FIFA is investigating behaviour by Croatia’s fans after a formal complaint by Soccer Canada following their World Cup group match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
The complaint came after Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan was targeted by fans because of his Serbian family heritage during Canada’s 4-1 defeat in Sunday’s match.
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has opened proceedings against the Croatia Football Federation due to the behaviour of its fans, the proceedings were opened on the basis of articles 13 and 16 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code,” a FIFA statement said.
Borjan was born in an ethnic Serb region of Croatia but the family left the town during the Balkan conflict when Borjan was eight years old.
Borjan’s family ultimately immigrated to Canada.
During the match, Croatian fans had displayed a banner which had been adapted from tractor manufacturer John Deere to a message in a reference to ethnic Serbs leaving Croatia on tractors.
Croatian fans were also heard chanting “Borjaneustašo,” a reference to the Ustašeorganisation in Croatia which supported the Nazis during the Second World War.
Borjan plays his club football for Red Star Belgrade.
His mobile phone number had also been leaked, enabling fans to send him abusive text messages.
The abuse was heightened during the second half of the match when the Croatian fans were positioned behind Borjan’s goal.
“We kind of knew what he was going to go through in that game,” Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio said.
Under its own regulations, FIFA is empowered to order future matches to be played behind closed doors if a guilty verdict is returned by the investigation. –Insidethegames