FIFA launched a disciplinary case against Croatia Tuesday after Canada Soccer filed an official complaint over Croatian fans allegedly taunting the Canadian goalkeeper.
FIFA said it took the action against Croatia “due to the behavior of its fans” that contravened rules against discrimination and breach of security.
Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan was born in the Serbian region of Yugoslavia and the latter was involved in a conflict that split Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Borjan, now 35. was 13 when his family moved to Canada. Although he plays for the Serbian club Red Star Belgrade, he has won 71 caps for Canada. The family left in 1995 after their hometown was taken by Canadian forces and there were rumors that some Serbs fled the conflict on tractors.
The taunting allegedly took place during Canada’s 4-1 loss to Croatia and included fans holding a banner of a John Deere make of tractor and changed the company’s slogan – ‘Nothing Runs Like a Deere’ = to disparage the Canadian goalkeeper.
In the second half the harassment continued as Borjan’s goal was in front of the Croatian fans.
The Canadian team said they hear the taunts.
“We kind of knew what he was going to go through in that game,” Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio told reporters. “We told him ‘we are behind you at all times.’
“Unfortunately, there were some discriminatory things that happened in the game toward him. Of course, nobody, I think, tolerates that, not in Canada. I hope the right thing is done by everything that has happened.”
The Croatian soccer federation refused to comment on the specific incident, but spokesman Tomislav Pacak said the federation “always condemns any sort of racism, any form of discrimination and we call on the fans and every individual not to behave in that manner.”
There was no deadline set for the outcome of the case, AP reported, but such cases usually carry a fine.