- Max Rossi/Reuters
Following the flare incident at Euro 2016 during the Croatia-Czech Republic match, everyone knew that there was going to be some punishment forthcoming from UEFA, and it came today in the form of a €100,000 (US$113,000) fine. However, the fine only scratches the surface of what has been an ongoing battle between the Croatian Football Federation and their worst “fans.”
For years, a faction of Croatian fans – popularly referred to as “ultras” – have taken exception to what they believe are the corrupt ways that the Croatian Football Federation does their work.
Following the match, Croatia’s coach Ante Cacic, decried the actions of what described as a small group of “sports terrorists.”
“These people are sports terrorists, they are not fans,” said Cacic. “Ninety-five per cent of our supporters are ashamed in front of Europe, the players are very sad that after playing a beautiful match this happens.”
One of the flares blew up dangerously close to a steward who was trying to clear the field.
The belief among the Croatian soccer officials is that this small group is trying to embarrass the national football federation and force a chance in leadership. Slaven Bilic, a former Croatian footballer and current manager for West Ham United in England explained the rift recently.
‘There are many fans that are against the [football federation] and unfortunately they are doing this,” Bilic said. “We are paying fines all the time, we are playing the last couple of games behind closed doors and we are probably the biggest UEFA sponsors.”
So the ultras stir up all this trouble, such as throwing flares and firecrackers on the pitch, mowing a swastika into the pitch (as they did before a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy in Split), and various other acts of mischief in an effort to stick it to the Croatian FF.
Unfortunately, this is a battle that’s been going on for years and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.