DOHA, Qatar — FIFA opened a disciplinary case against Croatia on Tuesday because of its fans’ taunts aimed at Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who has Serbian family ties, during the teams’ World Cup game.
FIFA said the charge against the Croatian soccer federation was “due to the behaviour of its fans” and cited rules relating to discrimination and security at games. It followed a formal complaint by Canada Soccer.
Borjan was born in an ethnic Serb region of Croatia that was part of the conflict that split the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Borjan’s family left their hometown in 1995 when it was taken by Croatian forces amid stories that ethnic Serbs fled on tractors.
During Canada’s 4-1 loss Sunday, one banner displayed by Croatia fans used a flag of tractor manufacturer John Deere and changed the marketing slogan to target Borjan. The abuse was especially loud in the second half when Borjan's goal was right in front of the Croatia fans.
Canada Soccer said it wrote a formal letter to FIFA "registering displeasure and disgust" at the banner.
"Canada Soccer asked for a full explanation as to how these props and actions were permitted in the stadium and how FIFA will address this matter," the organization said in a statement. "We have also requested a formal apology."
Borjan was 13 when his family moved to Canada — initially Winnipeg and then Hamilton a year later. He plays his club football for storied Serbian club Red Star Belgrade.
The 35-year-old has won 71 caps for Canada.
FIFA gave no timetable for a verdict in the case which would typically be judged with a fine for the federation.
In the first disciplinary verdict of the World Cup on Tuesday, FIFA imposed a 10,000 Swiss francs (C$14,000) fine on the German soccer federation for not bringing players to the news conference that is mandatory one day before a game.
Coach Hansi Flick appeared alone Saturday in breach of tournament rules to meet international media in Doha ahead of the team playing Spain.
With files from The Canadian Press.
The Associated Press