Croatia punishes Simunic for Nazi chant

Croatian public prosecutors have fined international Josip Simunic 25,000 kuna (¬£2700) for pro-Nazi chants he shouted following Tuesday’s World Cup play-off victory over Iceland.

At the end of the 2-0 win, Australia-born Simunic took the microphone at Maksimir Stadium, turned to the stands and shouted “for the Homeland”, to which members of the crowd replied “Ready”.

The chant is widely associated with Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime, which ruled in 1941-45 and brutally persecuted Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats.

In a statement on its website, prosecutors of the Zagreb county court said Simunic was found guilty of public disturbance and inciting ethnic hatred.

“He was aware that it symbolizes the official salute from the time of Croatia’s totalitarian regime and as such represents a racist ideology,” the statement said.

Simunic claimed, somewhat unconvincingly, that his chant had been misinterpreted.

“As a Croatian who was born and grew up outside my homeland, I associate home with love, warmth and positive struggle – everything we showed on the pitch to win our place in the World Cup,” he said.

The Jutarnji List newspaper quoted an official of FARE (Football against Racism in Europe) as saying Simunic was likely to be suspended for several games.

Local media also reported FIFA was looking into official match and FARE reports before ruling on Simunic.