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Treatment of fans brings shame on Irish football

POLAND are the next visitors to Dublin for a senior international. But if the Poles had been the opposition for the Republic of Ireland at Lasndowne Road last night, Polish fans of a certain age would have had a view of what went on in the crowd during Ireland's 4-1 win over the USA.

In 1983, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa's face appeared in the crowd as his local side, Lechia Gdansk, played Juventus in a European tie, a brave show of strength that sparked anti-regime slogans and songs, so the security arms of the communist Polish state moved in to arrest Walesa and quell the chants.

Of course we can't compare individual members of an Garda Síochana and stadium stewards to the detested security forces in a totalitarian state.

But last night Irish fans at an Ireland game,who had genuine grievances with the FAI and intended to protest in a completely peaceful way, were treated with the same attitude from another era.

An inordinately large battalion of stewards and Gardaí stood guard around the 'singing section' of home supporters. At one point we counted 22 yellow-jacketed stewards and Gardaí surrounding one section (zero stewards visible in the next section), a disproportionate security cordon around fans who were there to support Ireland and not to cause trouble, provoke violence or do anything to deserve such a security force.

Fans attached to YBIG, a web-based grouping of genuine football fans who have the best interests of Irish football at heart, had made known their plans to protest at the highly controversial ticketing arrangement for the Scotland tie last week. Those fans had grievances. They came with banners, songs and chants which were critical of the FAI, but within seconds of an anti-FAI banner being unfurled, Gardaí moved in to have it removed.

Those fans in the grim Poland of 1983 had more access to free speech than Dublin in 2014.

A shameful way to treat the 'best fans in the world'.