Croatia charged for World Cup fans’ taunts of Hamilton ‘keeper Borjan


Published November 29, 2022 at 9:34 am

Hamilton native Milan Borjan's cold-weather attire inspired memes when Canada played its last two games in 2022 World Cup Qualifying outdoors in Edmonton. (OneSoccer)

The soccer federation of Croatia faces discipline from FIFA after its fans taunted Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who hails from Hamilton, about his family being displaced by war when he was a seven-year-old boy.

Media reports convey that FIFA opened a disciplinary case against Croatia “due to the behaviour of its fans” and cited rules relating to discrimination and security at international soccer games. During the Canada-Croatia match at the FIFA World Cup on 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 increased in the second half when Borjan was defending the net in front of the Croatia fans.

Borjan, was born in an ethnic Serb region of Croatia that was part of the conflict that split the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. His family left their hometown in 1995 when it was taken by Croatian forces amid stories that ethnic Serbs fled on tractors. Borjan, who turned 35 years old in October, would have been shy of his eighth birthday when that occurred.

The 71-times-capped ‘keeper arrived in Canada with his family when he was 13 years old, and they settled in Hamilton in the early 2000s. A TSN feature that aired prior to the game detailed how his parents started a cleaning business that Borjan continued to work in to help his family, even after he had become the first-choice ‘keeper for Canada’s men’s national team.

Borjan plays professionally with Red Star Belgrade, a storied Serbian team.

Such disciplinary cases typically result in a federation receiving a fine. There was no timetable for a verdict in the case, the Associated Press report.

Canada (0-0-2), which returned to the men’s World Cup for the first time since 1986 — before all but one player, midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, was born — lost 4-1 against Croatia, which was the 2018 runner-up. Canada’s first goal in the history of the men’s tournament was scored by Bayern Munich midfielder Alphonso Davies. Davies is also a child of war who was born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana after his family was displaced by the Second Liberian Civil War. His family arrived in Canada when he was five and settled in Edmonton.

Canada wraps its World Cup run against Morocco on Thursday (Dec. 1, 10 a.m.).

— with files from The Canadian Press

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