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Simunic fined for pro-Nazi chants

Josip Simunic
The 35-year-old defender denies any pro-Nazi involvement.
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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP)

AT CLOSE RANGE

With the World Cup one year away, Brazil's final sprint starts now.

A Croatian soccer player has been fined $4,300 for pro-Nazi chants after the national team qualified for the World Cup.

Croatia reached next year's tournament in Brazil by beating Iceland 2-0 on Tuesday. After the match, Josip Simunic took a microphone on the field and shouted to fans: ''For the homeland!'' The fans responded: ''Ready!''

The call was used by the Croatian pro-Nazi puppet regime that ruled the state during World War II.

The prosecutor's office fined Simunic on Thursday for ''spreading racial hatred.'' It said he was aware this was the call used by the WWII regime. Simunic has defended his action, saying he was driven by love for his country.

Soccer's governing body says it is considering disciplinary action against him.

The Australian born footballer said in a statement on Wednesday: "Even the thought that someone could put me in the context of incitement of hatred or violence is horrible. As a Croatian who was born and grew up outside my homeland, I associate home with love, warmth and positive struggle -- everything that we showed on the pitch to win our place in the World Cup.

"And these were the only reasons I got carried away with my emotions and why I started the kind of exchange with the supporters."