Croatia's Josip Simunic Banned from 2014 World Cup for Discriminatory Behavior

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 16, 2013

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 27:  Josip Simunic of GNK Dinamo Zagreb in action during the UEFA Champions League play-off second leg match between FK Austria Wien and GNK Dinamo Zagreb held on August 27, 2013 at the Austria Arena, in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Samuel Kubani/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Croatian international Josip Simunic has been banned from the 2014 World Cup by FIFA following supposed pro-Nazi chants with fans.

FIFA released a statement Monday, Dec. 16, on the decision.

The incident occurred immediately after Croatia defeated Iceland 2-0 on Nov. 19 in a World Cup playoff to secure their spot in the field of 32. According to FIFA, "The player, after the final whistle, displayed discriminatory behavior in interaction with the Croatian supporters."

An excerpt from FIFA's statement encapsulates the specifics of what happened between Simunic and fans and which codes it specifically violated:

The committee took note that the player, together with the crowd, shouted a Croatian salute that was used during World War II by the fascist “Ustaše” movement. As a consequence, the committee agreed that this salute was discriminatory and offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning, inter alia, race, religion or origin, in a clear breach of article 58 par. 1a) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.

FIFA opened a disciplinary investigation three days later, which lasted more than three weeks before Monday's announcement. It ended with Simunic receiving a 10-game ban, which will begin at the World Cup finals and continue past its ending, per FIFA.

Along with the ban came a fine of more than $33,000 (30,000 Swiss Francs) to Simunic.

The 35-year-old is no stranger to controversy on the pitch. Late in a 2013 World Cup qualifying match against Serbia, Simunic brutally connected with a flying elbow on Serbia's Miralem Sulejmani. He also received three yellow cards in a 2006 World Cup match, a major error by referee Graham Poll.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - JUNE 08: Josip Simunic of Croatia applauds after the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Croatia at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 8, 2008 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

FIFA has taken a strict stance on racism in international football. The organization started a "Say No to Racism" campaign in 2001 that has spurred efforts to rid the game of discriminatory behavior from both fans and players.

A 6'5" defender, Simunic has appeared in 105 games for Croatia's national team and scored three goals. He regularly starts on a Croatia back line that is littered with experience—he's one of three defenders over 30.

Simunic currently plays professionally for Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, where he's been since 2011 after he played for a smattering of Bundesliga clubs from 1998 to 2011.