Croatian hooligans flirt with Nazi ideology
Only an appeal by a group of celebrities persuaded Hajduk Split hooligan fans to abandon jerseys, which featured a belligerent eagle and a declaration of membership of the Hajduk Jugend (Hajduk Youth).
18 November 2007
Zagreb (dpa) - Only an appeal by a group of celebrities persuaded Hajduk Split hooligan fans to abandon jerseys, which featured a belligerent eagle and a declaration of membership of the Hajduk Jugend (Hajduk Youth).
But before dropping the insignia, the fans threatened to "chop off the legs" of Tvrtko Jakovina, a Croatian philosophy professor who had been criticizing the hooligans' flirt with Nazi ideas.
The bird and the inscription on the jerseys had drawn strong associations with the 1933-1945 Nazi dictatorship in Germany and the Hitler Youth organization that trained and indoctrinated German youth.
The jerseys are only one of many similar cases at football stadiums, basketball arenas and other sports.
"During the 1990s we allowed a wave of such incidents, which the state leadership tolerated, even incited... that has consequences," Jakovina recently told the Slobodna Dalmacija daily.
"The public was infected by the view that those are 'our boys' and should be forgiven."
After declaring independence in 1991, Croatia fought the Yugoslav army, Serb paramilitaries and insurgents who controlled a third of its territory until 1995.
The scars of World War II, when Croatia was set up as Hitler's puppet-state and implemented Nazi racial laws, along with the conflict of the last decade has led to a surge of racial supremacists, many of them grouped around football clubs.
Dinamo Zagreb vice-president Zdravko Mamic frequently curses his opponents as "enemies of Croatia" and "children of Yugo (military) officers."
Jakovina said: "Those are all symptoms of insecurity, even fear of the Serbs. We can't get away from comparing with our neighbours and that, along with World War II history, always drags us downward."
The animosity is not directed against the Serbs. Fans in Split, Croatia's large Adriatic port, have in the past vehemently jeered black players, mimicking monkeys each time Africans or Brazilians would touch the ball.
Not only young, under-educated and probably drunk fans tend to act as racists, but some prominent figures have also been revealed as such.
"A black man can't coach Croatia's national team. I don't remember any black manager of a major team," the president of the national football organization, Vlatko Markovic, said last year.
The remark matched the blunder by Croatian Olympic official Antun Vrdoljak, who said: "All our boys want to be (as basketball stars) Toni Kukoc or Dino Radja, but I haven't heard of any wanting to be black."
Those and other pejorative statements were never punished in Croatia, but at best swept under the carpet.
Politicians are ambivalent, because they make use of football and its fans. For instance, in campaign for the November 25 parliamentary polls, the entire Dinamo Zagreb football club publicly backed Prime Minister Ivo Sanader's Croatian Democratic Union.
The club poster promoting Sanader was also signed by brothers Niko and Robert Kovac, both born in Berlin, as well as by naturalized Brazilians Carlos and Etto or players without the right to vote, such as Frank Guella of the Ivory Coast, German Georg Koch and Brasilian Jorge Sammir.
Hrvoje Prnjak, analyst and author of a book on Dinamo Zagreb's violent "Bad Blue Boys", told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "The resilience of various forms of chauvinism surrounding sports in Croatia is not just a deformation of the traditional sports animosity of us against them.
"It is a product of the climate of exclusiveness that was created from the independence onward.
"The children of the 90s, born at the time when patriotism was measured with intolerance against others, just reflect their family matrix in the stands."
In his words, the phenomenon is declining, but too slowly at least partly owing to the tolerant stance of the authorities.
Subject: German news