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Derby: LKS Lodz - Widzew Lodz

In the heart of Poland I was at one of the most intense derby’s of the country: LKS Lodz against Widzew Lodz. The passionate fans of the two sides definitely showed why this is the case. An incredible amount of atmosphere filled the stadium of LKS: pyro, fireworks and banners were almost constantly present. In the 60th minute it all escalated when the LKS ultras marched to the away section and literally blasted fireworks on the away fans. Various people got hit and the banner of Widzew was destroyed. About a hundred police forces were ready to come in action to prevent a fight, as Widzew fans tried to destroy the fence to the pitch. Truly a mental day in Lodz, resulting in hard sanctions for the two teams given by the Polish Football Association.

Lodz is a city that many polish people I have spoken to do not like at all. They find the place rather boring as there is not much to do and the city itself is just not that beautiful, especially when being compared to other cities such as Gdansk, Poznan, Krakow and Wroclaw. Apart from two main attractions for tourists, the 4.2 kilometer long mainstreet Piotrkowska and the huge shopping complex called Manufaktura, there is just not that much to see. Now that I have been twice to the city of Lodz (at the moment even the second largest city of Poland) I can unfortunately only agree with this.

However, for fanatic groundhoppers and people that like to visit a football match from time to time there is a very special match in the city of Lodz. The derby between LKS and Widzew with supporters from both sides is a game that has not been played for over ten years, but this year it's finally back. The absence of the derby had to do with both teams struggling with enormous financial problems. One year after another the teams were around the year 2013 declared bankrupt and had to start all over. All the way from the IV Liga (which is the fifth level) LKS and Widzew crawled relatively fast back to the highest level and can find themselves since this year together in the I Liga, the second level of Polish football.

The hooligan scene of Lodz is known for fights only done with the hands and feet. Weapons are normally not being used, something that for example in Krakow is totally different. Loads of brawls took place over the years spontaneously or planned. These happen sometimes in the city and sometimes in the forest. Even though there are mostly no weapons involved people still die, showing the intensity of the rivalry. Who is the winning side is not to say over the years as LKS and Widzew have plenty of ‘wins’ over each other.

The first edition of the derby this season was at Widzew Lodz and resulted in a thrilling 2-2 draw, full of pyro and other special actions done by the fans. The return was at the newly built Stadion Miejski im. Władysława Króla. This modern stadium can host in total 18.033 people. Almost the city of Lodz got an even bigger stadium as there were plans to make a new LKS Stadium for one of the Euro 2012 places. Luckily for the LKS fans this did not go through, as this would downgrade the atmosphere for sure. Lechia Gdansk and Slask Wroclaw are perfect examples of this, both abandoning their beautiful old stadiums for something that is massive and hypermodern.

Today both sides needed a win to stay in the battle of promotion to the Ekstraklasa. Widzew Lodz is in a fight for the second place, as Miedz Legnica already is out of sight and will be the champions of the second division. LKS Lodz needs a win to secure a place for the play-offs, trying to become the last team to be promoted to the highest level. It would be amazing for the city if both teams are going up.

In the afternoon at 15:00h fans of Widzew Lodz got already together around the center to march to the stadium, accompanied by countless amounts of police. When we ourselves arrived at the LKS Stadium, only a few of the away fans had made it inside. What was remarkable is that the Widzew fans shut their mouths the whole first half. It was completely silent there as if there was some kind of protest going on. To the left of them there was a tunnel with a great amount of police waiting to come in action, but this seemed rather unnecessary during the first half. Little did we know what was waiting for us in the second half.

The fanatic side of the home team was definitely not silent in the first half. In the beginning there was a big action with numerous flags displaying ‘LKS’, together with a banner showing an ultra also holding the characters high. Then flares got lit as well throughout the whole section. During several songs the complete stadium was involved, every side had their part to sing and jump. After a first half of unfortunately very bad football, the second half was completely crazy in terms of things happening off the pitch.

Starting the second half ultras of LKS Lodz tried to make their way through the stadium in order to come as close as possible to the away section. The police were ready for this and could see them coming as all ultras had masks. For a while the ultras just stayed in the corner, provoking the away section with swearing and signs. Then the danger started: the LKS ultras blasted several fireworks at the Widzew section and some fans got hit, trying to go as far to the back as possible. The banner they were holding got destroyed and when the fireworks were done the away section tried to break through the fence. They wanted a fight. The police, already out and in between the sides, went to the fence and used teargas to prevent their entrance to the pitch.

The stewards forming the two lines got replaced by police and this meant there was not really a possibility to come to a fight. After a while the masked ultras of LKS went back to their section, walking surrealistically through the family sections as if nothing had happened. While walking back a cruel banner got up at the LKS section. It displayed knocked-out Widzew fans with bruised eyes, being on drugs and seemingly actually just plain dead people. Above them a red mask was shown which looked like Darth Maul and below there was a text saying the ‘’unbelievers await doom’’. Such a brutal tifo from LKS Lodz.

Meanwhile the Widzew fans tried to get up a banner themselves but miserably failed the first time, as the banner seemed to consist of separate parts that looked of weak material. Later a second attempt was made and this succeeded. It showed a unreadable cover page of a paper. On the LKS side the cruel banner got replaced by new flags and a sea of pyro got created, even adding golden fireworks for more impact. It was a beautiful sight to see. Especially when Widzew started in their section with black smoke and then around their banner created a sea of pyro as well.

Towards the end of the match Widzew Lodz rather unexpected scored the winning goal through Bartlomiej Pawlowski. The following scenes were great as Pawlowski climbed into the fence to the Widzew fans celebrating with them, the fence that the away section earlier tried to destroy. When ten minutes later the referee blew for the final whistle, the relief and joy of the Widzew players was there. After their bus ride home the fans received the players at the stadium with more pyro. A great step has been set to their Ekstraklasa promotion. Widzew beat their rivals away from home after more than ten years. The city of Lodz is theirs, for now.

Due to the extreme events at the game, the Polish Football Association has made some hard sanctions. The rest of the season LKS fans are not allowed to visit away games anymore, while the next home game no fans are welcome at all. Also a fine of more than 2000 euro has been given to LKS Lodz and at the next derby there is no away support allowed. Concerning the behavior of Widzew, the fans are not welcome at the next two away games. Tough sanctions of the Polish FA that find the violations that have taken place go way too far. The 68th version of the Lodz derby was truly one that I will never forget.

Match Report

Match: LKS Lodz - Widzew Lodz

Competition: 1. Liga

Date: 03-05-2022

Time: 18:00h

Weather: 19 degrees

Transport: Flixbus

Country: Poland

Place: Lodz

Stadium: Stadion Miejski im. Wladyslawa Krola

Supporters: 15.998

Capacity: 18.033

Atmosphere: 9.5

Price: 11 euro

Ticket type: E-Ticket

Beer: Not available

Result: 0-1

Man of the match: Bartlomiej Pawlowski

Match events:

0-1, '80: Bartlomiej Pawlowski


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