YOU’VE PROBABLY BEEN asked it before: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one thing, what would it be?
Well if posed with a similar Euro 2012-themed predicament, you wouldn’t be going far wrong by packing a new handbook on how best to navigate your way around Poland this summer.
Offaly native Damien Moran, who has called Warsaw home for the past six years, covers the lot from where to go if you lose your passport to dancefloor politics and local hangover cures in ‘The Irish Fan’s Guide to Euro 2012’.
To say he has thought of everything isn’t an exaggeration with useful football phrases, accommodation options, analysis on our opponents and even advice for avoiding hooligans and ticket touts.
“To be honest, it became an uncontrollable beast,” he admits when asked how the concept originally came about. “The more I wrote about it, the more I realised there was information to be shared that would be useful.
In December, I started getting emails from 15-20 people back home looking for advice. It quickly became obvious that I was wasting so much time researching so I thought a guide would be good to put together.
“For about six weeks I’d put my daughter Mia down to bed and write constantly.
“My thinking was to have a guide from a man on the ground for around the same price as a programme. People are going to put themselves into a lot of debt this summer so I wanted to help them with things like where is best to eat and how to negotiate public transport. So that’s how it came together.”
By mid-January, he had written 100 pages, which he sent to journalist friends in Ireland. With their help, along with Orpen Press’s agreement to publish the book in time for the European Championships, he has succeeded in getting the finished article into the shops with little time to spare.
To say Moran, originally from Banagher, is well-travelled is an understatement. As a teacher and charity worker, he has been to Haiti, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Eqypt, Palestine and lived in France before making the move to Poland.
So what brought him to Warsaw?
“Romance,” he smiles. “I was studying in Paris when I met a girl. We became friends and began going out. The girl, Dorota, is now my wife.”
Damien says he intentionally tried to stay away from contact with Irish people initially in order to immerse himself in the culture and way of life. Now a fluent Polish speaker, he feels that the wealth of knowledge in his possession will save Irish fans considerable time, hassle and money over the month of June.
Coming from a family where following sport was not an option, Damien sees it as having the ability to knit communities and people together in a way that nothing else can. Growing up in south west Offaly, the neighbours would flock to the Moran’s as his father transformed their field into a tennis court, boxing ring or football field depending on the time of year.
All my childhood memories are connected to watching sport or participating in it. I was eight years old when Ray Houghton put the ball in the English net. I remember my local teacher going up and down the road on top of the local milk van at the final whistle.”
Ireland have landed themselves in Group C along with Spain, Italy and Croatia, meaning their three fixtures will be staged in Poznan and Gdansk. And he is convinced the Green Army couldn’t have asked for a better scenario.
“I’ve holidayed in Gdansk several times and it is great location. Irish fans may not know what hit them when they come over as the heat will feel like they’re walking down the street in the Costa Del Sol!
“Poznan, meanwhile, is the Irish capital of Poland. There’s 20-30 students of the Irish language and many Irish dance groups. They also trade a lot with Germany and it is the second wealthist city so they’re well-equipped for an influx of people.
They have a deep respect and very good understanding of the Irish and it’s the perfect match. It’s going to bring the best out of everyone I hope. “
Alcohol will no doubt play a significant part in the summer’s festivities and while Carlsberg have a monopoly on the designated fan zones, Moran has listed ten brands of beer which you should make it your business to sample and even mentions a non-pasteurised alternative which he claims doesn’t give you a hangover.
If you are feeling worse for wear, however, why not try one of the local remedies for a hangover? The cabbage soup sounds particularly appetizing.
Although Poles might be traditionally thought of as being partial to spirits, he adds that a recent study suggests they drink more beer per head every year than their counterparts in Ireland (92 litres to Ireland’s 91).
For fans who will crave a chilled pint bottle of Bulmers, we’ve got a bit of bad news. As it is taxed as a wine, cider is not as readily available as you’d expect. Redds Jablkowy is the nearest thing you will get to what’s sold back home and there is a website http://krainacydru.pl/gdziecydr.php (which translates as ‘ciderland’) which will direct you to your nearest seller.
Kasztelan Niepasteryzowane: A favourite of Damien’s and no hangover, seemingly. Credit: opiwie.wordpress.com.
When the final whistle has long gone and the celebrations move from the fan zones onto the tiles, Damien speaks encouraging about the chances of getting lucky if you follow a number of simple steps found in the chapter entitled ‘Dancefloor Tactics and How to Score’.
Without giving the whole lot away, they are in short, as follows:
- Be brave.
- Play up to your Irishness.
- Stay sober enough to string a few sentences together.
- Wear something other than your unwashed Euro ’88 jersey.
“The two cultures have a lot in common and it’s very easy to gel. Have the crack but make sure to get out your best chat up lines before the 10 pints,” is his advice.
As the saying goes, ‘drink responsibly’ because if you don’t, there’s the possibility you could wind up being slung into what are known as sober houses, which are essentially outdoor holding cells for those who are acting the mickey after a few too many.
“This is essentially a branding exercise for Poland and the Ukraine and they hope people come back for years to come. There’s been some scare mongering from the Irish media about drinking on the streets and the likes but the head of security has said they know about Irish fans and how they are not out to cause trouble,” he reassures.
“The authorities are really trying to ensure that there will be as little interaction as possible with the police and they won’t need to be out of force with the riot gear on.”
Damien is relishing the start of the competition and meeting up with family, friends and people he encountered on the likes of the YBIG forum and elsewhere during the research for the book. One of the bonuses of working from home was that he got to spend countless hours on the UEFA ticket portal and secured a couple for each of Ireland’s games.
Should those who haven’t got their hands on tickets yet be optimistic of doing so?
“I contacted a good few touts just get an insight into who exactly they are and if you’re willing to part with over the odds they will be available. I hope that the authorities help and do some damage control with regard to prices being charged but it is hard to say if that will happen.
Fans need to be smart and shop around the camp sites and fan villages. Also, it’s risky but waiting until the very last minute, and even until after the game has kicked off will save you some money if you’re willing to take the chance.”
He mentions a website well worth checking out, www.bedandfans.net, which is the equivalent of couch surfing for football supporters if you’re stuck for a place to put the head down.
So finally, I ask Damien about Ireland’s hopes on the field. The fact that he has included a number of chapters on the Ukrainian venues which will stage the knockout rounds suggests he is optimistic.
“I know some people have already written off our chances of getting through,” he says dismissively. “You have to go back 24 years to the last time we were in this position and nobody was expecting anything then. I’m remaining positive about progressing from the group.”
“As Brendan Behan would say, ‘Fuck the begrudgers’. If you’re going to make the effort to follow your team, you might as well go there with high expectations.”
‘An Irish Fan’s Guide to Euro 2012’ is available in all major bookshops and on www.orpenpress.com. For more tips and updates, visit www.facebook.com/TheIrishFansGuideToEuro2012. You can also contact Damien at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries regarding Euro 2012.