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Police charge Croatian soccer federation over on-field swastika

Group accused of negligence, could face hefty fines for Nazi symbol scrawled on field during match

A man looks at the pitch that seems to show the pattern of a swastika following the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Croatia and Italy at the Poljud stadium in Split, on June 12, 2015. (AFP/Andrej Isakovic)
A man looks at the pitch that seems to show the pattern of a swastika following the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Croatia and Italy at the Poljud stadium in Split, on June 12, 2015. (AFP/Andrej Isakovic)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Police filed charges on Thursday against the Croatian Football Federation and two officials over a swastika that was apparently scrawled on the pitch during Croatia’s 1-1 draw with Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

The charges were filed with a court in Split, on the central Adriatic coast, for negligence and lapses in the organization of the June 12 match, the state-run HINA news agency reported.

If the Split tribunal confirms the charges and if found guilty, the federation could be fined up to 250,000 kunas ($37,000) and the officials up to 50,000 kunas.

HINA identified the officials as federation executive president Damir Vrbanovic and Zoran Cvrk, who is in charge of security.

The charges were brought after a criminal investigation into the incident which occurred at the Poljud Stadium in Split.

UEFA had ordered the match to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for fan violence and racist incidents when Croatia played Norway earlier in the qualifying campaign.

A swastika, however, appeared to be visible on the pitch at the ground which is the home of Croatian top-flight side Hajduk Split, and UEFA said they would take action for “racist behavior.”

Groundsmen struggled to cover up the Nazi symbol at half-time of the qualifying Group H encounter, and the federation later issued a public apology.

“This was an obvious act of sabotage and a criminal act. We condemn it and ask the police and judicial bodies to find the person(s) responsible for what is a shame not only for Croatian football [soccer], but the entire country,” an HNS statement said.

Meanwhile, UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the soccer federation on Monday. The decision on whether to take any action will be made on July 16.

Police were still searching for the perpetrators. The results of a probe conducted by a forensics center in Zagreb trying to identify the substance used to draw the swastika are still not available.

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