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Croatia Euro 2012: A well played tournament ends in controversy for Bilic’s side

The Croatian side are making their way home after a week of tough games and hard fought matches, many agree that they were unlucky not to make it through to the quarter finals considering how well they performed, but today (Wednesday) the announcement that the Croatian FA has been fined €80,000 (£64,561) by UEFA for the racist chanting and behaviour of the Croatian fans towards Italian forward Mario Balotelli in the second round of games in group C threatens to overshadow the impressive display of the Croatian side. Controversy has sparked thanks to the fact the fine was €20,000 (£15,000) less than Denmark striker Niklas Bendtner, who was charged by UEFA for brandishing a logo on a piece of clothing for a betting firm, which was deemed as advertising, which is illegal under UEFA regulations. The fine for the Croatian FA was handed to the, due to a report that 300 fans made monkey noises towards Manchester City striker Balotelli as Italy and Croatia faced off last Thursday, before throwing a bannana on the pitch towards the forward as he was subbed off the field. That the fine was too small is undeniable, and people who say the FA shouldn’t be punished for what the fans have done must realise that unless there is a way to individually catch all 300 of the fans the only option is to punish the FA. The fine is contextually too small, especially considering the fact the UEFA have the power to levy fines of €1million, not that I am suggesting the fine should have been that high, but it probably should have been higher than Bendtner’s. It was surprising that the UEFA didn’t make an example of Croatia, especially with all the talk pre-tournament of racism at the tournament.

Following this decision was the announcement that UEFA is to open an investigation of the actions of Croatia in the game against Spain on Monday, as it was reported that the Croatian fans were displaying racist banners and set of flares. The investigation will also look into claims that the conduct of the Croatian team was not acceptable. The fallout from the decision to fine Croatia less for the racist activities of some of their fans than an advertising ploy by a betting shop has been quite large and it would not be a great surprise if they increase the punishment for this second investigation to both add balance to first offence and to punish the Croatian footballing federation for the repeat offending of the small numbers of the nation.

The Croatian side had an impressive tournament, putting in good performances in all three of their group games. They were unlucky that results didn’t go their way, and some of the officials made it harder for the Balkan side. This performance from Bilic’s side will probably be overshadowed by the actions of a few however, and the 99% of the Croatian followers that behaved in accordance with the rules won’t be remembered, instead this may always go down as the year the Croatian Football Federation had to pay the price for the actions of a few. If that does happen it will be a great shame for the Croatian side, who could have easily stayed into the competition and faced France in the quarter finals.

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