ZURICH — FIFA has banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 games — including the entire World Cup — for leading fans in a pro-Nazi chant after the team qualified for the tournament in Brazil.
Simunic invoked a World War II-era slogan used by Croatia’s then-puppet regime following a 2-0 playoff victory against Iceland last month.
“After taking into account all of the circumstances of the case, and particularly given the gravity of the incident, the committee decided to suspend the player for 10 official matches,” FIFA said in a statement.
The incident is the latest to discredit football in Croatia, after UEFA President Michel Platini described its fans as the worst behaved at the 2012 European Championship.
Croatia hosted Iceland in Zagreb on November 19 for a decisive qualifying match after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.
After the match, the 35-year-old Simunic took a microphone on the pitch and shouted to supporters: “For the homeland!” The fans responded: “Ready!”
FIFA said Monday that the salute was “discriminatory and offended the dignity of a group of persons concerning … race, religion or origin.”
Simunic will miss the whole World Cup tournament in Brazil and is also barred from the stadiums where Croatia will play its next 10 games.
FIFA also fined Simunic 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,800) and ordered the Croatia football federation to pay a fine of 70,000 Swiss francs ($78,700).
Simunic previously defended his action, saying he was driven by love for his country.
The Australia-born player represented Croatia at the 2006 World Cup and famously was sent off against Australia.
In a separate FIFA disciplinary verdict Monday, Croatia star forward Mario Mandzukic was banned for just one World Cup match for a red-card challenge against Iceland.
Mandzukic will miss the tournament’s opening match when Croatia plays host Brazil in Sao Paulo on June 12.
The FIFA panel imposed the minimum sanction on Mandzukic for serious foul play.
The Bayern Munich forward, who scored the opening goal minutes earlier, was sent off for stamping on Iceland midfielder Johann Gudmundsson’s left knee.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.