‘No place in our game’: Football Australia criticises fans for Nazi salutes

Football Australia has criticised what it said was a “very small minority of fans” who were caught performing what appeared to be Nazi salutes and engaging in other anti-social behaviour during Saturday night’s Australia Cup final at CommBank Stadium.

A near-record crowd of over 16,000 people saw Macarthur FC win 2-0 over Sydney United 58, a former National Soccer League powerhouse who were making history as the first non-A-League team to reach the final of the knockout tournament.

Sydney United fans at the Australia Cup game.Credit:Getty

One of the country’s most storied football clubs, former players like Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, Tony Popovic, Marko Rudan and Mark Bosnich were on hand to watch them face the Bulls, the raging hot favourites who had only a tiny portion of the crowd in their favour.

In addition, United – founded by Croatian immigrants in 1958 – had the extra support of thousands of interstate travellers who are in Sydney for the long-running annual Australian-Croatian Soccer Tournament, which is being hosted by club at Edensor Park.

It unsurprisingly led to an incendiary atmosphere. The pre-match Welcome to Country was marred by booing and chanting that drowned out Erin Wilkins’ address and continued during the national anthem, while scenes were later sullied when several fans were caught on Network Ten’s cameras with their right arms raised in what appeared to be Nazi salutes, prompting others on social media to voice their disgust.

A section of fans from United, formerly known as Sydney Croatia, sang “Za Dom Spremni” (for homeland – ready) – a chant used by the far right Ustase movement in the 1930s and 1940s.

Football Australia condemned those responsible but stressed that the majority of fans on Saturday night were well-behaved.

A NSW Police spokesperson said no arrests were made. FA said eight people were evicted.

“One of Football Australia’s core values is being inclusive and diverse,” a Football Australia spokesperson said.

Macarthur FC celebrate winning the Australia Cup Final.Credit:Getty

“Our strength as a sport is our diversity. We celebrate that football is embedded in the nation’s social fabric and it follows the diverse story of Australia.

“In saying that, Football Australia acknowledges that a very small minority of attendees engaged in behaviour that is not consistent with Football Australia’s values and wider community expectations.

“Football Australia took steps during the match to address these isolated behaviours, including eight evictions. Football Australia will continue to gather information from the venue, clubs, and authorities on this matter, as anti-social behaviour has no place in our game.”

United made grand finals in 1988, 1997 and 1999 in the old NSL, which was replaced by the A-League and was deliberately filled with new franchises instead of ethnic-backed teams in a bid to appeal to mainstream Australia.

These days, they play in the semi-professional NSW NPL, but their miracle run in the Australia Cup has put them on a true national stage for the first time in almost two decades.

with AAP

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