Racism marred Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier between Croatia and Italy, which ended in a 1-1 draw, despite the match being played in front of an empty stadium due to previous racist incidents involving Croatian fans. As the Associated Press' Daniella Matar shared, a swastika was spotted etched into the pitch during the first half:
Here's an image of the symbol:
"UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings against Croatia for the swastika carved onto the pitch during the Euro 2016 qualifier with Italy," reported Desmond Kane of Eurosport.com on June 15. The Croatian Football Federation issued an apology on June 13 (per talkSPORT):
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.
Once again, we express regret and condemn this act, and we apologise to all the viewers, guests and players from both teams.
According to the Associated Press (via Yahoo), the swastika was clearly visible from the stands, and it is unclear whether it was mowed into the grass or painted on top. Groundskeepers rushed to cover it up during half-time, but the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) lodged an official complaint regardless, per Football Italia:
Legendary striker and current Croatian Football Association President Davor Suker was appalled at the sight, and while he refused to discuss it at length after the match, he promised the matter will be debated in the coming days:
Clearly, UEFA's decision to play this vital qualifier behind closed doors did not impress whoever was responsible, and one has to assume the team will be hit hard with their next punishment. How one individual or a group managed to etch such a symbol in the pitch without being noticed is a mystery at this point, and it's certainly an unacceptable development for Croatian football.