Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Wednesday pleaded with UEFA not to expel his country from the European Championships because of a swastika scrawled on the pitch used for an international.
Milanovic wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini saying he was “worried over the fate of the Croatia squad from disciplinary proceedings which resulted from a ‘sad incident.'”
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings for racism against the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) over a swastika drawn on the pitch used for Croatia’s 1-1 draw with Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier on June 12.
The European body is to announce its action on July 16 and Croatians fear an international ban. The team leads qualifying Group H ahead of Italy.
“I appeal you not to let the Euro 2016 go ahead without the participation of all the best squads,” said the prime minister.
Milanovic said a “draconic sanction” would “destroy the squad, leave a deep scar on Croatia’s fans and harm football in Croatia in the long term.”
Police have filed charges against the HNS and two officials for negligence. The perpetrators have not been identified however.
UEFA had already ordered the Croatia-Italy match to be played behind closed doors as a punishment for fan violence and racist incidents when Croatia played Norway earlier.
The HNS has publicly apologised for the swastika, which it labelled an “act of sabotage.”