‘Shocked and concerned’: Football Australia hits Nazi-saluting fan with lifetime ban

A Sydney United 58 fan caught performing a Nazi salute by broadcast cameras at Saturday night’s Australia Cup final has been hit with a lifetime ban from attending matches, effective immediately.

The man, who has been identified by Football Australia but not named publicly, will be unable to attend any future games sanctioned by the governing body, including all national team, A-Leagues, NPL and Australia Cup fixtures.

He may also be subject to criminal charges, with a NSW Police investigation into anti-social behaviour at CommBank Stadium ongoing, while Football Australia says it is continuing to work with authorities to identify any other people to have behaved similarly.

It comes as chief executive James Johnson penned an open letter to the Australian football community on Wednesday, saying that he was “shocked and concerned” by some of the conduct that emerged from the cup final, which was won 2-0 by Macarthur FC.

“What should have been a celebration of a tightly contested and excellent game of football has been marred by the actions of groups of a few people, which do not represent the values and expectations of our football community,” he wrote.

“Their actions have disrespected, hurt, and offended members of our football community.

A Sydney United 58 supporter has been hit with a life ban.Credit:Getty

“I would like to remind our community that if you are impacted by or witness anti-social behaviour, reports can be made confidentially through Football Australia’s Member Protection Framework.

“Finally, I want to thank the Australian football community for taking a stand and making it clear that they will not accept this kind of behaviour and that it has no place in our game.”

Football Australia also issued Sydney United 58, formerly known as Sydney Croatia and a three-time grand finalist in the old National Soccer League, with a show cause notice earlier in the week under FA’s national code of conduct and ethics, giving them an opportunity to provide submissions on alleged infringements contained within the notice.

The club has complied and is continuing to assist FA and relevant authorities with their investigations, and released a statement earlier in the week denouncing the conduct of fans that it said was not aligned with the views of the club or its wider fan base, and applauding the community for speaking out. FA is unlikely to come down hard on the club itself if it makes a genuine attempt at removing the problematic elements from its supporter base, and is expected to block Sydney United 58 from entering a proposed national second division if the issues persist.

More than 16,000 fans attended CommBank Stadium for the match – the vast majority of whom were supporting Sydney United 58, the first team from outside the A-League to reach the Australia Cup final. While only a few people were caught performing Nazi or fascist salutes, thousands sang “Za Dom Spremni” (for homeland – ready), a slogan closely associated with the Ustashe movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. Others held banners featuring Ustashe symbols or other designs related to the far right.

Fans were also criticised for failing to observe the pre-match Welcome to Country – instead singing, cheering and jeering throughout the address by Erin Wilkins, who fielded an apologetic phone call from Johnson while the game was ongoing.

“The Nazi salutes and Nazi iconography, it’s got to be eradicated,” former Socceroo and Sydney United junior Mark Bosnich said this week on Stan Sport FC.

“This is something that led to great pain for a lot of people and needs to be totally eradicated. It’s important not to paint all Australian Croatians, and all football supporters, with the same brush. There was 16,000 people there at the weekend.

“Let’s be generous and say there were 100 people who were causing issues. That’s less than one per cent and it’s also up to the Croatian Australian supporters as well, not to be brought down by what’s occurred. Completely eradicate it, don’t want to see it in life, let alone in my sport.”

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport. Matchday 3 continues with Chelsea v Milan (Thursday 5.35am AEDT) and Arsenal v Bodø/Glimt (Friday 5.35am AEDT).

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