Four men are due in court in Belfast today in connection with violent clashes between football fans in the city that left 11 police officers injured.
The four – aged 30, 28, 26 and 22 – are all charged with disorderly behaviour linked to trouble at a city centre pub before Saturday’s World Cup qualifying game between Northern Ireland and Poland.
The 26-year-old is also charged with possession of a firework without a licence in the area round the Bedford Street bar, which was badly damaged when chairs were thrown through the window.
The men were among nine people arrested during disturbances that marred the build-up and aftermath of Northern Ireland’s 3-2 victory at Windsor Park.
Police said the majority of the nine taken into custody were Polish. The four charged are due in Laganside court this morning, while the other five were released yesterday without charge.
Officers have been studying CCTV footage in a bid to identify hooligans involved in the riotous scenes.
Rival fans fought with each other and clashed with riot police in sporadic confrontations across Belfast throughout the day.
As well as the trouble on Bedford Street, the Tates Avenue area close to the ground was sealed off as police came under attack from fireworks, traffic cones, bricks, bottles and other missiles.
A number of homes were also targeted in what police described as racially motivated incidents.
While the North has a sizeable resident Polish population, police believe the troublemakers on the Poland side were a “hard core” element who did not live in the country and travelled for the game without tickets.
Local police commander Supt Chris Noble said he was concerned about reprisal attacks against the local Polish community.
“We believe there was a hard core of Polish nationals who came to the game without tickets but with a very clear intent to cause trouble and disruption to genuine supporters and local residents,” he said.
“We believe these troublemakers are not local; they have travelled to Northern Ireland with the express purpose of causing trouble.
“Unfortunately their actions may well have put the safety of law abiding and local Polish residents in jeopardy.
“I would appeal to all right-minded people to assist these neighbours and unite with them to condemn this type of behaviour and isolate the perpetrators of this type of criminality.”
There was also trouble inside Windsor Park, with the match held up during the first half when a linesman was hit by missile thrown from a crowd of Northern Ireland supporters in the North Stand just after Poland scored.
Polish fans were also involved in disturbances in the closing stages of the match.
Several tried to climb the perimeter fence after leaving the South Stand to reach the terracing. But again police moved in to stop them.
Supt Noble said officers were analysing CCTV footage in an effort to catch those involved in the trouble across the city.