European football governing body, UEFA, has initiated another disciplinary proceeding against the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) due to the behaviour of fans during the European Qualifier on Monday against Armenia played in Yerevan.
HNS has been reported under Article 16 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations for the inappropriate behaviour of fans. According to the delegate’s report, around 20 fans suspected to be from Croatia, who purchased tickets on the black market, were involved in a brawl with Armenian fans in the southern stands.
HNS stated that they have no information about the identity of these individuals.
At this moment, HNS is facing two disciplinary processes, the fist after a Ustasha flag was displayed on several occasions during the match in Rijeka last week against Latvia, and now there is a threat Croatia will have to play their next match against Turkey in Osijek behind closed doors and also have to pay a large fine.
A Mystical Story
While the story from Yerevan is somewhat mysterious because no one has identified these “fans” yet, the young men who brought a Ustasha flag to HNK Rijeka Stadium three days earlier, are Croatian citizens from the northern region of Croatia near Čakovec, daily Sports news reports.
They are of Croatian nationality, and the youngest of the three detained at the stadium was born in the year 2000.
According to ticket sales records for football matches, in the past 13 years, they have not purchased a single ticket in their names for any Croatian, Dinamo, Hajduk, or Rijeka game. They also did not have tickets in their names for the match in Rujevica; unofficially, they said they received them but refused to disclose the source.
They defended themselves by claiming they were unaware that the flag was prohibited. A misdemeanour report was filed against them, and they were subsequently released. However, HNS announced that they would sue them for damages, Sports news revealed.
This is not the first incident of this kind. Last year, in front of the stadium in Vienna before the UEFA Nations League match with Austria, security confiscated about twenty clothing items. They literally removed them from people or did not allow them to enter the stands due to prohibited symbols.
However, this is a specific case that smells more like sabotage than anything else, Sportske novosti says.
“Why would they secretly carry a flag into the stadium if they didn’t know it was forbidden? Why would they unfurl it for only a few seconds a couple of times and then immediately hide it? You would do that if you wanted someone specific to photograph you with it, without those around you and the police noticing what you were holding, so you wouldn’t get beaten up or arrested. They did not come to support Croatia with this flag.”
President of HNS, Marjan Kuštić agrees.
“This did not happen by accident. These three individuals have harmed the Croatian national team, but also the Republic of Croatia. I definitely think it’s a scam. I hope we find out who is behind it. A lot was happening. On a couple of occasions, the flag was raised 3-4 times, and that one individual painted that flag, that very detail, that Ustasha symbol that is in the FARE catalog. Just so that he can see it from 60 or 70 meters away and take a picture of it. That’s no accident. Let the bodies do their work, but we certainly won’t stop there. Thanks to the police and security who did their job well,” he told New TVadding that HNS will initiate private lawsuits for damages.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić is equally suspicious and believes that someone intentionally wanted to harm the Croatian national team.
“That would be a great injustice to the Croatian national team, Croatian fans, and the Croatian people. In my opinion, all of this was arranged because how else can you explain that one flag appears among hundreds of flags, and that specific one gets photographed and appears at that moment, and someone photographs it?” Dalić told Nova TV.
A UEFA delegate in Rijeka wrote in his report that a representative of FARE sent him an SMS about the Ustasha flag, adding that he did not see it, but FARE would provide an additional report. The HNS stated that Zoran Stevanović, as the head of the Croatian branch of FARE, told them that no one from the Croatian FARE was present at the match. So, it was someone else cooperating with UEFA. They did not contact the HNS, and they were unaware of their presence at the stadium, Sportske novosti adds.
“Applications from organisations involved in this and living off of it, seeking punishment against Croatia. That’s nonsense and a continuation of finding ways to stop us. I am confident that it will not happen,” Dalić said, before adding.
“As far as I know, the Federation is doing everything in their power to find out who organised this, who did it to create this witch hunt against the national team, and I believe that we will still be with the fans in Osijek.”
“We received a disciplinary report, that is, an open procedure for the match in Armenia. Inside it is stated that they have knowledge that it is about Croatian fans, but we will certainly make a statement about that part. We neither distributed or sold tickets nor were we the organizers, we had nothing to do with that part. So we don’t have any names or any information that they are Croatian citizens,” said Kustić about the latest charge after the Armenia game.
HNS is preparing responses for UEFA. In the report about Rijeka, they will mention that there were 8,151 spectators in the stands, and no other incidents occurred. Since the perpetrators of that single incident were identified and prosecuted, there is no reason to punish all football fans. However, UEFA rarely has an ear for such arguments. There are many disturbances at European stadiums, especially in the southeast, and Nyon maintains a strict policy, Sports news concluded.