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Nov 20, 2013

Croats 'celebrate with pro-Nazi chants'

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Croatia's World Cup qualification celebrations have been marred by apparent pro-Nazi chants by fans and defender Joe Simunic.

Croatia qualified for the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Iceland on Tuesday. Video footage appears to show Simunic taking a microphone to the field after the match and shouting"For the homeland!" ["Za dom spremni!"] to the fans. The fans respond: "Ready!"

That was the war call used by Ustashas, the Croatian pro-Nazi puppet regime that ruled the state during World War II when tens of thousands Jews, Serbs and others perished in concentration camps.

The Australian-born Simunic defended his action, saying "some people have to learn some history. I'm not afraid."

"I did nothing wrong. I'm supporting my Croatia, my homeland," the 35-year-old defender said. "If someone has something against it, that's their problem."

The same chant coupled with the Nazi salute has often been used by Croatian fans in the past. FIFA and UEFA have fined the Croatian football federation on several occasions because of their behaviour.

On Wednesday, Croatian media hit out at Simunic and called his chants "a discgrace." Pictures and videos of Simunic doing the chants were published on online outlets throughout Croatia.

"Our team has waited for this celebration for a long time and Joe ruins everything," the daily 24sata commented.

There was no immediate reaction from FIFA to the latest incident.

At the 2006 World Cup, Simunic was the player who received three yellow cards in one match before being sent off.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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