Football and Memories of Croatian Fascism on Facebook

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On 19 November 2013, as Croatia’s national football team defeated Iceland and thus secured its participation in the World Championship, Croatian defender Josip Šimunić celebrated by leading a chant associated with the fascist Ustasha regime, known for its genocidal campaigns against Serbs, Jews and Roma in Croatia and Bosnia during the Second World War. As a result of his celebration, Šimunić was fined by Zagreb’s county court for inciting racist hatred and the International Football Association, FIFA, banned Šimunić from participating in 10 international matches including the World Championship. By late November 2013, a facebook page set up in defense of Šimunić had received 150000 ‘likes’ and many lengthy comments. Moreover, the page promoted an online petition, soon signed by more than 30000, which aimed to convince FIFA that Šimunić was misunderstood. Both the facebook page and the petition and its comments were deeply engaged in negotiating the meaning of Šimunić’s chant, questioning its connection to Fascism. Attempts were made at rethinking Croatia’s Fascist past and at framing memory to emphasize Croatia’s victimization through the crimes of others.
This chapter investigates the types of memory negotiation that took place on the Facebook page supporting Šimunić and on the petition webpage. Indeed, the Facebook page and its users vehemently contested both the official Croatian interpretation and that of the international football organization, trying instead to construct from below a different version of the event at the football match, a different meaning of Šimunić’s greeting and a different understanding of Croatia’s history. The Šimunić affair is an example of a pop-cultural event actualizing memory through a certain symbol, the chant, and of social media distributing it quickly and widely, engaging a large and somehow unusual group of memory actors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisputed Memory : Emotions and Memory Politics in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe
EditorsTea Sindbæk Andersen, Barbara Törnquist-Plewa
Number of pages21
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-043763-8
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-045353-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesMedia and Cultural Memory

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