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Dutch-Polish spat after Legia Warsaw footballers held

A war of words between Poland and the Netherlands erupted Friday after Dutch police arrested two footballers from Polish club Legia Warsaw amid violent scenes during their Europa Conference League clash against AZ Alkmaar.

The two Legia Warsaw players, Portuguese midfielder Josue Pesqueira and Serbian centre-back Radovan Pankov, were still in police custody Friday morning, according to the club.

According to Polish media TVP Sport, Dutch police stormed the Legia Warsaw team bus and hauled out the two players.

Polish media also said that Dutch police had pinned club president and owner Dariusz Mioduski to the ground and smashed his mobile phone as he was recording the events.

The violence was reportedly sparked after Dutch authorities closed the stadium in a bid to prevent clashes between rival supporters. This stopped the Legia Warsaw players leaving on their bus, prompting verbal altercations with the police.

Dutch police said in a statement that Legia Warsaw fans had stormed the entrance to the ground in the run-up to kick-off and that one officer had been knocked unconscious.

They deployed tear gas to disperse the visiting fans, who managed to grab batons and pepper spray from the under-pressure authorities.

The Dutch authorities said they had informed the Polish club in advance they would not be able to police the game safely due to other events in the city, asking them to keep fans at home.

“During match day, it became clear that Legia Warsaw had not stuck to this agreement,” the police said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the events as “very worrying” and called for an urgent probe into the violence, insisting that Polish supporters should be “treated according to law.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski added that his office was looking into whether “the Dutch police and AZ Alkmaar staff broke the law in relation to Polish citizens… due to their nationality and their use of the Polish language.” 

The Polish football federation has also asked their Dutch counterparts and UEFA for explanations. 

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz said her main concern was the injured police officer and she lashed out at the travelling fans.

“It’s a game of football. So behave and don’t lean on the police. The aim is to have fun,” she said.

She dismissed the criticism from Morawiecki, saying: “I would prefer he looked at his own club first.”

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