Croatia says UEFA, France were warned of potential incidents

"In the preparation, HNS did everything possible to prevent incidents," said a statement by country's federation

Afp June 18, 2016
At least 10 flares were lobbed from the Croatian corner of the Saint-Etienne stadium in the 86th minute. PHOTO: AFP

ZAGREB: Croatia's football federation (HNS) said Saturday UEFA and French police had been warned ahead of the trouble-hit Euro 2016 match against the Czech Republic that hooligans were planning to disrupt it.

At least 10 flares were lobbed from the Croatian corner of the Saint-Etienne stadium in the 86th minute of the 2-2 draw with Czech Republic on Friday.

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UEFA on Saturday opened disciplinary proceedings into the incident, the latest episode of fan trouble to mar the European Championship finals.

"In the preparation of this match, HNS did everything possible to prevent incidents and therefore both UEFA and the French police were warned of hooligans' intentions to interrupt it," a federation statement said.

Croatia were leading 2-1 when referee Mark Clattenburg briefly halted play to allow the flares to be cleared. When the match resumed Tomas Necid's penalty four minutes into stoppage time helped secure a draw for the Czechs.

The HNS official in charge of security, Miroslav Markovic, said the federation had a "tip-off" there would be incidents in the 85th minute of the match, the state-run HINA news agency reported.

He apologised to spectators at the match and the Czech squad and told the Croat hooligans that they bore the "responsiblity for all of us in Croatia".

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Markovic also slammed Croatian authorities for failing for years to tackle the hooligan problem in the country.

"Inefficacy and lack of will to at least start resolving the problem incited the hooligans to continue with such acts," he said.

"The incident in Saint Etienne is indeed the result of this passive attitude of the Croatian state and today we are all hostages of a groop of hooligans."

The HNS urged UEFA and local authorities to help them jointly root out hooiganism.

The federation was to hold a press conference about the incident later Saturday.

Croatia coach Ante Cacic branded the fans who threw the flares "sports terrorists" and the country's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic labelled them "enemies of Croatia."

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She has called for a special government session over the issue.

Croatian football fans have a history flare-throwing incidents and the chanting of pro-Nazi slogans.

Ahead of Euro 2016, Croatian police sent their French counterparts a list of 326 potential troublemakers.

Hardcore Croatian fans are linked with the country's two top clubs -- Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split.

Hooliganism has increased over the past four years since former Croatian international Davor Suker took over the reins of the federation.

Some fans believe Suker and the federation are too closely linked with controversial former Dinamo Zagreb boss Zdravko Mamic, a key figure in Croatian football.

Some accuse Mamic of abusing the game in Croatia for his own gains and they protest against the national team in response.


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