Vlaho Orepic, Minister of the Interior in the caretaker government, has said that the incident caused by Croatian hooligans at the Euro 2016 match between Croatia and the Czech Republic on Friday is part of a conflict between the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) and a group of fans and that his ministry has so far identified 25 persons who took part in the incident at the match played in St. Etienne.
"This event is due to an extremely complex relationship between the HNS and part of football fans and we must not put it in any political context," Orepic said on Saturday, noting that hooliganism at sporting events had to and would be stopped.
"We have a problem and we will deal with it. Based on the footage of the stadium stands, the ministry and security forces have identified 25 persons so far. When they return to Croatia, we will do our best to put an end to this bullying of Croatia," said Orepic.
He said that the incident was a huge blow to Croatia's reputation as a friendly and safe country, but also noted that "security at the match was not at the highest possible level."
Orespic said that Croatian police had done their best to prevent incidents in St. Etienne, noting that they had been communicating intensively with French security forces since April 30.
"We warned our French colleagues of 35 high-risk persons... but that was not enough to have those people removed from the stadium," said Orepic, adding that several persons who had been banned from sporting events were also at the stadium.
"We did our best, offering to go to France but the French colleagues said they had enough forces. There is nothing else we can do but send our staff there to help provide for security at the next match," Orepic said.
Croatia's Euro 2016 match against the Czech Republic, which ended in a draw (2-2) on Friday afternoon, was marked by an incident caused by Croatian fans. Hooligans in the section housing Croatia fans threw a few flares and a stun grenade on the pitch and a scuffle erupted among the troublemakers in the dying minutes of the game that Croatia were leading 2-1. The match was held up for several minutes.
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