European soccer nails Croatia for swastika incident

Written By Jack Davies
croatiaitaly - CROPPED
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UEFA on Thursday stripped Croatia of one point in its Euro 2016 qualifying group after an apparent swastika was seen on the pitch during its Group H game against Italy.

The game, which was being played behind closed gates after alleged racist behavior of Croatia fans at an earlier qualifier against Norway, finished 1-1. However, that was overshadowed when a swastika shape could be seen on the turf during the first half.

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Attempts by stadium staff members to remove the symbol at halftime were unsuccessful. The Croatian Football Federation apologized, claiming "obvious sabotage and a criminal act."

UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, subsequently opened an investigation on charges the Croatian soccer officials breached article 14 of UEFA regulations, relating to racist behavior.

In addition to the one-point deduction, Croatia also was ordered to play its next two home matches in empty stadiums and not to play any of its remaining qualifiers at the Stadion Poljud in Split, where the swastika was visible. UEFA also levied a fine of 100,000 euros (approximately $110,000).

Croatia's lead over Italy at the top of Group H fell to one point after UEFA's penalty.

The Croation Federation has three days to appeal the punishment. In a statement, it described the punishment as "hard, the hardest in the history" of the association.

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