Nazi salutes and football: A potty history

Date published: Tuesday 15th October 2019 8:50

Those ‘fans’ are not alone. Not that that should provide any consolation…

Mark Bosnich

The incident: Reacting to Tottenham fans taunting him with chants about former striker Jurgen Klinsmann – who he had injured in a game a year prior – Mark Bosnich aimed a Nazi salute towards the White Hart Lane crowd during a game in 1996.

The excuse: “To be honest I’m a bit distraught. I’d just like to say that it was something done out of ignorance.

“For me it was a real joke, but it’s been taken so much out of proportion and I’m so, so sorry. I know the Spurs fans have lost people in the war, but I also lost people in the war.

“I thought the crowd were laughing with me. Obviously I was mistaken. It’s been taken out of context and I’m really sorry. I was being taunted all game. I’m so sad.

“I also do not comprehend that people would believe that someone with a Jewish aunt would in any way go out to deliberately offend people.

“Ever since the Klinsmann incident I have been cast as a villain by Spurs fans. When an amusing reference was made to the incident on Saturday I mimicked the Basil Fawlty salute as a mere jocular acknowledgement of the crowd’s banter.

“I was astonished to be booked, let alone to raise the effect it later generated. Once again, I am very sorry if I offended anybody and no offence was intended, only comical mimicry.”

The punishment: He was fined £1,000.

The aftermath: He spent three more years at Aston Villa before re-joining Manchester United in 1999 and winning a Premier League title.

Sir Alex Ferguson branded Bosnich a “terrible professional” in his 2013 autobiography. Was it the salute? Or the failed drugs test in 2002 which led to his Chelsea sacking and a nine-month football ban? Or his $5,000-a-week cocaine addiction, during which time he almost shot his father with an air rifle because he believed him to be an intruder? Or the fact that he almost missed his second wedding because he had only been released on police bail hours earlier? Or the fact that he and Dwight Yorke made a sex tape? Or the fact that he is a ‘Tory admirer’?

Paolo Di Canio

The incident: Oh, there was more than one. Di Canio first courted controversy for his ‘Roman salutes’ on January 6, 2005 when celebrating a 3-1 win for Lazio over Roma. He followed that with a similar action after another 3-1 win, this time over Livorno on April 10. He made the same gesture against the same team in a 2-1 defeat in December, then during a 1-1 draw with Juventus a week later. Solid year.

The excuse: “I am a professional footballer and my celebrations had nothing to do with political behaviour of any kind.

“I am a fascist, not a racist. I made the Roman salute because it’s a salute from a comrade to his comrades and was meant for my people. With this stiff arm I do not want to incite violence or racial hatred.”

He would later claim that the gesture against Roma was “a misrepresentation by the cameraman”. Which doesn’t quite explain the rest.

The punishment: He and Lazio were both fined €10,000 by the Italian Football League for the Roma salute. He was banned for one match and fined €10,000 again for the second Livorno salute, and received the same punishment for the subsequent Juventus salute.

The aftermath: The aforementioned fines and bans did little to prevent Di Canio from airing his views. Quotes from his 2001 autobiography resurfaced, in which he referred to former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as ‘basically a very principled, ethical individual’ who was ‘deeply misunderstood’. He has a tattoo of the Latin word ‘DUX’, which translates to Il Duce in Italian – a nickname for Mussolini.

In 2010, Di Canio attended the funeral of senior fascist Paolo Signorelli, who had been convicted for his involvement in the Bologna massacre, a neo-fascist terrorist attack which left 85 people dead in 1980.

When he became manager of Swindon Town in 2011, the trade union GMB cut short their sponsorship agreement with the club, citing their inability ‘to have a financial relationship with a club that has a fascist manager’.

It also created something of an issue when he was appointed Sunderland boss two years later. The club’s vice-chairman David Miliband stepped down ‘in the light of the new manager’s past political statements’.

In 2016, Sky Sport Italia were forced to apologise after he appeared as a pundit in a short-sleeve shirt, revealing the aforementioned ‘DUX’ tattoo. He was subsequently suspended by the station.

The England national football team

The incident: May 14, 1938. Germany v England. Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. As the German national anthem was played out in front of a 110,000-strong crowd, the England players joined their German counterparts in making the Nazi salute.

The excuse: Officially, nothing. Hitler was not even in attendance at the game, with Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and Joseph Goebbels among those there in his stead.

The salute was a directive from the Foreign Office, which sought to appease Germany and avoid any potential conflict during their aggressive annexation of a region of the Czech Republic. The players initially refused, only for the British Ambassador to Germany, Sir Neville Henderson, to intervene. The team were told to give the salute for the sake of Anglo-German relations, and eventually acquiesced.

“All the England players were livid and totally opposed to this, myself included,” Sir Stanley Matthews, who scored in a 6-3 win, later recalled.

“Eddie Hapgood, normally a respected and devoted captain, wagged his finger at the official and told him what he could do with his Nazi salute, which involved putting it where the sun doesn’t shine.”

The punishment: Decades of shame and embarrassment. And angry newspaper reports back home.

The aftermath: Four months later, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared “peace for our time” with the signing of the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German declaration. Chamberlain referred to the deal “as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again”.

Twelve months later, the Second World War broke out.


Giorgos Katidis

The incident: Celebrating his winning goal for AEK Athens against Veria in March 2013 with a Nazi salute, a day before the 70th anniversary of Greek Jew deportations in Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.

The excuse: “I want to clarify that I am not a fascist or neo-Nazi or racist. I have a step-brother from Puerto Rico, and all my family are from the Black Sea and have experienced racism in the worst ways.

“I sincerely apologise to my teammates and everyone involved with the club that I have insulted in not knowing exactly what I had done in my celebration.

“Nonetheless, the fact that I did not know what I was doing is no excuse. I despise fascism. I would not have done it if I knew what something like this meant. I know what the consequences are and I would never have done it.

“The reason I did that was to get the audience up. I meant: ‘I scored for AEK, get up for me!’ I know it sounds like an excuse, but honestly, I did not know who Hitler was.”

Katidis would go on to explain that he was simply pointing to teammate Michalis Pavlis in the stands, dedicating the goal to him as he was fighting multiple sclerosis.

The punishment: The Hellenic Football Federation voted unanimously in favour of giving Katidis, a former Greece U21 captain, a lifetime ban from all Greek national teams. He was also fined €50,000, and suspended by AEK for the rest of the season.

The aftermath: Katidis left AEK in summer 2013, just one year after signing a four-year contract with the club. Believing that people will be waiting “with a gun to his head” if he continued playing in Greece, he instead left for Italian side Novara.

The Serie B club’s owner, Massimo De Salvo, insisted “we don’t have the intention to play down his gesture,” but added: “We want to give him another chance, because we believe that making such a mistake is serious, but acknowledging it is worthy.”

The Italian media were not quite as forgiving, dubbing Katidis ‘the Greek Di Canio’. At his presentation press conference, the midfielder stated that he was “not afraid of being targeted by fans of other teams,” reiterating that his gesture had no “political significance”.

Katidis spent just one year in Italy, flying under the radar by making ten appearances as Novara were relegated. He then decided to return to Greece in summer 2014, little over a year after he felt hounded out of his homeland. Which club did he join? That would be Veria: the very team he scored against for AEK Athens before making a Nazi salute.

Katidis, still only 25, has since played for Levadiakos and Panegialios in Greece, FF Jaro of Finland and the Czech Republic’s FK Olympia Prague and FK Příbram, staying for no longer than a single season at each. Months after the incident, he got a tattoo of the words ‘MY MISTAKE’, along with the date of his controversial celebration.


Pavel Horváth

The incident: Allegedly taunted Viktoria Zizkov fans during a 4-1 victory for Sparta Prague in August 2007. Television footage showed the midfielder outstretching his right arm towards home fans twice, at which point Horvath had been substituted soon after opening the scoring with a penalty.

The excuse: “The gestures were unfortunate and I immediately publicly apologised for them to those who could feel hurt. But I would like to stress that I didn’t use words or gestures which would promote fascism.”

He would add that he was simply trying to calm the club’s fans down.

The punishment: He was fined 200,000 Czech koruna – approximately £70,000.

The aftermath: Nothing, really. Horvath played the next game, making 24 appearance in Sparta’s league-winning campaign, and playing five times in their run to the UEFA Cup group stages. He was named Personality of the League at the Czech Footballer of the Year awards in 2010, so his reputation was hardly tarnished.


Adebowale Ogungbure

The incident: In response to disgusting racial abuse, including being called a “n*****” and “ape” by opposition fans during a game between FC Sachsen Leipzig and Hallescher FC, he placed two fingers above his mouth and held out his right arm.

The reason: “I was just so angry, I didn’t care. I could have been killed but I had to do something. I thought to myself, what can I do to get them as angry as they have made me? Then when I lifted my arm I saw the anger in their faces and I started to laugh.

“I’ve faced some sort of racist abuse at about half the matches I’ve played. I’ve never seen anyone spit at a dog or a cat in Germany – why should I be spat at?”

The punishment: Ogungbure was arrested for “unconstitutional behavior” by German police. The charges were thankfully dropped within 24 hours.

The aftermath: Ogungbure played much of the rest of his career in Germany, with supporters of FC Sachsen forming the ‘Wir sind Ade’ (We are Ade-bowale) campaign to raise attention for both his situation and the wider problem of racism in the country. According to Wikipedia, ‘the initiative still exists as ‘Bunte Kurve’.


Joey Barton

The incident: Celebrating the opening goal in a 6-0 win for Newcastle over Aston Villa in August 2010 by, according to ESPN, ‘raising his right hand to his lip and his left arm straight up in the air’.

The excuse: “I was simply saying the moustache goes. There are a few of the lads desperate to get it off. It is either the end of my moustache or the end of my relationship, so I’m glad it is going.”

The punishment: Nothing, obviously.

The aftermath: He had a shave, joined QPR, helped Manchester City win their first Premier League title, joined Marseille on loan, moved to Burnley, signed for Rangers, called N’Golo Kante overrated, tried to start fights with David UnsworthJurgen Klopp and Scott McTominay, received an 18-month ban for betting-related FA charges, retired and became Fleetwood manager, using a big word at his unveiling and allegedly assaulting Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel.


Wayne Hennessey

The incident: Waving and shouting at a person taking a picture of him and his Crystal Palace teammates to get on with it, putting his hand over his mouth to make the sound carry.

The excuse: As above. Any resemblance to a Nazi salute was “absolutely coincidental”.

The punishment: Nothing. The charge was found not proven.

The aftermath: He must deal with the fact that it is public knowledge that he “displayed a very considerable – one might even say lamentable – degree of ignorance about anything to do with Hitler, Fascism and the Nazi regime” when cross-examined.

Matt Stead


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