely transparent and many disabled people weren't aware of how and when they should “prove” their disability. And then there's the pathetic argumentation by press officers of UEFA claiming they've sent four emails to each of the disabled fans asking for medical predicate. This only says about their low level of knowledge and competence. I got only one email like that – it got through and was enough, but there are other official means of communication – letters, phonecalls. If they cared about their “customers”, making 100-200 phonecalls wouldn't be an obstacle.
Finally, as an outcome of all that, at each game I've been to there were 20-30% of wheelchair allocations unused, simply empty. UEFA need to work on that, really. Especially since they have their own organisation to work on it – CAFE – that is supposed to work for equal access to football for all people.
Michał Fitas: fledgeling, 24yo graduate from Wrocław's Economical University, MA in Logistic Management. Sports and music enthusiast. Since ever devoted to Wrocław and local side Śląsk. Currently also actively working with disabled people.