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Polish police ready to crack down on Euro 2012 football hooligans

updated 3:07 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Polish police have spent years planning to create a peaceful Euro 2012
  • The tournament, co-hosted with Ukraine, is Poland's first major international sporting event
  • Police from nations competing at the tournament will be in Poland during the matches
  • Poland has had outbreaks of hooliganism at domestic football matches

Editor's note: CNN International's Eye On series is visiting Poland. Read and watch reports from the country online and on TV until June 8.

(CNN) -- Fans from across Europe will soon be traveling to Poland to support their teams during Euro 2012, but so too will police officers from each nation to keep an eye on them.

When their national teams are playing, visiting police officers will be at Poland's police headquarters in Warsaw, the nerve-center for security operations during the event.

Poland has a lot riding on the tournament it is co-hosting with Ukraine, and is no stranger to football violence.

Last year's Polish Cup Final between Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan was a high-profile example of how domestic football in Poland is still blighted by hooliganism, as violent fans clashed with police and water cannons had to be used to control the crowd.

The less we are visible and less we need to act the better the event will be.
Mariusz Sokolowski, Polish police force

Even before that incident, UEFA, European football's governing body, had criticized Poland for football violence which it said was ruining the country's reputation.

However police in the capital have spent years preparing for Euro 2012 and reducing the potential of trouble from homegrown and international football hooligans. Like all major international events terrorism is the main security concern.

"The whole security plan is ready; the right equipment has been bought," says Mariusz Sokolowski, press officer for the Polish police force.

"The sites that needed to be renovated for the tournament have also been completed. And now it's a time to put all that we have done into practice."

The new National Stadium in Warsaw hosted a friendly match between Poland and Portugal in February this year, when the local police force was able to test their readiness. It was called a success by UEFA.

"We know what we deliver has to be the best, at the top level," says Beata Stelmach, Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister.

"We are absolutely the best prepared for Euro 2012 and welcome everybody who wants not only to see football games, but also to see how hospitable we are and how beautiful the country is."

Poland is following on from lessons learned at recent big European tournaments, like Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and Germany's staging of the World Cup in 2006. There will be "fan zones" with big screens and entertainment dotted around the major cities, where traveling fans without tickets can watch the matches.

"The less we are visible and less we need to act the better the event will be as it will show that Euro 2012 will be a very safe event," says Sokolowski.

CNN's Jim Boulden contributed to this report

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