Monday, May 22, 2006

Hajduk Coach Attacked and Beaten

Colombia? No, Croatia

Hajduk's coach beaten up by thugs. Press suspect fans, who profess inocence

"These Romans are crazy", used to say Obelix to his pal Asterix. "These Croats are crazy" more accurately describes the state of mind of some people surrounding Croatian football.

On March 12, some 80 fans of Hajduk Split invaded the corridor to the dressing rooms in the Poljud Stadium, apparently in search of the home players, who had played to a disappoiting draw against Slaven Belupo.

The 1-1 score in fact suited Hajduk, helping them qualify for the Championship playoffs, rather than for the Relegation playoffs of the Croatian League. Still, as the game was utterly insipid and uneventful, the fans must have thought that the game had been fixed and that the players had betrayed the famed "Hajduk heart".

Guards, police and a timely locked door saved Hajduk's players from the wrath of their ultras, but the next day the coach Luka Bonacic angrily dismissed claims the game had been arranged.

- "What should have we done, throw everyone forward when a draw was quite enough? I stand by my players and if anybody tries to touch them, they will have to deal with me first."

Someone must have taken Bonacic's words literally. Four day later, last Wednesday, two unknown men ambushed the coach in the doorway of his apartment building and beat him up severely with a baseball bat and an iron bar. A neighbour that happened to come inside the doorway in the nick of time probably saved Bonacic from more harm, driving away the two assailants.

Bonacic (51) was taken to the hospital where a light brain concussion and several injuries to the head, arms and body were diagnosed.

Whoever attacked the coach is not known, but the media immediately suspected Hajduk's ultras, known for their violent behaviour, either toward their rival groups or toward their own team.

Fans condemn the act

The main ultra group, Torcida, vehemently distanced themselves from the act, calling it barbaric, and Bonacic himself said he did not think the fans were responsible. Perhaps somebody else used the previous incident at the Poljud stadium to lay the blame on the ultras?

- "I wish I knew who it was. I'm not so much interested in who the actual attackers were, but rather who's behind it and what the motive is."

Since the assailants were not masked, Bonacic gave the detectives a description of one of them, but in spite of an identity-kit published in most Croatian media, the police are still in the dark as to the identity of the perpetrators.

A hard-headed man, Bonacic ignored the doctors' orders to stay at home for a couple of days; as soon as he was discharged last Friday, he travelled with Hajduk to Rijeka, with his head still bandaged, where his team played a big League game.

- "I cheated on the doctors, for which I appologize. But, I dare those who may wish to attack me again to come forward. If something is to happen to me, it doesn't matter whether it does in my home or in Rijeka. They can stop me from being with my team only by shooting me."

For the time being, noone has accepted the last coach's challenge. Luckily, the police has put all Hajduk directors and the coach himself under round the clock surveillance, while the investigation is in progress. With little hope of accomplishing anything, to be sure.

Last June, a noted players' agent Dino Pokrovac was shot to death in Zagreb, presumably over a debt related to some of his money-lending activities, but no arrest has been made. A few months later, Dinamo Zagreb's head coach Josip Kuze's car was set alight in Zagreb, again with no definite suspects, let alone indictments. There is no reason to believe this last act of footballing violence will come any closer to a resolution than the previous ones. (op)

HNL: Naslovi se osvajaju u gostima
Dinamo zeli rekordnu seriju
HNL - Usporedba s proslom sezonom
Dobro je zvati se Dinamo
Neka Svedska strahuje
Najbolje gol razlike u europskim ligama
Usporedna ljestvica
Argentina ili Hrvatska, pitanje je sad

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