An Apology? An Explanation?
In the 2nd period of the Ak Bars game on Wednesday (12.11), a few fans began chanting “za dom”. It appears the fans on the other side of the arena were chanting “sportova”, making the entire chant “za Dom Sportova” (I missed the “sportova” piece, but more on this later). Dom Sportova is the name of the arena KHL Medvescak plays in, so the chant was “for Dom Sportova”. This was in response to an announcement of games at the new Arena Zagreb, not the favorite venue of Medvescak fans.
During the 2nd intermission, I put out several tweets condemning the “za dom” chants and calling for fans to shout those “idiots” out. I also said Medvescak themselves should eject those fans if they really are preaching tolerance. You can find them over at the Bears Hockey Blog Twitter page.
It was not until later in the game when some of the Bears Blog Twitter followers and the official Medvescak Twitter account made me aware that the full chant was “za Dom Sportova”.
A little background on “za dom”. It was first used during a play in the 1600’s and translates to “for home” or “for homeland”. When Croatia was a fascist state during World War II, “za dom” and “za dom – spremni!” (for homeland – ready) became salutes for the fascist army aligned with the Nazi Germans. Much like the swastika (“swastika” literally translates as “it is good”) which was used as a non-fascist symbol prior to Nazi Germany incorporating it into its ethnic cleansing regime, the phrase “za dom” is now synonymous with fascist activities for most observers.
Recently, Australian-born Croatian National Football team player Josip Simunic led a crowd in Zagreb in a “za dom – spremni” chant after the team punched their ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Simunic stated he was not involved in a racist or nationalist act. I tend to believe him (others do too). He was caught up in a moment and that moment had nothing to do with fascism, but helping take your country to the World Cup.
The result: Fined 3,200 Euros for “spreading racial hatred”, though he was not actually being hateful.
In Latvia, KHL club Dinamo Riga performed a tribute to some of the traditions of Latvian culture during intermission. One of the most important symbols of Latvian culture is the sun, but their interpretation of what the sun looks like is not always so literal. So, some skaters paraded on the ice with a “sun” that just happened to look like a swastika. Initially, the KHL said they respected their traditions and they realized it was not a swastika.
The result: A reversal. The KHL fined Dinamo Riga $30,300 (1 million rubles). They learned that this was the symbol of an military battalion before it was used by Nazi Germany, and not a sun, but also not paying homage to the Nazi regime. A no tolerance policy.
1) Your actions are not always judged by your intentions.
2) Like it or not, what the international community think matters and can affect your team.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
First off, I run the Bears Hockey Blog site and Twitter accounts. However, the bearshockeyblog.com consists of several other writers. I should have never took to the Bears Blog Twitter account to discuss non-hockey issues. So, to the other writers, I apologize. Those views were my own.
On the other hand, in the heat of the moment, I felt there was no other way to get my thoughts out and to stop another possible “za dom” chant that evening. I was trying to harness to power of social media and with that came my feelings at the moment after hearing a fascist chant.
I realize now that the chant with “sportova” added was a play on words, an attempt at humor, mocking the others recently chanting “za dom”. Well, I should say now that I know “sportova” was being chanted as well I get that it was an attempt at humor.
If I would have heard “sportova” initially, would I have posted those several Twitter messages?
I have a good sense of humor, so I think I would have realized the intention of the fans there. I would have still thought it was a tasteless joke. Honestly, I still think anything “za dom” related has no place in a chant or a salute.
But, I did call some people idiots for chanting “za dom”, but since no one was chanting “za dom” but “za Dom Sportova”, then I guess I did not actually call anyone an idiot, right?
It is a dumb argument. Much like “za Dom Sportova” cannot be offensive to anyone because it was meant to be a joke. Little known fact: just by adding “sportova” to any phrase gets rid of its negative meaning! (#sarcasm).
Maybe, just maybe, Bears’ fans and Croatians generally can just put this phrase to rest. It is too volatile and has too much negative connotation to continue to bring up. Also, why risk Medvescak receiving a fine. If it happened to Simunic and Dinamo Riga, why could it not happen here because of Wednesday’s incident? Instead, a local Croatian writer thought it would be smart to bring the situation to light in a recent article, supposedly denouncing my good intention. I hope no one in the KHL office speaks Croatian…..
Here is a quote from the KHL after the Latvia fine: “”Use of any graphic forms showing Nazi signs and symbols, as well as similar images, are inadmissible for the KHL clubs and their fans.” Hey FANS, although your chant is not in graphic form, you are jeopardizing the team.
Nevertheless, if you felt I called you an idiot and you were trying to be funny, I sincerely apologize. This is a small problem that can be solved over a beer or two (on me). Send me a Twitter message and we can meet during intermission. @bourciertm.
Also, I apologize to the team’s PR staff for telling them to take action. It was probably a bit too far. Though, the club should consider action before this goes too far.
In the meantime, go Bears!