Croatian team (foto: Getty Images)
The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) is facing disciplinary action from UEFA following allegations of racism and discrimination during a recent European qualification match against Latvia.
The match, held at Rijeka Stadium, has become the focal point of an investigation initiated by UEFA, according to official statements from the federation.
A FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) observer at the match reported that an individual within the Croatian fan section displayed the Ustasha flag multiple times. The Ustasha regime is associated with fascist ideologies and war crimes during World War II. The flag's appearance has led UEFA to launch disciplinary proceedings against the HNS, which is already under a conditional penalty for previous discriminatory behavior by its fans.
"The federation is currently under a conditional penalty for discriminatory behavior by fans during the Nations League finals," said a spokesperson for the Croatian Football Federation. "A new penalty could potentially result in playing one home match without an audience."
Security services at the Rijeka Stadium identified two individuals raising the prohibited flag and handed them over to the police. Following the incident, the HNS sent an official letter to the Municipal Court in Rijeka, the Primorje-Gorski Kotar Police Administration, and the main police administration, outlining the events and actions taken.
The Croatian national team is scheduled to play its next home match on October 12 in Osijek. Given the ongoing investigation and previous penalties, there is a "real possibility" that part or even the entire stadium could be closed for the upcoming match, according to federation sources.
This incident adds another layer of complexity to the challenges facing the Croatian Football Federation, as it navigates both competitive and off-field issues. The federation will likely await UEFA's decision with bated breath, as the outcome could have far-reaching implications for Croatian football.