Oh boy. A lot to unpack here for Hajduk striker and Croatia international, Marko Livaja. But more importantly, who is most at fault for this situation?
Earlier today, the HNS made a public statement that 29 year-old striker Marko Livaja will not be part of next week’s Croatia squad that will face the Dutch in the UEFA Nations League semifinal and that Livaja has excused himself. The statement from Livaja says, “with everything that has happened, I’m not ready to give the team 100% and by staying I would only be a distraction to a team that deserves peace.”
This seems like more of a mutual decision between the HNS and Livaja versus Livaja leaving on his own free will. But that’s just my opinion.
So what the hell happened?
It all started May 24th in Rijeka after Hajduk defeated Šibenik 2-0 to capture their second straight Croatian Cup title. After the match, Livaja grabbed a megaphone and started yelling at Šibenik supporters: “Freze, traktori i seoski putevi, pi*ke šibenske, pi*ke šibenske, dobit ćete batine!, Vecernji reported. This is where Livaja showed immaturity. What does he have to gain from saying that? He doesn’t need to flex in front of Šibenik fans. Livaja is on top of the HNL, scored the game winner against Canada at the World Cup, and is Croatia’s top pick as the true #9 striker. Dumb move. -1 point for Livaja.
That was two weeks ago. Things cooled down a bit. Croatian players left their club teams to join the national side in preparation for next week’s Nations League semifinal. Training began this week in none other than…Rijeka. And that’s where Livaja was caught at the scene of the crime once again.
While at national team training Tuesday afternoon, you could clearly hear Livaja being heckled hard by a Croatian fan in the stands. However, Livaja didn’t keep his cool and B-lined it over to the fan. He said a few things without any physical contact before teammates came over to separate the two. He may or may not have purposely kicked a ball at fans as well. The rest is history. Livaja showed weakness in front of his own fans, became unhinged, showed lack of professionalism (at both club and country) level in the past month, and now won’t be part of the team in a semifinal match.
-1 point Livaja
-1 point stadium security
-1 point anyone within 10 feet of the heckler (come on, we can’t have Croatian players being heckled by their own Croatian countrymen during a Croatian training session. It’s a horrible look)
Livaja was already on thin ice in Rijeka following the Croatian Cup. Should he have kept his cool and ignored the fan? 100%. However, the guy just lost his father in a tragic motorcycle accident a year ago. He has a stranger talking trash about his mom in a public training session…on home soil nonetheless. And Livaja has never been known as a level-headed guy to begin with. He lost his composure and will now pay for it by not playing in a European semifinal.
This is just bad optics for the Croatian team all around. I can only assume Dalić had plenty to do with this Livaja dismissal as he never allows bad energy and individual needs affect his locker room. Just ask Nikola Kalinić and Ante Rebić about that.
This mainly rests on Livaja’s shoulders. The dude simply has to do a better job at managing his emotions in a public space, especially with a huge game he would have likely started in front of him. However, the HNS staff and stadium security simply have to do better. This wasn’t an away match in Turkey. It was a training session on home turf.
A bizarre series of events but this one is on Livaja. Here’s what Matt Lebo has to say about the situation: