At the soccer European Championship in France at the end of a match between Croatia and the Czech Republic, Croatian fans began bombarding the field with flares and fireworks. The game was delayed about 15 minutes while fights between Croatian fans broke out in the stands.
The disturbance was a protest by a faction of the Croation national soccer federation to embarrass Zdravko Mamic, the former chief executive of Dinamo Zagreb, one of the storied club teams of Europe.
Croatian fans are embroiled in a long-standing battle with Mamic, who was arrested last November due to transfer irregularities at Dinamo.
Mamic has been accused of embezzling 118 million kunas (£11.1m) of Dinamo’s money since 2008, while he and his brother Zoran were also arrested last July after they were accused of avoiding tax payments related to Luka Modric’s move from Dinamo to Tottenham in 2008 and Dejan Lovren’s transfer to Lyon in 2010.
Mamic resigned as Dinamo’s chief executive in February but remains a key figure at the club in an advisory role and has been regularly described as the alleged ‘Puppet Master’ of the Croatian Football Federation.
Croatia supporters are also unhappy with the way their own domestic league is run, with match-fixing such a problem that Davor Suker, current president of the Croatian Football Federation, was forced to deny any involvement.
Fans have opted to take anti-corruption measures into their own hands and have staged protests at league games and in Euro 2016 qualifying before Friday’s incident.
This might explain how the Croatians were able to smuggle flares past the incredibly tight security at the stadiums where matches are being played. France, very cognizant of terror attacks these days, set up a sophisticated and thorough security gauntlet that fans had to go through to get into the stadium. In addition to having metal detectors, all bags were searched, fans were patted down, and dogs sniffed everybody and everything coming into the stadium.
It is possible to imagine someone in the Croatian federation finding a way to sneak the flares into the stadium and then giving them to allies in the crowd. If not, France has a huge security problem that should cause some sleepless nights for officials.
Watch the video on the next page. Note the stadium worker clearing the field who picks up a flare that promptly explodes. He was lucky to walk away.