ZURICH: World federation FIFA sent out its clearest warning yet about a ramping up of its concern over racist behaviour when it banned Croatia midfielder Josip Simunic for 10 matches writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The ban means Simunic, 35-year-old Australian-born-and-raised midfielder, will miss the World Cup finals in Brazil, pending an appeal by his federation.
Simunic landed in trouble at the end of Croatia’s qualifying play-off victory over Iceland in Zagreb, on November 19, when he joined fans in shouting a Croat salute 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.
The world federation confirmed that the ban would include Croatia’s matches at the 2014 World Cup finals in which they have been drawn in Group A along with Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon. Croatia will play the tournament hosts in the Opening Match in Sao Paulo.
Simunic, who has scored three goals in 105 internationals, has also been barred from entering the stadia at matches from which he is suspended and been fined 30,000 Swiss francs.
The son of Bosnian Croat immigrants to Australia, Simunic was born in Canberra and graduated through the Australian Institute of Sport. He 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.