Croatia international Josip Simunic handed 10-match ban
Will miss their 2014 World Cup campaign
Simunic accused of 'pro-Nazi' chants in qualifying game
FIFA finds him guilty of discriminatory behavior
Croatia international Josip Simunic will miss the World Cup after being banned for 10 matches by FIFA for his ‘pro-Nazi’ chants as he celebrated his country’s qualification to the finals in Brazil next year.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee said Monday that Simunic’s chants following Croatia’s 2-0 win over Iceland in a playoff match last month – were “discriminatory and offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning … race, religion or origin.”
The 35-year-old Simunic had grabbed a microphone at the end of the match in Zagreb on November 19 and shouted loudly “za dom” – translated from Croatian as “for the homeland” – with the crowd replying “spremni”, meaning “ready”, four times in response.
“The committee took note that the player, together with the crowd, shouted a Croatian salute that was used during World War II by the fascist “Ustase” movement,” read a statement on the official FIFA website.
“Given the gravity of the incident, the committee decided to suspend the player for ten official matches,” the statement went on, adding the stipulation that the ban would take effect only from the start of the World Cup next June.
Simunic has also been banned from the stadiums where the matches are being played and has been fined 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,530).
Simunic, who was born in Australia, has always denied his chants had fascist connotations.
“I was born and raised in countries with western democratic systems and any form of intolerance or bigotry is strange to me and not a part of my personal system of values,” he told the official website of the Croatian football federation.
“Additionally, I have devoted my entire life to doing anything I could to help my country, Croatia, and I am immensely proud of that.”
Dinamo Zagreb defender Simunic spent the bulk of his career in the German Bundesliga and made his international debut for Croatia in 2001.
Croatia has fallen foul of both European governing body UEFA and FIFA for the actions of its supporters in the past.
UEFA sanctioned its federation on three occasions during Euro 2012 involving crowd disorder and racist behavior by its fans as they exited at the group stages.
World governing body FIFA has also toughened its stance on racism with its president Sepp Blatter setting up a special task force earlier this year after several high-profile incidents.