Court denounces ‘hateful’ soccer match Nazi salutes

Miklos Bolza |

Three Croatians have been fined for making Nazi salutes during the 2022 Australia Cup soccer final.
Three Croatians have been fined for making Nazi salutes during the 2022 Australia Cup soccer final.

A magistrate has issued a stern warning that Nazi symbols were not to be tolerated after convicting three Croatians who made a Hitler salute during the 2022 Australia Cup final.

Nikola Marko Gasparovic, 46, Dominik Sieben, 25, and Marijan Lisica, 45, performed the salute at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium on October 1, 2022, during the match between Sydney United 58 and Macarthur FC.

At the game, Sieben wore a Croatian waterpolo cap and had a national flag draped over his shoulders while Lisica arrived in full-army camouflage fatigues.

On Thursday, they were each fined $500 and convicted after being found guilty of one count of publicly displaying a Nazi symbol without reasonable excuse.

This offence carries a maximum jail term of 12 months.

Magistrate Joy Boulos found beyond reasonable doubt that the three men had “deliberately and intentionally” performed the Nazi salute, rejecting their arguments the hand gesture was a symbol of Croatian national pride.

“At a time when we need to reduce racial tension, all this behaviour does is to inflame those tensions and there must be a strong condemnation to others who think this behaviour is acceptable,” she told Parramatta Local Court.

“Nazi symbols represent hatred, abject racism, genocide and a hateful ideology.”

Nikola Marko Gasparovic (file image)
Nikola Marko Gasparovic performed the salute to Network Ten cameras at the game. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

The salutes were done at times when each man was alone or others in the crowd were not cheering or waving their hands.

The three men did not know each other before being arrested.

Sieben and Gasparovic had received lifetime bans from attending future football matches after performing the salute to Network Ten cameras which were broadcasting the game, the court was told.

Lisica was only captured performing the salute on the stadium’s CCTV cameras and was banned for one year.

Ms Boulos rejected Sieben’s evidence, given to police in an interview outside his home after the match, that he did not know that the salute was connected with Nazi Germany.

Marijan Lisica (file image)
Marijan Lisica was banned for a year from attending football matches. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“I find it inherently implausible that a young man with a western education in this day and age would not know what a Nazi salute is,” she said.

While the salute was a Nazi symbol, this did not apply to a Croatian slogan uttered by the men, “za dom spremni” meaning “For homeland, ready,” the magistrate found.

In trying to avoid conviction for his client, Sieben’s barrister Joe Klarica said the 25-year-old had no neo-Nazi links and had been diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette syndrome and general anxiety disorder.

“He’d be a very poor medium for general deterrence,” he said.

Defence solicitor Avinash Singh said neither Lisica, who is a painter, and Gasparovic, who works as a truck driver, had extensive criminal records.

“This (case) caused him a great deal of shame and embarrassment,” Mr Singh said of Gasparovic.

Dominik Sieben (file image)
The lawyer representing Dominik Sieben (pictured) said a notice of appeal had already been lodged. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Police prosecutor Sergeant Jarred Imlay told the court that general deterrence and denunciation were the paramount priorities when handing down a sentence.

“Your Honour would not be concerned these three individuals are likely to repeat this kind of behaviour,” he said.

None of the three men spoke outside court.

However, Mr Klarica told AAP that Sieben had already lodged a notice of appeal.