If you’ve noticed something strange about Manchester City this season, you’re not alone. And no, it’s not the fact that they’re neck-and-neck with cross-town rivals United for first-place. It’s even odder: whenever City score a goal, their supporters inexplicably turn their backs to the pitch, join arms and jump up-and-down in near unison, turning the whole stand into a writhing mass of blue. They call it “the Poznan.” Here’s one of the first recorded instances of City supporters performing the bizarre celebration after Yaya Toure scored against West Ham in December of 2010:
Turns out the Citizens learned the trick from fans of a Polish club, Lech Poznan, when the teams played a Europa league game in England two months prior. Despite being outnumbered, the Poles silenced the home crowd with an intimidating display. City fans were duly impressed.
Now the celebration—which has actually been documented in different parts of Europe for years—is taking England by storm. The entire City team and staff did it after knocking Manchester United out of the FA cup in last year’s semifinal. United fans returned the favor after the Red Devils won an FA Cup match between the two teams this January. Supporters of West Ham, Leicester City and Sunderland have also joined in on the fun after scoring against City. Peter Crouch’s Stoke were the latest team to embrace the craze after the improbably lanky 6’8 striker scored an incredible wonder-goal against Mancini’s men on Sunday.
But is there a darker side to this wildly popular terrace dance? In England, the chant has lost something in translation. It’s become a gag, a way to show solidarity with one’s fellow supporters and the team while also ribbing the opposition. City fans have a notorious sense of humor (anyone remember Glauber Berti?) but Poznan’s seem absolutely nutters. Here they are disrupting a Lech under-12’s match in an INDOOR hall lighting flares and throwing toilet paper:
They’re also known for violence. After Legia Warsaw beat Poznan on penalties in the Polish Cup last May, fans from both teams ran onto the field. A mass brawl resulted and the riot police were called in. The police are a constant fixture at games along with their armored cars and water canons. As a result, the bloodshed has spilled into the streets. In 2006, thirty policeman were hospitalized trying to break up a fight between Legia and Wisla Krakow after a league match. Gangs carry out assassinations, plan organized “rumbles,” and have even become involved in organized crime.
The issue certainly has Europe’s leaders worried given that Poland and Ukraine are hosting this summer’s European Championship. If the police aren’t able to keep hooligans out of the stadiums, an ugly loss or a blown call might trigger a riot from the home side. So here’s hoping that instead of throwing flares the Polish fans will be dancing the Poznan as they open the tournament against Greece on June 6th in Warsaw.