Maribor Manager Defiant After Insulting Reporter Whose Father Was Murdered

By , 20 Mar 2018, 11:39 AM Sport
Zlatko Zahovič Zlatko Zahovič YouTube screenshot

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Zlatko Zahovič claims he was being respectful, but the club has apologised and the Slovenian Football Association launched an investigation. 

STA, March 19, 2018 – Zlatko Zahovič, director of football at reigning football champions Maribor, has come under fire for insulting a reporter of the sports newspaper Ekipa whose father was murdered last year. The Maribor club has already apologised, but Zahovič, a former international star, remains defiant.

The altercation happened at a press conference after Maribor's second consecutive home defeat, when Ekipa's Dejan Mitrović asked a question about the falling number of fans at the club's home games.

Zahovič, Slovenia's all-time top scorer who retired from the field in 2005, lashed out, accusing the reporter of constant provocations, wondering whether the recent death of his father had taight him nothing.

"A tragedy has happened to you recently. Didn't you learn anything? I'd say you didn't. You're still picking fights, you're still impertinent. Ask a normal question and I'll answer.

"I do extend condolences, it's not all black and white in life ... Don't pick fights, son, you're too young," Zahovič spat out in reference to Mitrović's father, who had been shot to death in a street in Maribor in October.

The statement invoked outrage from media as well as journalist associations, with the Association of Sport Journalists of Slovenia and the Slovenian Journalists' Association condemning the verbal attack.

"Every attack on journalists, photojournalists and cameramen is an attack on the public, because they serve the public ... The use of violence, including verbal violence, is a direct attack on freedom - on freedom of expression," the Sport Journalists' Association said.

The Slovenian Football Association and the Maribor club already expressed regret over the altercation, with the Football Association also announcing the launch of disciplinary proceedings against Zahovič.

The association wrote that the proceedings, whose outcome is yet to be determined, are in keeping with the principle of zero tolerance for racial, national, ethnic, sexual, verbal, religious, political or any other type of violence or attack on the dignity of an individual or a group. It will continue to condemn any attacks on human dignity.

The Maribor club issued an apology: "We must maintain our reputation and an upstanding stance regardless of conditions, pertinent questions from the public or potential stories from the past."

"The incident in the conference room is not in line with the values we are committed to. The club distances itself from the words of the director of football and regrets them," the club said on its website.

But Zahovič remains defiant, telling the Maribor-based newspaper Večer that "words like tragedy, condolences and respect are not insulting. They're respectful."

"There's no way I'm going to apologise. I apologised when an apology was due, but it's not now. These three words are respectful and not insulting. If anybody want's to understand them another way, let them," the all-time record holder in goals for Slovenia said.

He added that he would take on any punishment from the club: "If the president says I have to go, I'll go," said Zahovič, who joined Maribor as director of football in 2007.

This is not the first scandal Zahovič has been involved in off the pitch; most recently he peppered Macedonian international Agim Ibraimi with abusive texts, leading to the latter's exit from the club in 2016.

Especially bitter, however, was Zahovič's 2002 dispute with the then head coach of the national team Srečko Katanec as the national team was playing at the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

The clash included Katanec breaking into tears at a press conference after reporting he had suffered a barrage of personal insults from the team's star player. Zahovič called his own press conference in response, saying the coach had also been insulting him as well as other players.

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