Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović has pleaded with UEFA President Michel Platini to be lenient when handing down punishment after the swastika incident at Poljud stadium during Croatia’s 1-1 draw with Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier on 12 June…
Fearing that Croatia could be thrown out of Euro 2016, Milanović wrote to Platini expressing his concern at what a ‘draconian’ punishment would do to the country.
Here is what he wrote:
I send you this letter concerned for the fate of the Croatian national team in the disciplinary proceedings, which come as the result of a sad incident on the margin of the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Croatia-Italy in Split on 12 June.
The still unknown perpetrators are clearly and firmly condemned from all sides of the political spectrum and from all state institutions. Their act was met with disdain from the large majority of Croatian citizens. An extensive criminal investigation, which we hope will bring a result and that the perpetrators will be found very soon, has commenced.
In this context, I would like to point out that Croatia during World War II had the highest proportion of anti-fascist forces among the population in occupied Europe. Croatian citizens were the most in partisan units during the war. I emphasize this in order to clarify that the perpetrators of the heinous act in Split are not supported or understood in Croatian society. Their act is directed primarily against the Croatian Football Federation, due to internal conflicts with part of the fans, and certainly in no way support for the Nazi or fascist ideology, nor is it directed against the Croatian team.
I understand that there will probably be sanctions against the Croatian Football Federation. However, I would like to appeal to the understanding of UEFA and raise attention to the fact that Croats live and breathe with their national team. The fans were deeply shocked after the incident, and afraid of fair punishment. Draconian sanctions could seriously harm or even prevent the team’s success in qualification for Euro 2016, and plays right in to the hand to those who want to bring down the federation, and would also destroy the national team. It would also leave an indelible scar on the souls of the Croatian fans and would cause long-term damage to football in Croatia. I appeal to you, Mr. President, do not let the Euro 2016 be held without the participation of the best national teams. The game must play on the football field – wrote the PM.
UEFA will decide Croatia’s punishment on 23 July.