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Soccer Star Banned From World Cup After Racist Chanting

A Croatian soccer star has been benched for the upcoming World Cup after making pro-Nazi chants during a soccer game. FIFA, the world organization for soccer, suspended Josip Simunic for 10 matches after he yelled the racist chants when Croatia defeated Iceland in a World Cup playoff match. Simunic’s remarks were identified as “discriminatory and offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning … race, religion or origin.”

When Croatia won the game, Simunic grabbed a microphone and shouted “za dom,” which translates to “for the homeland.” He did this four times and the crowd shouted back “spremni,” meaning “ready,” on each occasion. The official FIFA website confirmed that this was “a Croatian salute that was used during World War II by the fascist ‘Ustase’ movement.

While Simunic admitted making the comment, he denied there was any racist intent behind it. “I was born and raised in countries with western democratic systems and any form of intolerance or bigotry is strange to me and not a part of my personal system of values,” he said. “Additionally, I have devoted my entire life to doing anything I could to help my country, Croatia, and I am immensely proud of that.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter set up a task force to address racism at soccer matches earlier this year. A Moscow team was suspended from hosting home games last fall after large portions of the crowd allegedly yelled racist slurs at an African player. Several incidents of racist behavior by fans during Euro 2012 were also reported.

(Photo: Reuters)

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