Austria 1 Poland 3

09 October 2004, Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna.

The first beer in Vienna.

St Stevensdom Cathedral.

The Ferris Wheel.

Jurek on the ferris wheel.

Matt on the ferris wheel.

Jan Sobieski III...

...and his winged Hussars.
Ernst Happel Stadion
The Ernst Happel Stadion.


OK, this should be easy, I arrived in Vienna on the Friday afternoon and the game is on Saturday night. Lots of time to orientate myself, do a bit of sight seeing and generally take it easy. This is what I suggest to Matt, my travelling companion and supposedly neutral supporter as we are whisked into Vienna city centre from the airport on a most impressive double decker train. We'd been on the road since 5am flying from Birmingham to Amsterdam, waiting for 3 hours and then onto Vienna so it is with much relief that we emerge from the underground station on St Stevensplatz directly beneath the magnificent St Stevensdom cathedral, the sight of which takes our breath away.

So much so that it's quickly decided that a sit down and a beer were in order. On a surprisingly warm October afternoon we sit outside drinking beer and working out our plan for the weekend. First thing is to find the hotel, I know it's not far but a taxi seems to be the appropriate method and so it is that soon we are in our hotel preparing for the evenings exertions.

By 8pm we are back in the city centre eagerly looking for food and drink. It appears that the Viennese have a real fondnes for pizza as every other building appears to contain a pizza outlet. After several slices of pizza, some beer to wash it all down Matt mentions that he read in the hotel that somewhere in Vienna is a world famous jazz club that he'd really like to visit. Now, I'm not really much of a jazz fan but Matt is adamant that it will be great and we finally agree that if I'm to visit a jazz club then he has to go on the ferris wheel. After directions from a taxi driver we make our way to this jazz club in the basement of the Intercontinental Hotel. The thought crosses my mind that this is probably where the Polish team are staying but there is no time for that as Matt pushes me down the stairs into the club.

Oh boy are we lucky, there's a band playing tonight! Nouvelle Cusine no less. No, I'd never heard of them either but apparently they were pretty big in these parts. They start off sounding like the school band in The Simpsons and I feel my energy sagging faced with the prospect of a night of progressive jazz or whatever it is they call it when everyone plays in a different key. Fortunatly things pick up and they are not that bad with some obviously very talented young musicians in the band. It's well past 2am before I collapse into my bed, the obvious delights of watching the Bush/Kerry debate live on CNN is not enough to tempt me to stay awake any longer.

Me and Scarf.


The National Anthems.

Getting ready for kick off.

Saturday dawns wet and windy, the blue skies and warm sunshine of yesterday are long gone. I don't care we are still going on the ferris wheel. Matt is apprehensive, he doesn't like heights and is convinced this is a bad idea. Beneath the ferris wheel is a display showing the history of Vienna through paintings and dioramas. A fine painting of Jan Sobieski III grabs my attention as well as an excellant diorama of the Polish Hussars, complete with winged horsemen smashing the Tartar hordes at the siege of Vienna. This to me is a fitting way to start the day.

The ferris wheel offers magnificent views of the city as well as the coach loads of Polacy arriving in the city. Matt is less convinced and implores me to stop rocking the car. Although a very sedate and elegant way to see the city, to Matt it is in every sense a white knuckle ride. He promises never to take me to a jazz club again.

The day wears on and we visit the Hofburg palace and do all the usual tourist things. By 3pm we feel it is time to find somewhere that might be showing the England v Wales game. Our journey around the bars of Vienna has not yielded any that look likely to be showing the game and our only hope is an English bar we've heard about. I find the thought of visiting a foreign country and then going to an English bar quite ridiculous but needs must and we soon find ourselves in the Red Lion. Our hosts seem hospitable enough and indeed they are showing the game, however they can't get BBC1 so it is that we find ourselves in an English bar, in Vienna, watching the match on S4C with Welsh commentary.

The game finishes 2-nil to England and so now is the time we should depart for the Ernst Happel Stadion. As we leave I get a call from Greg, I spoke to him earlier and he was busy getting drunk at his cousins house, now he was on St Stevensplatz and we were about 2miles away so we agree to try and find each other at the stadium. The walk to the stadium takes us through a park and we emerge next to a kiosk selling beer and food. A suitable place to stop for some refreshment, a few metres away a bunch of Polacy were making a huge amount of noise and the Austrian fans crowded around the kiosk seemed visibly intimidated.

The Austrian supporters were a funny bunch, according to our hotel manager, Austria usually gets around 6000 people for home games but today with the team on top of the qualification table, the match was a 50,000 sellout. Obviously this lot we found ourselves with now were the part time fans, bedecked with Austrian colours they may have been but beyond that they didn't really seem to know what to do. They just stood around in small groups drinking beer and eating sausages and desperatly hoping that those noisy Polacy would eventually move on.

Fearing that we may eventually be bored to death by this lot, Matt and I decided that it was time to get to the stadium. It was still early but the area outside the stadium was buzzing with supporters, there seemed to be a little more life in this lot or was that just the Polacy mixed up with them? As we approach our gate we are alarmed to see the battalions of riot police and water cannon stationed around us. Obviously the Austrian police weren't quite sure what to expect either.

We enter the stadium and our immediately impressed by it's size and atmosphere. There was still a good hour to go before kick-off but the Polacy are getting warmed up, songs and chants reverberating around our end of the ground. The stadium slowly fills and I estimate that there must be between 6000 and 7000 Polacy here waiting impatiently for the start of the game.

The game itself was nailbiting and frustrating both at the same time, Polska had taken an early lead through Kaluzny but Austria had come back 20 minutes later. The first half ended with the frustrated Polacy chanting for Frankowski to be brought on. A substitution was made at half time but it wasn't Frankowski so the chants continued. Halfway through the second half and it seemed 1-1 was going to be the result although Austria looked the most likely to grab a cheeky winner.

Frankowski is eventually brought on much to the fans satisfaction and quickly wins a freekick on the edge of the Austrian penalty area. Krzynowek steps up and blast the ball through the wall and the ball squirms beneath Alex Manninger in the Austrian goal. The Polacy are overjoyed and now we see Polska really beginning to play. On 88 minutes Radomski gets himself sent off and suddenly we wonder if we are going to have a jittery last couple of minutes. Nothing of the sort, Polska take the opportunity to step up a gear. A brilliant pass from the wing finds the man Frankowski alone behind the Austrian defence. He fires at goal but Manninger is equal to it. The ball bounces back to Frankowski who composes himself, picks his spot and plants the ball firmly into the goal. Massive celebratons erupt in the Polish end which continue up to and beyond the final whistle, now if Pan Janas would listen to us supporters a little more, maybe Frankowski might get a full game one day.

Outside the stadium the celebrations continue, the riot police are still in evidence but now have dogs with them. The Polacy take the opportunity to be photographed with the police and dogs, the police are preplexed and the dogs are more interested in fighting each other. After watching one of the water cannons start to aim at the Polacy and after Matt, the neutral supporter, had bought himself a Polska scarf, we pile aboard a free bus which takes us to the nearest underground and into the city, the Polacy singing all the way.

Everything had gone smoothly and despite a disturbing incident later in the evening involving the mistaking of a brothel for a bar, the weekend could be easily judged a success. After this, Cardiff on Wednesday ought to be a doddle.

The teams line up.

Even more Polacy this way.

Kaluzny celebrates the first.



The King seems happy.

The nutters on the tube.


The view from the stands. (1.92mb)