Vastic fined for court no-show

A footballer widely regarded as one of the best players who ever stepped on a pitch in Austria has been fined for staying away from a trial.

Ivica Vastic was ordered to go into the witness box in a hearing dealing with alleged malpractices at his former club, Sturm Graz, yesterday (Thurs). However, the ex-Sturm and LASK Linz star failed to turn up.

Judges in Graz issued a 1,000-Euro fine after ruling out that the 41-year-old had been unaware of the order to appear in court. They pointed out he was informed in writing and that he signed upon receiving the notification. Vastic, who resides in Vienna, is due to make his statement on Tuesday (5 July) when the trial against former Sturm Graz President Hannes Kartnig continues.

Vastic won the Bundesliga with Sturm in 1998 and 1999. He captained the team when they played in the UEFA Champions League in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The Croatian-born midfielder played for Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan among other clubs before retiring in 2009 from LASK. He currently coaches the amateur team of Austria Vienna, one of his former clubs.

Vastic played for Austria in the 1998 World Cup in France. He also competed for the national squad at the European Football Championship three years ago. Vastic scored the only goal of Austria’s team in the tournament. The strike from the penalty spot against Poland made him the oldest player ever to find the net in the competition’s history at the age of 38 years.

His son Toni signed with German giants Bayern Munich only a few days ago. The 18-year-old previously played for English side Blackburn Rovers.

Several former Sturm teammates of Ivica Vastic – who accepted the Austrian citizenship in 1996 – including Franco Foda, Tomislav Kocijan and Roman Mählich have appeared in court in Graz as witnesses in the case against Kartnig since March.

The infamously outspoken former club boss is accused of tax evasion and fraud. Kartnig admitted some wrongdoings as far as the tax evasion charges are concerned, arguing that everyone in the business has tried to get the better of fiscal authorities. However, the marketing agency chief pleaded not guilty to fraud. Seven other, less prominent former Sturm Graz decision-makers are also in court as defendants.

Sturm went bankrupt in 2006 but was kept alive by subsidies from provincial funds. The club are up against Hungarian league champions Videoton FC in the UEFA Champions League qualification after having triumphed in the Austrian Bundesliga in the 2010/2011 season.

Kartnig was in custody from May to July 2007 after being released on bail when a security deposit of around 1.2 million Euros was paid.

The penalty for Vastic is not the only extraordinary incident at the trial currently taking place in Graz, the provincial capital of Styria. Only a few weeks ago, a key witness refused to appear in court, explaining he was unwilling to postpone a pilgrimage he had organised in every detail a long time in advance.

The retired public servant told judges he would hike from his home in Vienna to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The man was informed he had to appear in the witness stand after returning from the 3,200-kilometre trip when he stressed having no intentions to make any changes to his route. Juridical officials tried to persuade him to stopover in Graz before continuing his hike. However, the man made clear such a change to his plans was out of the question.