The Croatian Football Federation [HNS] has praised its supporters for confronting the hooligans that marred the 2-2 draw with Czech Republic and demanded the country’s government does more to stamp out the problem.
Croatia were winning the Euro 2016 match 2-1 at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Friday when, in the final minutes, a volley of flares rained down on the pitch from the end of the ground their team’s fans were standing in Saint-Etienne.
A banner was unveiled to accompany the pyrotechnic display in a premeditated disruption aimed at embarrassing the HNS and former Dinamo Zagreb president Zdravko Mamic, who has been investigated for financial irregularity and is considered to be a major influence behind the scenes of the country’s football administration.
The incident prompted trouble in the stands, where moderate supporters appeared to confront those responsible. Croatia’s players pleaded for calm from the pitch and went on to concede a penalty in stoppage time and failing, at least for now, to secure passage to the last 16 despite having dominated much of the game.
Croatia have since been charged by UEFA and face the prospect of sanctions, with HNS president Davor Suker and his organisation issuing a plea for help in combating those seemingly determined to interfere with the team’s matches, denounced by head coach Ante Cacic after the game as “sports terrorists”.
“The Croatian FA thanks to more than 10,000 fans for their great support to our team and maybe for the first time they decided to say “no” to violence, flares [and] discrimination by booing every attempt to interrupt the match,” HNS said in a statement.
“The Croatian FA apologises to other fans in Saint-Etienne and to the Czech team for the behaviour of hooligans that are not Croatian supporters, but are our responsibility.
“The Croatian FA has done everything we can in order to prevent incidents, so we have warned UEFA and the French police about [the] hooligan intention to interrupt the match. This is just the consequence of the government not reacting against hooligans.
“We can be happy and sad at the same time that when there is no reaction from the government, for the first time fans themselves decided to take action and reacted, fighting with hooligans.
“Are fans that bring children to matches really the ones that should deal with hooligan problems?
“The ones that shout discriminatory messages, draw swastikas, attack others, throw flares don’t get punished and [the] FA, clubs and real fans and supporters are being punished [by] not being able to attend matches, so we call on the Croatian government but also UEFA to join us in our fight against hooligans.”
A similar incident of concerted flare throwing occurred in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy at San Siro in November 2014 and HNS president Suker is at a loss to know what more the national governing body can do to prevent the issue from occurring again.
“We are not learning [from] our mistakes and we don’t know who to turn to anymore,” he said via the HNS website.
“The Croatian FA is doing its job and we want the government, police and courts to do their job.
“We will look for assistance from French police, to see who was throwing flares. We don’t need to be expelled for four years to learn something, do we? Imagine what that would mean to our players. We are powerless. My heart hurts – something is very rotten with us.”