Croatia apologise for swastika on pitch

The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has apologised for a swastika that appeared in the grass of Stadion Poljud during Croatia’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Italy.

The HNS labelled the Nazi symbol “obvious sabotage and a criminal act” and urged Croatian authorities to identify and punish those responsible.

During the opening 45 minutes of Friday’s match, it became apparent a swastika could be seen in Croatia’s half and, despite stadium staff’s best efforts at half-time, they were unable to remove the symbol.

The match in Split was played behind closed doors, after Uefa found Croatian fans guilty of racist chanting during a qualifier against Norway in March.

“We apologise to all the spectators, guests from Italy and the players of both teams because of Nazi symbols on the Poljud grass,” read a statement that was posted on the HNS’s website on Saturday.

The HNS went on to explain that the swastika had somehow been created in the days leading up to the match so that it would appear on game-day, while they confirmed they had informed Uefa.

“It is an obvious sabotage and criminal act that we condemn and call on the police and judicial authorities to find the culprit, who has not only disgraced Croatian football but also the country,” the HNS added.

Spokesman Tomislav Bacek had earlier told Ansa : “What happened is shameful not just for Croatian football, but for the whole country.

“We reported the incident to Uefa. We apologise to Italy and to everybody.”

President Davor Suker admitted the incident is the latest in a continuing battle between some football fans in the country and the organising body.

“It is a problem that we have. We are working to resolve it, but unfortunately another thing happened tonight,” said the former striker.

The match finished 1-1 after Antonio Candreva cancelled out Mario Mandzukic’s opener.