Despite sitting at the top of Euro 2016 qualifying group H, Croatia fear they could be dumped from the competition in their next match. This fear isn’t based in competitive concerns, though. It’s rooted in the growing number of racist incidents perpetrated during their games. So they’ve taken the extreme step of banning their own fans from their next three away matches in an effort to send the message that this behavior has to stop.
UEFA banned Croatian supporters from one match after racist chants were heard during their 5–1 win against Norway back in March. Even with an empty stadium, they still managed to have a racist incident during their 1–1 draw with Italy in June since someone etched a large swastika into the pitch. That resulted UEFA punishing Croatia with a one point deduction, €100,00 fine and two more home matches to be played behind closed doors. But now Croatia have taken the added self-imposed step of banning fans from three upcoming away matches, as well.
“There will be no organised section for Croatian fans in games at Azerbaijan on Sept. 3, Norway on Sept. 6 and Malta on Oct. 13,” the HNS said on its website (www.hns-cff.hr).
“UEFA’s punishment (for recent racist incidents) and their explanation shows in no uncertain terms that any future racist-related offence could mean Croatia’s expulsion from the European Championship.
“It was a difficult decision (to ban supporters) and we truly regret that decent fans have to put up with it, but it was a sacrifice required to fight hooliganism and make sure millions of Croatian supporters get to cheer us in the Euro 2016 finals.”
Perhaps the fact that this is a self-imposed punishment will finally impress upon the offending parties that this has to stop. And if it does, maybe this will show other nations and clubs the path to bringing about actual change in the fight against racism.