The Football Association of Croatia has issued an apology after a large swastika was discovered to have been burnt into the pitch to be used for a Euro 2016 qualifier.
Authorities said the symbol, long associated with luck and good health and more recently appropriated by National Socialist movements such as the German ‘Nazi’ party of the early 20th century, had been burnt into the pitch with a chemical. The chemical used had been reportedly laid with perfect timing to only reveal the offensive symbol as the match was to be played.
Shocked at the swastika appearing on their pitch, groundsmen attempted to cover it up during half time – without success. The Mirror reports the comments of Croatian football spokesman Tomislav Pacak, who said of the incident:
“We apologise to all viewers, our guests from Italy and the players from both teams, for the Nazi symbol on the Poljud Stadium grass. Technically speaking, a chemical agent was used on the field 24 to 48 hours before the kick-off, timed to be visible during the qualifying match.
“During the half-time, we have tried to remedy the situation to the best of our abilities, given the short amount of time.
“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, but the entire country”.
The match itself was played against Italy to an empty stadium, a punishment measured out after Croatian fans disrupted a recent match against Norway with racist chants and fireworks. It is unclear whether the swastika seen yesterday was intended as a jibe against Croatia for the racist behaviour of their fans, or if it was in support of them.