Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Far From Pitch

Some five years ago Croatian state television was soccer fan's delight. You could watch not only Croatian soccer league but also many other soccer competitions – Premiership, FA Cup, Serie A, La Liga etc. Arrival of Nova TV added Bundesliga (and even some Copa America) to the mix.

But those days are passed. This season Croatian soccer association have used all of its clout to dissuade Croatian TV networks from airing any non-Croatian soccer games (with exception of European club competitions). This forced many Croatian soccer fans to switch satellite and foreign channels in order to enjoy some quality soccer on their TV screens. The reason for this is simple – even the diehard fans of Croatian soccer are finding very difficult to enjoy the sorry excuse for Croatian soccer league.

Quality of the game, players and the league itself has declined over the years. The only matches that seems to matter are those between eternal rivals Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb. And even those don't get publicity because of the soccer. For media the more interesting contest is between those two clubs' fan groups – Torcida and BBB. The rivalry have been slowly escalating, with traditional fights occurring further away from stadiums and with increased levels of violence.

After last years' ambush at Dugopolje, this weekend's game in Zagreb netted not two very spectacular actions. Hajduk fans, in apparent attempt to repeat their last year's achievement, attacked BBB group from Gospić (Gospic). BBB apparently retaliated by trying to torch Torcida vehicles and fans near Žganjer (Zganjer) restaurant in Karlovac. The latter incident was interrupted by few policemen firing shots in the air and thus probably preventing incident from escalating even further.

The issue isn't whether there is going to be fatalities in Croatian soccer war, but when it is going to happen and how many people are going to die. My guess is sooner than later and resulting in much larger numbers of body bags than everyone could have imagined.

I wonder whether Croatian soccer authorities, when faced with Fallujah-style images of charred human remains being branded as trophies but blood-crazed mobs, would still insist on Croatian soccer league being treated as national treasure.


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