TCN’s Goran Antonijević, a man who has travelled thousands of miles to support the Croatian National Team in the past, takes a look into the reasons of yesterday’s events in Saint Etienne. There is no excuse for hooliganism, and there is no excuse for breaking the law. By the hooligans, politicians, and football officials alike. But there is an understanding for those outraged by the hooligans and those outraged by the officials using football as a playground for their personal gain.
First of all, I personally would never throw a flare on a football pitch, even though I have lit hundreds of them, but each and every one of them ended peacefully put next to me. I would never even dream of using louder firecrackers. But I was and I will remain a part of those 50,000 or more people who protested in support of curricular reform and against Croatian Minister of Science, Education, and Sport, Predrag Šustar and his (non)work couple of weeks ago.
I was and I will remain a part of the masses of football fans who fought against the entire system of Croatian football and Croatian sports, including again Minister Šustar and his (non)work.
I read last night and this morning that the football Croatia is horrified with hooligan incidents. I will discuss the concept of “football Croatia” little bit later, but for a start a bit about hooligans.
I would never throw a flare, because my ideology is Ghandi-like, but I totally understand those who think differently. Were Croatian fans hooligans when they burned a Yugoslav flag at the Poljud Stadium in the early 1990s?
I was then on the northern stand of the stadium, and no matter how much I loved Croatia and hoped that we would get rid of Partizan, Red Star and Yugoslavia, I did not run into the field and did not and would not set fire to a flag. I would have peacefully taken it down, because I am that kind of guy. But I totally understand those who think differently.
At the time, the Yugoslav football circles were horrified. Hajduk players, the management of Hajduk begged fans to return to the stands and not to endanger their club. But, there were more important things for fans. Can anyone remember the penalty Hajduk received then and how important it is today?
Were those hooligans? Strictly speaking, yes. They ran into the pitch, chased away the players, and yet it is just a sport, isn’t it? And then they set fire to the official, national flag. Theoretically and legally speaking, pure terrorism, is it not?
Today you cannot hear anyone saying those people were hooligans. For all the Yugoslav official media, they were Orjuna… sorry, Ustashas. All those Tijanićs, Bujan… sorry, Lazanskis and others spoke and attacked the savages from the south.
Ten days ago, Croatia demonstrated that it can do better. Croats went to the streets, raised their voices, wore colourful clothes, with colourful banners, sang beautiful songs. And then happened exactly the thing they were protesting against. Minister Šustar, a day after he became a caretaker minister, with no mandate to make any key decisions, made the most important decision in the history of Croatian education and dismissed the expert group which had over 50,000 people giving it their support on the streets.
And what happened? Nothing. Croats stayed at home to watch football on TV screens.
In addition to these riots in Saint Etienne, there have been some other riots in recent weeks in other French cities. The French government adopted new provisions of the labour law, but the French took to the streets. Colourfully, cheerfully. So the other day, after nothing changed, a general strike was called. And on the third day, after again nothing changed, dumpsters were burning, tear gas, overturned cars, masked protesters attacking police, and all that follows.
Now a little bit about “football Croatia”. What is football Croatia? Those who every two years, after consuming a sufficient number of mindless commercials on television, remember that there is a national team, so they put on chequered jerseys and scream those two songs, posting photos on social networks and putting hashtags while they do not know how many players there are in a football team?
Or those that live Croatian football on a weekly basis, so they go to every game of their club, buying season tickets and waiting for national team games like holidays, because, unlike their weak favourite clubs, which cannot win against any serious opponent in Europe, they feel like a part of the world’s football elite when watching their national team?
I think the answer is clear, and it is easy to count how many people there are in the first group, and how many are in the other group. You do not need an algorithm that counts hashtags, it is enough to go to a match on weekends, and an abacus is enough to count them.
Imagine a situation in which, for example, the Metalworkers’ Union went insane and launched a bloodthirsty attack on protesters for curricular reform because they had launched a new ship in their shipyard the same day, and these people spoiled their “party” with their protests. And the shipbuilders, by the way, have not been paid for months. But they still have a party.
That is how I look at the horror which “football Croatia” expresses towards hooligan incidents. Because “hooligans”, “football Croatia”, the protesters for curricular reform, metalworkers, shipbuilders and all of us together, we have only one and common problem – suspicious people who are running this country, education, economy and, in the end, football.
Football fans have been warning about this for ten years. We had so many actions. And nothing happened. There was a colourful protest on the waterfront, with 30,000 people. There were several protests in Zagreb. Peaceful. The fans even got a law which would solve the problem.
And, nothing happened. In addition to the fact that the Minister and football leadership violate the law. I will write it again. They are violating the law. And nobody cares. No horror on Facebook, no people in the streets, no one demanding names and surnames of those who violate the law. Shall we do it once again? They are violating the law.
And then, when those who are not as calm as me and with less of a Ghandi-like approach make a fuck up, then you are horrified?
I am not horrified with those who are horrified, and I understand them as well. They need this joy, because in a country where the government has collapsed, in which the Parliament Speaker ignores the fact that 55 percent of MPs have signed a petition for dissolution of Parliament, in which people vote for people who eventually end up in prison, there is little joy.
But, if we were only to scratch a bit beneath the surface, and only for a moment stopped thinking about those large and empty phrases that are hidden behind the word “patriotism”, we would understand how much of this joy is false and empty.
Because, while they deceive the nation with patriotism, they are counting the money. Whether it is from MOL, FIMI Media or Luka Modrić’s transfer, it does not matter.
And remember once again those guys from the beginning of the article, which entered the pitch and chased away Partizan players from the field. And, tell me whether you will remember in twenty-five years the penalty which was given to the Croatian national team.