Updated: Monday, 16 Dec 2013 18:00 | Comments
Croatia defender Josip Simunic will miss the World Cup after being banned for 10 matches by FIFA for shouting a fascist salute following his team’s play-off victory over Iceland last month.
World governing body FIFA on Monday confirmed Simunic’s ban will start at the World Cup in Brazil, and also announced he will be banned from entering the stadium for any of the country’s matches.
Simunic has also been ordered to pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs.
The ban could signal the end of the 35-year-old’s international career.
The incident came after Croatia’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Iceland in Zagreb on November 19, a match Croatia won 2-0 in order to secure their place in Brazil.
The Dinamo Zagreb captain was captured on video using a microphone to lead chants which were found to have associations with Croatia’s former pro-Nazi Ustase regime.
A FIFA statement said: “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.
“As a consequence, the committee agreed that this salute was discriminatory and offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning, inter alia, race, religion or origin, in a clear breach of article 58 par. 1a) of the FIFA disciplinary code.
“After taking into account all of the circumstances of the case, and particularly given the gravity of the incident, the committee decided to suspend the player for 10 official matches.”
After disciplinary proceedings were opened against Simunic on November 22, a Dinamo statement denied any intent to make a political statement but confirmed that Simunic had used the phrase: “For the homeland”. Croatian fans replied by shouting: “Ready”.
The 35-year-old, who was born and grew up in Australia, also said at the time he was horrified to have been accused of discrimination.
“The thought that anyone could associate me with any form of hatred or violence terrifies me,” he said in a statement on Dinamo’s official website.
“If anyone understood my cries differently, or negatively, I hereby want to deny they contained any political context.
“They were guided exclusively by my love for my people and homeland, not hatred and destruction.”