Victory of “polski patriotyzm” Posted by Kasia on Jul 2, 2012 in Culture, Current News
It has become a ritual for Polish soccer fans to chant “nic się nie stało” (nothing has happened) after our national team gets prematurely eliminated from a tournament. Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland, was no exception. But this time something did happen.
Over the past month, Polish patriotism (polski patriotyzm) has evolved from a mournful sense of victimhood (żałobne poczucie bycia ofiarą) rooted in the past to a more progressive and positive patriotism (bardziej postępowy i pozytywny patriotyzm). It is this gelling of Polish national identity that could become the true legacy of Euro 2012. The next few months will be crucial in deciding whether this shift marks a definitive turning point — as it did with Germany after their 2006 World Cup — or if it is merely a passing fad.
Financially, the tournament will probably not pay off for Poland. Warsaw’s new national stadium — used five times during the tournament — cost Polish taxpayers $550 million. The future of the flashy stadium is unclear. Even a top Polish league soccer game attracts very modest crowds.
But what has already begun to change is how Europeans see Poland. In June more than 600,000 European fans flooded Polish stadiums and almost 2.5 million foreigners crammed into sweaty fan zones across Poland.
What they saw in no way resembled the horror story portrayed last month in the sensationalist BBC Panorama documentary entitled “Stadiums of Hate.” Visiting fans were presented with a young, dynamic and tolerant Poland. The entire Warsaw Central Station has been mummified by a massive banner reading “Feel Like at Home.” The message is clear: The Poland of today is open to Europe and eager to please.
More importantly though, Euro 2012 has changed how Poles see each other — and themselves.
Polish history has given Poles plenty of practice in losing. Reacting to Poland’s defeat against the Czech Republic, the spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry argued that “supporting Poland is closer to reality than supporting Germany or Barcelona — it puts you in good stead to weather life blows.” This sentiment runs deep within Polish society. Listen to the commentary of Poland’s three tournament games and you hear an emotional monologue punctuated by the words “fate,” “faith,” “fortune” (los, wiara, fortuna) — peppered with the occasional name of a footballer.
In Poland, soccer and national identity have always been tightly stitched together. For many decades, Poles had little to be proud of. This has changed. It is now much easier to support Poland and to be proud of being Polish. The new Poland is more self-assured (pewna siebie) of its strategic position in Europe and more at ease with its neighbors.
Poland has come a long way, but its psychological transition (psychologiczna transformacja) is not yet complete. The BBC documentary, despite being one-sided and largely misguided, showed that Poles still have some way to go in terms of coming to terms with delicate issues without becoming overly defensive and crying conspiracy.
The “beautiful game” is just that — a game. But it does give countries a chance to focus on their strengths and weaknesses. Poland may have been beaten on the field, but it came out of Euro 2012 as the clear winner.
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.