Lithuania detains Latvia-bound Polish hooligans

Thirteen Poles have been arrested in Lithuania after trouble involving fans of Legia Warsaw bound for a Europa League match in Latvia, police said on Thursday.

"Thirteen persons were detained in the resort town of Palanga after reports of drunk hooligans," Lithuanian police spokesman Ramunas Matonis told AFP.

"We have received information from our Polish colleagues that around 1,500 Polish fans could come through Lithuania on their way to Latvia, with 200 to 300 so-called hooligans among them."

Legia face Latvian club Liepajas Metalurgs on Thursday evening in the first leg of the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

"Controls in the border territory have been strengthened, the police are checking cars and have already confiscated some banned items such as fireworks, knives and pepper spray," said Matonis, adding that the Lithuanians were in close contact with their Latvian colleagues.

Lithuania has had to tackle travelling hooligans on several previous occasions.

Past incidents have involved not only fans of clubs but also supporters of the Polish national team who last year clashed with security forces during an international friendly against Lithuania.

Polish police estimate that their nation of 38.2 million has a hooligan hardcore of up to 5,000, mostly clustered around clubs rather than the national team.

Frequently accused of doing too little to tackle the problem and keenly aware they were in the spotlight ahead of Euro 2012, the Polish authorities launched a major crackdown after their country's violence-marred 2011 cup final.

But despite the widely-touted fears, there were few major incidents in June when Poland hosted the European championships along with neighbouring Ukraine.

One high-profile exception was when Poland faced historical foe Russia in their group match on June 14 and dozens were arrested, mostly Poles, during clashes between rival fans in the country's capital Warsaw.

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