2011/2012 was a less enjoyable season for Lech’s supporters and without any European adventures to interest them, “Kolejorz” had to focus on the domestic scene. Under the management of Jose Mari Bakero they struggled for long periods and the Basque was finally sacked after a painful 0-3 defeat to Ruch Chorzów. The new, young manager, Mariusz Rumak, restored confidence as they hit impressive form which saw them go into the final day of the season still in with an outside chance of winning the league. They eventually finished the day in third but that was enough to guarantee another season in European competition.
Lech is not the oldest club in Poznań as Warta beats them to that honour by ten years. Two-times Polish champions – the last time in 1947 – Warta have suffered financially for decades, rarely playing in the top division. The club was saved by a local developer in 2011, when ambitious former Playboy model, Izabella Łukomska-Pyżalska took over and “The Greens” now enjoy a higher profile thanks to their new managing director. Not known for being publicity-shy, Ms. Łukomska-Pyżalska’s media exploits include sending a photo of herself and some tissues to Mario Balotelli after the Italian star was seen crying in the wake of his team’s loss to Spain in the final of Euro 2012. The letter included the plea to ‘Super Mario’ to stop crying and the hope that he might come to play for Warta Poznań.
Warta play just to the south of the centre at the remodelled Droga Dębińska and strangely, bearing in mind the mentality in other Polish cities, there is no local rivalry between Lech and Warta fans. One thing you should be aware of in Polish football though is the peculiar allegiances that exist between supporters of different teams and more importantly the animosity amongst others. When two ‘friends’ are playing each other expect a cheery atmosphere, bbq and beer being provided by the hosts and the distinct lack of uniformed police and security. If, however, enemies are playing each other, don’t be surprised to see baton wielding, armoured police and scenes reminiscent of Braveheart. Complete lunacy. For the record Lech Poznań are good friends with Arka Gdynia and Cracovia while ‘enemies’ would be Śląsk Wrocław, Wisła Kraków and Lechia Gdańsk.