UEFA charges Legia Warsaw over fans’ anti-Semitic ‘Jihad’ Banner10 October 2011

Legia Warsaw has been charged by UEFA after its fans unfurled a anti-Semitic banner banner before a Europa League game against Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The Polish club’s fans displayed a green banner spelling out “Jihad Legia” in Arabic-style script across one end of the Pepsi Arena on Sept. 29.

UEFA rules prohibit acts of a “political, offensive or provocative nature” at matches.

The European football authority says its disciplinary panel will consider the case on Nov. 17.

“This is yet another case of anti-Semitic behaviour by extremist groups active in Polish football stadiums, and it could have been predicted,” Rafal Pankowski of the campaign group Never Again and who runs the UEFA-backed Football Against Racism in Europe network.

At the start of Thursday night's Group C home game in Warsaw – which Legia won 3-2 – a group of fans unfurled a huge banner stretching across three blocks of a stand.

Written in Arabic-style letters, it read “Jihad Legia”. The banner was green, which is one of Legia's colours but also that of Islamist groups.

Miroslaw Starczewski, deputy head of security at Poland's PZPN football association, said Legia could be hit hard by UEFA. “A fine is the most likely penalty. And UEFA may even ban Legia fans from the second leg in Tel Aviv (on December 15).”

Stadium racism and hooliganism are in sharp focus in Poland ahead of the 2012 Euro Championships, which the country will host along with neighbouring Ukraine.