(eca110) Croatian football chief "loses compass" inre-election race (Feature)
By Boris Raseta and Boris Babic Nov 11, 2010, 12:52 GMT
Zagreb - The president of the Croatian football federation (HNS), Vlatko Markovic, blundered again Wednesday night, bursting out at a reporter and further clouding his re-election bid.
'You want to know? Here, and you can write it down: I'm f*****g sick of you reporters,' Markovic yelled at a journalist asking about controversies related to him. 'You understood? Write that down!'
Referring to the incident, the Jutarnji List daily said on Thursday: 'He totally lost his compass, fearing the loss of his position.'
Things have been growing steadily worse for Markovic as the end of an already bad year as his bid for a fourth term in office nears.
Though approaching his 74th birthday, he decided to run again for HNS president in mid-December, after being elected in 1999 and confirmed in 2002 and 2006.
But instead of gliding through the year and another vote, the Croatian league has been implicated in a match-rigging scandal, a strong challenger for the top job has emerged and most recently Markovic made derogatory remarks about gays.
'As long as I am president, a gay will not play. Luckily, football is played by healthy people,' he told Sunday's edition of the Vecernje Novosti daily.
When gay organizations threatened to report him to the European football governing body UEFA, he apologized, but gays were not satisfied with it.
Now they want him to endorse the raising of the rainbow flag, symbolizing gay rights, in the stands at Croatia's Euro 2012 qualifier on Wednesday against Malta.
'We will see whether his apology was sincere if he positively responds to our request for the match,' Horvat told the German Press Agency dpa.
It was not the first time Markovic has spoken out against gays. In mid-October he named gay pride parades 'despicable' and said they should be banned.
Markovic's exchange with the reporter on Wednesday came as he began feeling increased pressure from his rival in the run for the HNS presidency, Igor Stimac, 43, a charismatic former football star.
Stimac partly based his campaign on opposition to Markoovic's plan to cut the Croatian premier division from 16 to 12 or even 10 clubs.
As resistance to the plan he pushed mounted, Markovic simply turned around and started preaching Stimac's mantra and backing the 16-club league.
'Markovic threw a low punch and decided to fight Stimac with his own weapon,' the web portal Index said.
Markovic exploded at the reporter when questioned about his homophobic remarks and about the league U-turn.
But even worse may be heading his way, as Stimac stepped up his own campaign and played his trump card - a promise of clean hands.
'You divided Croatian football between yourselves and so far nobody showed up strong enough to break through your trenches and untransparent practices,' he said on Wednesday.
Stimac accused Markovic and his people of 'running around with bagfuls of money' intended to buy votes in the upcoming election, and called the Croatian anti-corruption police to investigate.
'Plenty is being offered around, only no football programme. And where there is nothing to be bought, threats are made,' said Stimac. 'People will do anything to save their chairs.'
Stimac' allegations of football corruption turned heads particularly after a massive match-rigging scandal exploded in July involving major clubs, managers and the so-called betting mafia.
Markovic and the HNS emerged from the scandal uncscathed, but it did not help his case that UEFA inspectors scrutinized his football organization and the national team had to watch the World Cup on television instead of qualifying for it.
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