Retro Gallery: 15 Compelling Incidents of Fascist Gestures in Football Field

When football offers a playground to portray your political inclination, it becomes more interesting, eventful and often disturbing. Goalden Times brings 15 compelling photographs of Nazi gestures on the football pitch that marked significant impact in the football history.

The Nazi salute is a gesture that was used as a greeting in Germany during Nazi era and is performed by extending the right arm in the air with a straightened hand shouting “Heil Hitler!” (Hail Hitler!) or “Sieg heil!” (Hail victory!). In modern world the Nazi salute is short-hand for fascism, and in many a countries like Germany and Austria it is deemed illegal . Football, being a social and political companion of civilization was frequently disturbed by fascist or Nazi gestures, throughout the time.  Here we have picked out our select 15 from the book of football history.
The behavior came into news prominently couple of years back when Giorgos Katidis, a 20-year-old Greek midfielder of AEK Athens celebrated a game-winning goal against Veria , giving a Nazi salute to fans in Athens, and was subsequently banned for life from representing his country in international tournaments. Giorgos’s international career has been finished even before blooming for this one grave mistake, who incidentally captained the national youth teams earlier. AEK Athens too suspended him for the rest of the season. They failed to register another win without Giorgos that season and were relegated for the first time in their history.


However the relation with fascism in football is nothing new. During the pre – WW II era, Benito Mussolini, General Franco and Adolf Hitler all exploited the popular culture of football for the benefit of their commands. Fascist gestures during the World Cup 1934 and 1938 were very common. Below the Italian team in 1934 World Cup led by their legendary Juventus goal-keeper Gianpiero Combi was performing a Nazi salute before a game. Italy won the World Cup beating Czechoslovakia in the final and received the Jules Rimet trophy from the Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini. Incidentally the final was played in Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome – National Stadium of the National Fascist Party.


Throughout the World Cup matches, loud chants of “Duce, Duce” (a title referring to Benito Mussolini) were cried out by thousands of supporters. The Italian militia bands played a selection of Fascist hymns as well. According to one observer, it was “more like a Fascist rally than a sporting contest”.

German football team was no less influenced. Here the German national team players are seen performing the Nazi salute  at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, before the start of their World Cup opening match against Switzerland in 1938.


One of many other instances where the German national team was doing the Hitler salutes at a game against Sweden in Stockholm 1941.


This photograph shows young German footballers performing Nazi salute before the start of a local game.


And then this happened too. At the Olympic Stadium, Berlin May 15, 1938, the England team which included legendary Sir Stanley Matthews, joined their German hosts in giving the Nazi Salute before the kick-off.


When Derby County visited Germany in 1934, an order from Hitler’s officials to give the salute had been backed by British diplomats. The footballers, though was treated with kindness, were indirectly forced to do a Nazi salute before the games. Jack Kirby – the charismatic goal-keeper of the team (in black attire) defied the German authorities by being the only member of the team to refuse to give the Nazi salute before each game. Derby County played four matches in four cities against German XI teams, losing three and drawing one.


A discussion on fascist gestures in the football field cannot be completed without these iconic gestures from the former Italian star Paolo Di Canio. Di Canio, who is politically aligned to extreme right wing ideology and expressed admiration for the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was infamous for use of the Roman salute toward Lazio, Roma and Livorno supporters.


And well, he got ample support from the stands. Lazio fans showing their support for Paolo Di Canio in 2002 (Getty Images)


It was not so intentional for Aston Villa’s Australian goalie Mark Bosnich who displayed a Nazi salute at White Hart Lane during a 1-0 defeat to Spurs in 1996. Bosnich was fined £1,000 and censured by the FA after he was found guilty of misconduct for moustache-sporting Adolf Hitler impression and upsetting fans of Tottenham Hotspur (a club with a large Jewish following).


Going back a bit further in history, on 4 December 1935, Germany took on England at White Hart Lane in London. This was the first full football international match to take place between the teams in England. The game at Tottenham Hotspurs ground saw the Germans giving the Nazi salute. Remember, it was White Hart Lane – the home of Yid Army.


Back to Lazio, again. Miroslav Klose’s late winner against Roma in 2011 made him an overnight club hero but he also got a taste of the distasteful fascist segment of Mussolini’s favorite club. A section of Lazio supporters were found holding up a banner that said “Klose mit uns”—”Klose with us”—during the high voltage derby with Roma, with the S’s written in old German script in the style of the SS (Schutzstaffel – the Nazi Secret Police). The phrase is a takeoff on an old military slogan, “Gott mit uns”—”God with us”—that was also used by the Nazis.


Tottenham, who have a strong Jewish tradition, faced this awful anti-Semitic environment when they travelled to Serbia to face Partizan Belgrade for their Europa League clash in 2014. A segment of extremist Partizan fans showed a banner which read “Only Jews and Pussies” – an allusion to the TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.


It’s hard to believe that Nazi flags are still prevailing in modern days. This happened in 2013, when crowds in stands of the Spartak Moscow supporters held a Nazi Flag during the Russian Cup match against Shinnik Yaroslavl in Yaroslavl.


And probably mother of all, the 1934 World Cup alternate Poster depicting a Fascist Salute.


[Photographs are not owned by Goalden Times]