Croatia football team criticized over pro-Nazi cheer


Defender Josip Simunic faces a ban up to six games for leading a pro-Nazi cheer following a recent match against Iceland.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 03/12/13


Josip Simunic is being criticised for leading the Nazi-era chant "For the homeland!" after Croatia qualified for the World Cup. [AFP]

Croatia's football team continues to be criticised for the actions of one of its players who led a chant with pro-Nazi connotations following a recent match.

Fans and officials have condemned the behaviour of defender Josip Simunic, who was fined 3,500 euros by Croatian prosecutors for "spreading racial hatred" following the November 20th match against Iceland.

Simunic took a microphone at the end of the game and chanted, "For the homeland!" to which some fans cried, "Ready!" That was the war call used by Ustashas, the Croatian Nazi puppet regime during World War II.

"Proceedings were opened against Simunic for his own behaviour and other proceedings were opened against Croatia for improper conduct of the spectators. At this stage, we cannot make any further comments," FIFA spokesperson Sascha Rhyner told SETimes.

Simunic, who faces a ban of up to six games, denied having any political intent, but Croatian prosecutors said he knew that the chant was used by the country's pro-Nazi regime during World War II.

"The thought that anyone could associate me with any form of hatred or violence terrifies me. I was guided exclusively by my love for my people and homeland, not hatred and destruction," Simunic said in a statement on FC Dinamo's official website.

Local sport authorities have also launched an investigation. The Croatian Olympic Committee (HOO) announced that the results of the investigation will be known in a few days.

"Regarding this match, HOO will ask for a report of its member, the Croatian Football Federation to determine all the facts. The Ethics Committee of HOO received the application of one person against Josip Simunic. HOO always condemns every form of compromising ethical and moral principles of human dignity, fair play, tolerance and culture of sport," Manuel Sentdjerdji Corkovic, HOO spokeswoman, told SETimes.

The person who reported Simunic to the HOO was Zeljko Jovanovic, minister of education and sport, who condemned the player's behaviour.

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"After the victory of our team which qualified for the World Cup in Brazil and with that made the most beautiful greetings to all citizens, the chant 'Ready for the homeland' is a nonsense that should not be tolerated. We know how many people died and suffered under the Ustasha regime. We need to explain to young people that Croatia does not need such parole," Jovanovic said.

European officials have also condemned the incident, while fans formed a Facebook page calling on Simunic's expulsion from the national team for what they called a "bad impact on the reputation of Croatia."

"Football has nothing to do with politics. People like Simunic obviously do not understand that. If this is not solved then all the world will remember us as a Nazi country that does not tolerate other nations. We do not need that," Maida Galjovic, a student of political science from Zagreb, told SETimes.

How should FIFA and Croatian authorities handle Simunic's actions and apology? Add your thoughts in the space below.

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