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Simunic out of World Cup

Friday, March 21, 2014

GENEVA - Australian-born Croatia defender Josip Simunic will miss the World Cup after FIFA rejected his appeal against a 10-match ban for pro-Nazi chants after a play-off match last November.

Football's world governing body said on Wednesday its appeals committee "has decided to reject the appeal lodged by Croatian international Josip Simunic and to confirm the decision rendered by the FIFA disciplinary committee ... in its entirety."

Simunic was sanctioned for "a display of discriminatory behaviour" after Croatia's World Cup qualifying play-off against Iceland in Zagreb on November 19, which Croatia won 2-0 to secure their place in Brazil.

The 35-year-old shouted "za dom" — Croatian for "for the homeland" — four times.

In response, fans chanted "spremni", meaning "ready".

The chant was used by Croatia's World War II Ustase regime, allied to Nazi Germany, which killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, anti-fascist Croatians, Roma and others in concentration camps.

In December, FIFA's disciplinary committee had ruled the salute was "discriminatory" and decided to suspend Simunic for 10 official matches, beginning at the World Cup in Brazil.

The Dinamo Zagreb captain was also banned from even entering the stadium for those 10 matches and fined 25,000 euros ($A38,000).

Croatian prosecutors have also fined Simunic 3,200 euros ($A5,000) for inciting racial hatred, maintaining the player was aware that the chant symbolised the official salute of Croatia's totalitarian wartime regime.

Simunic, who was born to Croatian immigrant parents in the Australian capital Canberra, said at the time he was motivated solely by "love of my people (Croatian) and homeland".

"The thought that anyone could associate me with any form of hatred or violence terrifies me," he said.

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