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By ESPN Staff

Polish chief in hooliganism pledge

Polish Football Association president Grzegorz Lato has apologised for the recent behaviour of Polish football fans, but insists the hooliganism problem will be eradicated before the country's co-hosting of the European Championships next summer.

Lato, who was the leading goalscorer at the 1974 World Cup, used a press conference in Warsaw to mark a year until the start of UEFA's flagship tournament to issue his apology to Lithuanian supporters after violent clashes marred a friendly between the two nations back in March.

''I was shocked by the hooligans, I never experienced anything like that when I was playing,'' he said. ''I can only apologise to our friends in Lithuania for what happened.''

But the 61-year-old believes that any such concerns and controversies will be stamped out well in advance of the first game on July 8 next year and said: ''Look at the situation around the world. The Polish people will be sitting with Englishmen and with Spaniards and other nations.

''The safety and security of fan zones is the most important thing - a lot of media are writing good things about Poland. Euro 2012 will be very safe.''

Lato also pointed to the good behaviour shown by Polish supporters in recent tournaments and used the example of the poor behaviour of English football fans in recent years and the way that has now been quashed.

''England did everything to finish the problem and did it successfully,'' he said. ''We have very good fans; please remember what they were like in Germany (for the 2006 World Cup) and Austria and Switzerland (for Euro 2008). They were great, in spite of our results.''

UEFA's general secretary, Gianni Infantino, also acknowledged the recent outbreak of violence, including the hooligans who clashed with police and caused severe stadium damage after Legia Warsaw's penalty shoot-out victory over rivals Lech Poznan in the Polish Cup final, but he too is confident there will be no similar scenarios at next summer's tournament, shared between Poland and Ukraine.

''It is an issue we are taking very seriously,'' he said. ''We have seen recently some crowd trouble and security issues. We are working closely with the government, authorities and the police.''

When asked about the comparisons to England's battle with hooliganism, Infantino praised the Polish efforts thus far and said: ''There is the same determination to clean up and eradicate it.''

The co-hosts have both also come under close scrutiny after facilities and infrastructures in the majority of the eight host cities fell behind schedule, but Infantino stressed the matter is in hand.

''There have been a few hiccups along the way and I have lost a few hairs worrying about preparations - it has certainly not altered our faith in this project,'' he said.

UEFA are currently hosting an official media tour of the two nations with tours of all the stadiums, airports and new transport links, the vast majority of which still require work.


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