ZURICH: Croatia midfielder Josip Simunic is appealing against a 10-match ban which would rule him out of the World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Simunic was banned for a racist offence after the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
Confirmation of his appeal came from FIFA in a statement setting out the suspensions affecting Simunic and other players likely to be selected by their countries for the finals in Brazil in June and July.
Banned from their countries’ opening games are Colombia’s Fredy Alejandro Guarín Vásquez (v Greece on June 14), Iran’s Sosha Makani (v Nigeria on June 16) and Croatia’s Mario Mandžukić (v Croatia on June 12).
Simunic was banned initially for 10 competitive matches and also from “entering the confines of the stadiums for those matches.” However the continuation of his appeal means confirmation of the punishment is not yet final.
Simunic, 35-year-old Australian-born-and-raised midfielder, landed in trouble at the end of Croatia’s qualifying play-off victory over Iceland in Zagreb, on November 19. He joined fans in shouting a Croat salute which was used during World War II by the fascist Ustaše movement.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee ruled that the salute had been discriminatory and “offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning,inter alia, race, religion or origin” in a clear breach of world federation statutes.
Simunic, who has scored three goals in 105 internationals, was born in Canberra, Australia, the son of Bosnian Croat immigrants.
He graduated from the Australian Institute of Sport and played as a teenager for Melbourne Knights before moving to Europe with Hamburg, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and Dinamo Zagreb, his present club.
After playing in all three of Croatia’s matches at the 2002 World Cup finals, Simunic obtained notoriety in Germany four years later when he was yellow-carded twice against Australia without being sent off by the mistaken English referee Graham Poll.
At the final whistle Simunic remonstrated with Poll who then showed him a third yellow card and a red.