Croatia have a pretty chequered history when it comes to incidents involving their supporters. A pertinent example of which involved a swastika being marked onto the pitch in Split ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy – hence why the 2018 World Cup runners-up will take on England in an empty stadium on Friday.
In truth, Croatia are getting kind of used to this kind of thing. That match with Italy was itself played behind closed doors due to racist chanting against Norway in 2015 – a match that was also partially played behind closed doors.
But while the Vatreni are becoming accustomed to grounds devoid of supporters, there are other teams who could surely use a dose of the behind-closed-doors medicine.
After all, it’s not as if there would be any noticeable drop in atmosphere.
The Emirates isn’t exactly known for being a simmering, bubbling hotpot of noise and colour. There’s never been an issue with players being unable to hear their team-mates over the crowd, and visiting players or fans aren’t likely to describe Highbury Library Mark II as an ‘intimidating’ venue.
Moreover, given that even a handful of away fans generally make more noise than the 50,000 home supporters who show up in North London to sip prosecco and munch on artisanal hand-crafted sweet potato fries, a fan-less ground might actually help the Arsenal players.
To be perfectly honest, we’re still trying to work out what kind of lunatic would pay to watch the tripe served up by Mourinho and Co. each week at Old Trafford.
Well, apart from the roughly 60-odd thousand who arrive in Manchester on planes from Ireland, Malaysia or the USA, or on trains from London, that is.
Still, leaving aside the tourists there to do nothing other than Instagram their day out and spend money on personalised Phil Jones tea-cosies, that leaves many thousands of others who could definitely benefit from a weekend without Joséball in their life.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words.
To be fair, you actually have to have a stadium before you can play behind closed doors. Still, there’s nothing stopping Spurs from simply going ahead with what they’ve got and holding matches on the building site that currently serves as their home patch.
There’d be no-one in attendance except a few welders and carpenters putting the finishing touches to a marble-fronted Taricco & Stalteri Vegan Vinoteca, or whatever it is Daniel Levy decided to have installed instead of a football pitch. Which would be good preparation for when they’re inevitably relegated to League 2 after bankrupting themselves paying for the new gaff.
Additionally, players having to dodge idle JCBs and discarded kango hammers might also add an element of excitement to home games.
When Pete Winkelman stole Wimbledon FC to form Milton Keynes Dons, part of his reasoning was to exploit the existence of an urban area with a fanbase devoid of a local team to follow.
If there’s no-one there to watch the team, he may end up returning the stolen property. Which would be great.