Football: Lithuanian police arrest Polish, Dutch hooligans
Dozens of Polish and Dutch hooligans were arrested on Thursday ahead of a Europa League match between Lithuanian side Tauras and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, who have a hardcore following among Poles.
"So far, 53 football fans have been detained, 43 of them Poles and 10 Dutch," police spokeswoman Vitalija Gintautiene told AFP.
They were held after incidents in Lithuania's second city of Kaunas, venue for Thursday's second qualifying round first-leg match.
Gintautiene said most were detained for aggressive behaviour, abusing passers-by or drunkenness.
Earlier, local media reported that Lithuanian border guards had confiscated baseball bats from a handful of fans of the Polish capital's top-flight club Legia Warsaw.
Legia supporters have a longstanding alliance with those of ADO Den Haag, based in the Dutch capital The Hague.
Hooliganism is a top concern in Poland, amid efforts to stamp it out before the country hosts the 2012 European Championship along with neighbouring Ukraine.
Tauras hail from Taurage in western Lithuania, but Kaunas, in the centre of the country, was picked to host the fixture as it has one of the cash-strapped Baltic state's few international-level stadiums.
The city has bitter recent experience with hooligans from neighbouring Poland.
In March, 48 Poles were arrested amid clashes with security forces as Lithuania beat visitors Poland 2-0 in a friendly.
Former Poland international Grzegorz Lato, who now heads his country's PZPN football association, apologised to Lithuania for the fans' behaviour.
Polish authorities say there are up to 5,000 hardcore hooligans in the nation of 38 million, in gangs modelled on England's once-notorious "firms".
Last month, some 20 fans of Polish second-division club Pogon Szczecin -- from a travelling crowd of just 300 at a friendly in Germany with Union Berlin -- were arrested in clashes that left 19 police officers injured.
On the domestic front, the Polish government and police have called for an extension into next season of a ban on away supporters imposed for the final league matches of last term.
The get-tough approach followed violence at the May 3 cup final between Legia and Lech Poznan.
© 2011 AFP