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By ESPN Staff

Vukovic banned for striking a referee

SYDNEY, Australia -- Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was suspended for 15 months and could be banned from the Beijing Olympics for striking a referee during an Australian league soccer final

Six months of the ban was suspended on a probationary basis. Vukovic was found guilty by Football Federation Australia of violent conduct. His Central Coast Mariners lost 1-0 to the Newcastle Jets in the A-League championship at Sydney. Vukovic has seven days to appeal the decision.

Tape of the game shows Vukovic striking referee Mark Shield's arm following a corner kick. The Mariners contended the referee missed a hand ball by Newcastle's James Holland.

"It's stupid, there's no doubt about that," Australia coach Pim Verbeek said, referring to Vukovic's actions. "We can be honest about that. He should have never done that."

Vukovic will not be eligible to play in the A-League until Nov. 24. His chance to represent Australia at the Olympics is threatened because the FFA is "considering the extension of the sanction beyond the A-League, including to national team duty."

He was an regular member of the Australian under-23 team during last year's successful qualifying campaign.