Croatian fans throughout the country and vast majority of those present at Stadium Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Etienne, France were ready to celebrate together with their football stars that were few minutes away from securing its place in the knockout phase of the big tournament for the first time since 2008 EURO, but in a second, all that they hoped for was gone.
Here's that flare incident plus fight scenes at the #CZECRO match earlier. Has to be sanctions coming #CRO's way. pic.twitter.com/sKEy803JYj
— Onefootball (@Onefootball) June 17, 2016
Up until the 86th minute of the match on Friday against the Czech Republic at 2016 EURO, Croatian national football team was heading for a fairytale ending. But then, everything ended up in flames. Flares were thrown on the pitch from a group of Croatian hooligans with bad intentions as Croatian players watched in disbelief how everything that they worked for has been destroyed by those who had already caused so many penalties imposed on Croatian Football Federation (CFF) for violent and racist behavior of so called ‘supporters’.
Cacic told a press conference: “These people are really scary, that is why I call them hooligans. These are not really Croatian supporters. These are sports terrorists. The main thing our country doesn’t want to mess with this kind of hooligans.
“This is maybe just a question about six to 10 individuals. I hope they can be identified and punished. I hope the Croatia FA is doing everything to prevent this but it is impossible to avoid.
If @UEFA weren't such a joke of an organisation, they might have actually taken some serious action. pic.twitter.com/nWIgov1QXn #CZECRO
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) June 17, 2016
This feeling is shared among the majority of Croatian population that was send in an ecstasy by Croatian dominant display and “Mighty Ivans”, Inter Milan forward Ivan Perisic and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, that put Croatia two goals ahead after one hour of play in Saint-Etienne. Some 40 minutes later all those that were ready to celebrate were disgust with the scenes that they’ve witnessed on many occasions before.
On top of everything, people from CFF had an information about what is about to happen and they’ve shared their knowledge with the French autorities.
“We had a tip that the riot will start in the 85th minute of the match. Therefore, the French special police entered the stadium and isolated the stand with our fans,” CFF security officer Miroslav Markovic told reporters in Saint-Etienne.
Perisic was one of the most active players on the field when English referee Mark Clattenburg stopped the match and send teams off the pitch.
“I was trying to tell the policemen to enter the stand and try to isolate those who were throwing flares on the field. The one of them told me that they are not allowed to that,” Perisic said in an interview for Croatian Television.
Croatian players were sad that they couldn’t hold on to the lead they had up until the third minute of the stoppage time, when late substitute Tomas Necid converted a penalty for a final score 2-2, and they felt robbed because it was not the first time that someone outside their group did something to hurt their chances. Now they have to wait the decision from UEFA Disciplinary body that could go so far as giving the whole team a ‘red card’ and expel it from the tournament.
“We will not be expelled but they will punish us,” said CFF president Davor Suker who put the blame on Croatian government for this situation that Croatian footballers have deal with for years.
“No one wants to deal with this problem. We will pay the fine and we will still call for people to come to stadiums and support our team,” Suker said.
Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was quick to react to shameful scenes in France.
“You, Croatian enemies, who hate your team and your country, you will answer for this… Shame on you,” Croatian president wrote on her official Facebook page.