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Gang yobs set to ruin the Green Army's trip of lifetime; IRISH FANS WARNED EUR0 2012.

Byline: KEITH FALKINER

FUN-LOVING Irish soccer fans face brutal local hooligans when they arrive in Poland next summer.

Tens of thousands of Green Army supporters will shell out fortunes to follow their team to Poznan and Gdansk - but could have their dream trips ruined by mindless yobs.

The gangs are a massive problem in Polish football and few are more deadly and violent than the Lechia Gdansk mob.

Irish fans will arrive in Gdansk in their droves for the team's crucial Group C game with Spain on June 14.

But the thugs who support Polish First Division outfit Lechia Gdansk have vowed to turn the European Championships into a bloodbath.

The Gdansk fans are well known for causing trouble during games and are regularly in pitched battles with riot police.

And good-natured Irish fans could well be turned on by the heavily-armed police, as the Lechia hooligans cover themselves in green and white scarves and hats.

Lechia fans are also known to make threats on videos with their faces covered with balaclavas.

Tournament organisers UEFA have already expressed serious concern about hooligans in Poland, which local authorities say are closely alligned to organised crime gangs.

Mobs of soccer fans in Poland have become involved in drug trafficking, prostitution and protection rackets.

Leading criminologist Piotr Chlebowicz explained that the hooligan phenomenon which threatens to destroy Euro 2012 is led by serious criminals.

He said: "Ten years ago there was no connection with organised crime.

But something has changed and now it is not easy to draw a line between where football hooliganism ends and organised crime begins. Gangs dangerous and "This is a serious threat. Most of these groups are dangerous. They are involved in drugs and there is constant fighting between them."

are Lechia Gdansk games often resemble a military siege far more than a sporting carnival, with armoured cars and water cannon often used by police.

armed In shocking footage posted on to YouTube, green and whiteclad Lechia fans can be seen in running battles with security forces. In one scene, hordes of fans smash down a metal barrier used to pen them in before fighting ferociously with the police.

Hooligan grudge fights and feuds have even led to deaths in Poland. In January, leading gang leader Tomasz Czlowiek, 33, was chased down by 15 fans armed with knives, axes and machetes and brutally beaten and stabbed to death.

His body was later discovered with 50 stab wounds.

UEFA's director of Euro 2012, Martin Kallen, said he is concerned about the spectre of violence at the tournament.

He said: "We are looking very carefully at the situation because there are many activities on the hooligan scene in Poland, "On the hooligan side we are concerned but I also know the Polish Government is concerned. They know they have a huge image problem.

"There are always hooligans around every match day in the league but the Government is making the right steps for the future."

CAPTION(S):

Pitch battle... riot cops confront soccer mob Red card... Polish fan tackled Arrested... a man is grabbed On the move... fans celebrate after victory in Estonia Tough... Polish cops surround suspects Thanks... Robbie Keane salutes fans in Dublin
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXPO
Date:Dec 4, 2011
Words:535
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