Craig Foster has condemned the scenes that marred the Australia Cup final as ‘abhorrent’ and called on the sport’s governing body to deliver an ‘extremely strong’ response to the incidents.
Macarthur’s 2-0 win over Sydney United 58 was overshadowed by an unpleasant spectacle at CommBank Stadium on Saturday, with a section of United fans signing throughout the national anthem.
Erin Wilkins’ pregame Welcome to Country ceremony was drowned out by loud boos and chants.
Sydney United fans will reportedly boo and sing during Welcome to Country
After the start of the game, videos and photos posted on social media showed several Sydney United fans singing fascist songs and making what appeared to be Nazi salutes.
Speaking at Stan Sport FC on Tuesday, Foster said the Australian football community needed to show its resolve at a delicate time for the sport.
“It’s the most disgusting thing we’ve seen at a game of football for a very long time,” said the former Socceroos captain.
‘The most important thing is that the game responds appropriately, and that means extremely strongly.’
Foster noted that Australian football has in the past been plagued by a ‘defensiveness’ that has often prevented it from confronting its demons, but urged the governing body to respond resolutely.
“The bottom line is that something abhorrent has happened here, and the game needs to be big enough, strong enough and dedicated enough to its own principles to take the absolutely strongest action possible,” he continued.
“So there’s an investigation now, and obviously these people, lifetime bans are a given, if not a criminal case. But what’s really important is that the game makes sure that this investigation is thorough.’
Sydney United’s miracle run to the final had been the story of the competition this season until Saturday when they became the first domestic Premier League side to reach the final.
Sydney United, a powerhouse in the old National Soccer League, knocked out A-League sides Western United and Brisbane Roar heavyweights in the process.
Formerly known as Sydney Croatia, Sydney United has long been a focal point for the Croatian community in Sydney and beyond.
However, some elements of the club’s hardcore support – the Sydney United Supporters group (SUS) – have been pictured making Roman salutes and carrying flags depicting white supremacy and fascist imagery.
SUS members have also sung songs celebrating the Ustaše – an ultra-nationalist right-wing organization that from 1929 to 1945 supported the creation of a greater and ‘racially pure Croatia’.
A number of Sydney United fans appeared to make Nazi salutes during the match
The scenes on Saturday felt particularly close to home for Foster, who played for Sydney United for a season.
“I played for what used to be called Sydney Croatia and we all have a great feeling for the club and the legends that have come through it,” he said.
‘But this cannot happen […] it’s not good enough for the game to just say, “Well, there’s a few bad apples here doing terrible things, and we’ll move on.”
‘The game has to be incredibly strong, it’s an opportunity for leadership from everyone in the game […] There is a line here that this has crossed and everyone is being held properly accountable now.’
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has called for Australian football to crack down on those found guilty of racism and paying homage to Nazis
On the same show, former Socceroos star Mark Bosnich said the behavior of some Sydney United fans should be “completely eradicated” from the game.
Bosnich, who is of Croatian descent and played for Sydney United himself, also warned that some Sydney United fans should not use a stick to beat the Croatian community and football supporters.
“The Nazi salute and the Nazi iconography, that has to be eradicated,” Bosnich said.
‘This is something that caused great pain to many people and must be totally eradicated. It is important not to paint all Australian Croats and all football fans with the same brush.
Sydney United fans dominated the 16,461 crowd at CommBank Stadium on Saturday
Sydney United fans created a frenzied atmosphere at CommBank Stadium, but several of them crossed a line when they gave Nazi salutes and booed the national anthem
Formerly known as Sydney Croatia, Sydney United has long been a focal point for the Croatian community in Sydney and beyond
‘And it’s also up to the Croatian Australian supporters not to be put off by what has happened. Completely eradicate it, don’t want to see it in life, let alone in my sport.’
Football Australia (FA) vowed to take strong action in response to ‘anti-social behaviour’ by some supporters in the 16,461 crowd, dominated by Sydney United supporters.
Meanwhile, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said some supporters at the Parramatta venue were ‘absolutely appalling’ and called for them to be banned for life.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has called for lifetime bans to be issued to some fans
“It has no place, not just at sports games, but anywhere in our state, and I know the police are looking into it,” Perrottet told reporters.
‘The people who did it through those greetings should be banned for life.’
Foster echoed Perrottet’s tough stance: ‘The message is simple. You’re not part of us, we don’t want you, don’t come back.’