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The Roar


World Cup Daily: Disgust as Croatia fans taunt Canadian keeper over refugee past, Spain coach Enrique's heartbreak on 'special day', Riots in Brussels

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28th November, 2022

As giants continue to falter and Canada’s World Cup dream dies, here’s all the latest behind-the-scenes news from Qatar.

Croatian fans taunt Canadian keeper over refugee past

Croatia’s fans are never far away from controversy. They are coming in for fire after a banner was spotted at their match against Canada that seemingly taunted opposition keeper Milan Borjan over his past as a refugee during the Balkans War in the 1990s.

Borjan was born in Knin, a town in Croatia that was was once majority Serb, and was part of the exodus of Serbian residents in 1995. He later moved to Canada as a teenager, but currently plays back in Serbia for Red Star Belgrade.

The flag was a modified John Deere tractor banner, referencing the method by which Serbs fled the town. Speaking to media after the game, Borjan said he would not be raising the abuse with the authorities, but that the fans responsible should take a long look at themselves.

“It shows how primitive people are,” he said. “I have nothing to comment on that. They should work on themselves and their families, because they obviously have some frustration, so they come here to vent.

“These are children who show that they do not know what it is and how it was, that says everything about them. Kudos to the Croatia players. They behaved like gentlemen.”


Spain coach Enrique’s heartbreak on ‘special day’

Luis Enrique said it was a “special day” after his team’s 1-1 draw with Germany at the World Cup – but it had nothing to do with soccer.

Luis Enrique said Sunday would have been the 13th birthday of his daughter, Xana Martínez, who died three years ago of a rare form of bone cancer.

“It was a special day for me and my family,” Enrique said. “Obviously we don’t have our daughter with us physically anymore, but she is still present every day. We remember her a lot, we laugh and think about how she would act in each situation that we experience.”

Luis Enrique had earlier posted a video on Instagram in which he said that “not only we play against Germany today, but Xanita would have turned 13.” He wished her “a good day” wherever she was right now.

“This is how life works,” he said after the match. “It’s not only about beautiful things and finding happiness, it’s about knowing how to manage these moments.”

The 52-year-old Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona player and coach, is participating in his first World Cup as Spain’s manager. He left the national team after finding out about his daughter’s cancer, returning some time later.

Spain will advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar if it avoids defeat against Japan in its final group-stage match on Thursday.

Neymar imposter fools Fox Soccer

US World Cup broadcaster Fox Soccer have been left with egg on their faces after posting a clip of Brazilian superstar Neymar out for a stroll around the Qatari capital of Doha – only to find out that it was actually a Neymar impersonator.

They tweeted that the PSG man, who is currently out injured with an ankle complaint, was taking in the sights – surrounded by fans asking for selfies, of course.

The threshold of reality that would be required to believe that one of the world’s most recognisable people would be out for a relaxing morning stroll in a city packed to the brim with fans was clearly breached in Fox HQ – until social media users pointed out the obvious misidentification.


Fox Soccer realised their mistake soon afterwards, replying to their own tweet with “UPDATE: we got got Neymar has a very convincing doppelgänger.”

Riots in Brussels as Belgium lose to Morocco

The streets of Belgian capital Brussels descended into violence after Belgium’s World Cup defeat to Morocco – but it seemed to be the winning side that were doing the bulk of the rioting.

Brussels has a large Moroccan population, who took to the streets to celebrate their nation’s stirring 2-0 underdog win over the highly-touted Red Devils, but their jubilance spilled over into confrontations with police after cars were attacked.

Police sealed off the city centre and fired tear gas and water cannon at the Moroccan fans. There were also disturbances in Antwerp.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the incidents of this afternoon,” said Brussels mayor Philippe Close. “The police have already firmly intervened. I, therefore, advise against fans coming to the city centre. The police are doing all they can to maintain public order. I have ordered the police to carry out arrests of the troublemakers.”

Over the Dutch border, where there is also a large Moroccan community, incidents were reported in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.


In the Moroccan capital of Rabat, celebrations were more peaceful with cars honking and fans dancing in the streets late into the night.

Iran-US hostilities rise after flag drama

Ahead of USA’s clash with Iran on Wednesday morning (6am AEDT), the US Soccer Federation posted tweets with the Iranian flag conspicuously missing the emblem of the Islamic Republic.

The move was explained by officials as showing support for protesters in Iran who are still demonstrating against the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly dressed immodestly.

Iran, in response, claimed that the US were “removing the name of god” from their national flag.

“The measures taken regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran flag are against the law of FIFA competitions,” said Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran.


“They must be held responsible. Obviously they want to affect Iran’s performance against the US by doing this.”

The show of solidarity with protesters had the potential to become a larger diplomatic incident, with relations between the two nations having been tense for decades.

After the pushback, the banner at the top of the offical USSF Twitter account showing its next fixture now bears the normal Iran flag with the emblem intact.

Shaw claims England are a ‘respectful group’ ahead of grudge match

England and Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw said his side will show that they are a “respectful group” in their final group match against Wales on Wednesday (6am AEDT).

The Three Lions are all but guaranteed a place in the round of 16, and a win against their rivals would see England finish at the summit of Group B.


The Three Lions are in pole position in Group B (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Wales have experienced an underwhelming return to the world stage after qualifying for their first FIFA World Cup since 1958. But back in 2016 at the European Championships, it was Wales who had the last laugh, progressing through to the semi-finals after England suffered a humiliating round of 16 defeat at the hands of minnows Iceland.

Footage then emerged of the Wales squad revelling in England’s pain, infuriating players and fans alike.

“I think we are a respectful group,” Shaw said.

“We do things the right way. That’s the example Gareth (Southgate) wants to set. We are fully behind that. We are respectful.

“I think Wales’ motivation is going to extremely high. They are going to give everything to win.

“(The video) wasn’t nice. I don’t want to dwell too much on that. I’d rather do our talking on the pitch, rather than off it.”