(WFI) Croatia defender Josip Simunic will not play at the World Cup after he was handed a 10-game ban by FIFA for whipping up pro-Nazi chanting by the team’s fans after their play-off victory over Iceland.
After that Brazil 2014 qualifying match in Zagreb on Nov. 19, FIFA was alerted to Simunic’s display of discriminatory behaviour in interaction with the Croatian supporters after the final whistle.
FIFA said its disciplinary committee said that the 35-year-old player, together with the crowd, shouted a Croatian salute that was used during World War II by the fascist “Ustaše” movement, a clear breach of article 58 par. 1a) of the governing body’s 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,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The first matches of the ten-match suspension have to be served during the final competition of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.”
FIFA said the Croatian is also banned from entering the stadiums where Croatia will play its next 10 matches. He was also fined $33,800.
Damir Vrbanovic, managing director of Croatia’s football federation, said he was shocked by the severity of the penalties handed down by FIFA.
“We will give full support to our team members in the likely appeal to this decision,” he was quoted on the federation’s website, adding that he believed Simunic’s behaviour was not intended to cause offence.
“FIFA with such draconian penalties wanted to send a strong message.”
The Croatian FA’s appeal could end up at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The 10-match ban reflects FIFA’s increased commitment to stamping out all forms of discrimination in football.
FIFA set up a task force against racism and discrimination in March and its resolution on the fight against racism and discrimination, including tougher sanctions, was approved at the FIFA Congress in May.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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