A little bit like the clash of the giants of Glasgow there is a large element of religion that underpins the Krakow derby although, just like in Glasgow, the rivals extends to far much more than religion.
Strangely however while Celtic (Green and White hoops) and Rangers (Blue and white) are distinct kit wise the same cannot be said for Wisla and Cracovia with the two clubs both know for red and white colours.
The two clubs are however eternal enemies despite less than 1km seperating the two stadium homes of each – indeed they are both within touching distance of each other. Only the Krakowskie Błonia and to the Park im. Henryka Reymana seperates the two clubs.
The City Divide
There are in actual fact a total of 4 clubs in Krakow with the two largest Wisla and Cracovia being the largest and best supported. Further south of these two are Garbarni Krakow and to the east Hutnik Krakow based in the post communist Nowa Huta district – both play in the third tier (III liga) or Trzecia liga.
Like in Glasgow there is no definitive event or point in time that triggered the intense rivalry between KS Cracovia and Wisla. The term Holy War was coined by one of Cracovia’s most famous ever player’s a Jewish man called Ludwik Gintel to describe the rivalry between the two.
Many of Cracovia’s early players came from Krakow based Jewish sports associations.
During the communist era Cracovia went on the decline while it was perceived that Wisła were more affiliated & linked to the Communist Police.
These days there is simply no religious divide in Krakow as with the rest of Poland. A significantly ethnically homogenous society both Wisla and Cracovia remain the two oldest clubs in Poland. Both have supporters amongst all social classes with home games now attracting a far more diverse fan base than even 10 years ago.
Its typical to see Wisla and Cracovia fan graffiti in most areas of the city apart from in Nowa Huta where it most like tagged referencing to Hutnik will be noticeable.
Despite being in the shadow or Lech Poznan and Legia, Wisla have had success and money to spend and its more likely in 2021 that the original nicknames of the clubs a”Pasy” (Stripes) for Cracovia and “Biala Gwiazda” (White Star) for Wisla will be used rather than Juden or Communist titles.
Poland’s second largest city is located in the south of the country near the borders with Slovakia & the Czech Republic. The city today bares little resemblance to that which saw the fall of Communism.
Developed over many centuries, Kraków provides a showcase setting for many historic styles of architecture reminiscent of Prague, Budapest and Vienna. As the city expanded over the 20th centruty so too did the architectural achievements from district to district from the medieval centre out to Nowa Huta.
Day of the Match
Sunday morning was cool and overcast in Krakow. All colours of autumn leaves littered the streets and collected almost everywhere including outside Stadion Cracovia Jozef Pilsudski.
Once like a lot of Polish stadiums a communist and grey open bowl fit only for coalminers and the ruling elite, the new Cracovia stadium was built and opened in 2010. The stadium’s design and construction has been frequently awarded special status in many architectural contests.
Gone are the pencil thin floodlights and open terracing and instead has arose a modern enclosed stadium somewhat unique for this part of Europe.
Outside at lunchtime some Cracovia fans queued for match tickets for that nights derby match. A derby match that would take place only 1km at the home of Wisla Krakow.
The stadion Miejski im. Henryka Reymana like the Cracovia Stadium has went through extensive renovation in the mid-2000’s with the stadium looking nothing like its former appearance of the communist era. Gone are the obscure floodlight pylons and rugged shaped grandstands. In place of these has emerged a shape and design that resembles many of the stadiums in Germany which were built for the 2006 World Cup.
If thoughts of violence on the streets put some off travelling to the Krakow derby the city centre gave no hint of city where a powderkeg derby would take place later that night. Even 90 minutes before kick off it seemed that all of the visiting supporters were already inside the stadium ready for the match to commence.
Only outside were there hints of what this derby used to be outside on matchday. Hundreds of police lined the Avenue 3 Maja watching for disparate groups of ultras looking to spring a surprise on matchgoers.
As the match kicked off the Hymn Wisły Kraków was sung out by the 24,000 home fans and a colourful tifo display was created. Central to it were numerous flares and the figure of a man pointing to the symbolic white star of Wisla.
Cracovia meanwhile embarked on the first of its displays. All of the 1000 visiting fans holding up identical scarves with the pyrotechnics display coming in the second half.
Chances had come for Cracovia in the first half. Only Bieganski in the Wisla stopping the visiting team take the lead with a serious spectacular stops. Upfront for Cracovia Van Amersfoort was looking extremely dangerous in the heated atmosphere but equally so was Yaw Yeboah. The Ghanian once attached to Manchester City drifted along the wings tormenting the visiting defenders on several occasions.
On 54 mins it was the Ghanian who gave the home side the lead. Running in on a cross he struck home, leaving Hrosso to pick the ball out of the net.
Wisla then went into a little bit of a shell as Cracovia threw on a number of attackers in an attempt to get an equaliser. On 66 minutes Wisla fans launched into a fire display setting alight a number of items of Cracovia merchandise. Meanwhile in the Cracovia end a huge pyrotechnic display led to impressive referee taking the teams off the field thanks to the amount of smoke that was generated.
When the ending came it was not without a Cracovia side who left everything on the pitch. Only a lack of guile and perhaps ability stopped the visitors getting a draw.
The Krakow derby was certainly special.
Aside from the scare stories of matchday violence (which as every turned out to be completely untrue) the pre warnings of chaos in the stands turned out to be completely true.
Three seperate incidences of pyrotechnic displays – which included Wisla setting fire to numerous items of Cracovia scarves and flags – brought this derby to life.
It was hard to come away not being impressed by what was a cauldren of noise from long before the proceedings kicked off.
FT: 1-0 (Yeboah, 52 mins)
Photo set from Krakow can be seen here at his link