Once again, racism has marred a match for the Croatian national team as a swastika was seen etched into the pitch at Stadion Poljud today.
The match, which Croatia drew 1-1 with Italy, was played behind closed doors with no fans in attendance as punishment for racist actions by Croatian supporters in previous matches.
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The racist symbol of Nazi Germany could be seen from the stands and on television at the beginning of the match, as groundskeepers attempted to cover it up during halftime, to little avail.
The Italian FA filed an official complaint to UEFA over the incident, while Croatian FA spokesman Tomislav Pacak issued this statement after the match.
We apologize to all fans watching the game on television, to both teams and to our guests from Italy for the Nazi symbol.
As far as we have learned, the symbol was imprinted into the pitch between 24 and 48 hours before the match so that it could be visible during the game.
This is sabotage and a felony, hence we expect police to identify the perpetrators and we have also notified UEFA.
This is a disgrace not just for the HNS (Croatian FA) but for the whole of Croatia. Neither our coach nor players will comment.”
This incident overshadowed a good match between the two of the premier teams in Europe, battling for the top spot in Group H in Euro qualifying.
With multiple previous sanctions for racism and other condemnable behavior, expect UEFA to come down hard on Croatia. There is no place for racism in football, and something must be done to make sure something like this never happens again.