Warsaw Football – A Tale of Two Teams

Warsaw has a vibrant football scene, and as a visitor it is possible to buy tickets to matches at both Warsaw football clubs. But before we get to the nuts and bolts of securing your tickets, a quick introduction to football in Poland’s capital.

For over a century football in Warsaw has meant two teams – Legia and Polonia. While Legia have the big modern stadium, draw from a fan base across Poland and recently competed in the Champions League, Polonia could easily claim to be the traditional Warsaw club. The two clubs share a turbulent history, and a fierce rivalry which continues to this day. Of the 78 Warsaw derbies played, Legia have won 29, Polonia 29 with 20 draws.

If Legia are the Polish Manchester United, then Polonia are Wimbledon.

Polonia – From Champions to Bankruptcy

Polonia Warsaw was formed in 1911 when Poland had been partitioned and was under Russian occupation. The choice of name was brave for the time as ‘Polonia’ means Poland in Latin. They adopted black shirts, said to symbolise mourning for their occupied country. In the 1920s and 30s  Polonia were arguably Warsaw’s favourite club and a force in Polish football.

Polonia won their first championship in 1946 in the ruins of post-war Warsaw – battles were fought on the pitch during the Warsaw Uprising and most of the stadium destroyed – but this was to be the beginning of hard times for the club.

During the Communist era, each football club was allocated a state sponsor – Polonia landed the railway workers, who decided to invest most of their limited money in their other club Lech Poznan. Legia Warsaw were allocated the (wealthy) Polish army as sponsors, and as every young man was required to serve in the army, the most promising talent was channelled to Legia, playing in The Polish Army Stadium.

To add insult to injury Polonia had their name changed to Kolejarz (railway worker) and were forced to abandon their traditional black shirts.

Polonia were relegated and spent the next forty years in the wilderness. In the early nineties their fortunes improved with promotion back to the top flight, and in 2000 they won the championship. However, under new ownership they were relegated in 2005.

Meanwhile, Legia moved into their renovated 31,000 capacity stadium in 2010, the development funded by the City of Warsaw. Worse was to come for Polonia, the club yo-yo’d between the leagues before filing for bankruptcy in 2013 and ceasing to exist. A phoenix team bearing the name was formed and assigned to the fifth tier of Polish football.

Things are now finally looking up for the re-formed Polonia. Promotion to the fourth tier was achieved in their first season, and plans are in place to reach the top division and build a new stadium by 2020. Polonia are making steady progress and currently play their football in the third tier.

Polonia play in the 7,150 capacity ‘Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski Polonia Warsaw Stadium’ which is an easy walk from the Old Town. The Main Stand contains 1,911 seats, commemorating the year the club was founded.

Tickets can be bought at the stadium on the day of the match – bring your passport for identification. Neutrals are best off watching the match from the Main Stand, while the West Stand (a.k.a the Stone Stand) opposite is the home of the Polonia Ultras

Polonia Warsaw (in Polish) – http://www.kspolonia.pl/

Legia Warsaw

Legia’s large stadium means that it is easy to get tickets for most matches. Polish supporters need a Fan’s Card in order to buy a ticket, but as a foreigner you can purchase your ticket from the box office at the stadium by showing your passport. It is not possible to buy tickets online if you are not a Polish national.

Tickets contain a bar-code and your personal details – you will need to show your ticket and passport again at the turnstiles for entry.

Warsaw Football Teams - Legia Stadium

The Żyleta (the ‘razor’) is the traditional home end of the ground which houses Legia’s Ultras. This is seen as an exclusive section where fans are required to abide by an unofficial code of conduct that requires no-stop vocal support during the entire match. The official Legia website advises visitors that the best place to watch the game is from the East Stand (Trybuna Wschodnia).

Legia Box Office Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 11 AM – 7 PM
Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Sunday: 11 AM – 3 PM
Pre-match day: 8 AM – 9 PM
Matchday: from 8 AM

The Polish Army Stadium is within walking distance of the City Centre, at the north end of Łazienki Park.

Legia Warsaw – http://www.legia.com/en

 

Have you been to the football in Warsaw? How was your experience? Let us know using the comments below. 

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