Bayern Munich club bosses Monday downplayed military-style salutes by Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic and Kosovo-born Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri while they were celebrating a goal in Saturday’s Bundesliga match at Nuremberg.
Mandzukic and Shaqiri saluted after the goal – scored by Mandzukic in the third minute in the 1-1 draw – while the Croatian also faced celebrating Bayern fans with an outstretched straight right arm.
Both later categorically denied the salutes were a greeting to Croatian former generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac.
The former generals on Friday had guilty verdicts on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity overturned by the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Bayern club president Uli Hoeness said on Mandzukic’s gesture: “I don’t know what he was trying to say but we shouldn’t interpret too many things into it.”
Club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge also dismissed any suggestion of a military greeting.
“This information is wrong. There is absolutely no truth to this story as both have explained,” he said.
Mandzukic said through Bayern’s media department that there was nothing political about the gesture and that he was merely celebrating the goal by “greeting Croatia and waving to the fans.”
Shaqiri said he knew nothing about political affairs in Croatia.
“I simply ran over to Mario to celebrate with him,” he said.
However in Croatia, Mandzukic’s manager, Ivan Cvetkovic, was quoted by the daily Vecernji List as saying: “I’m proud of Mario and elated with how he celebrated the goal, joining all Croats in happiness owing to the return of our generals.”
In Serbia, the celebration was also seen as political.
“A significant number of athletes used the verdict in The Hague to humiliate Serbia with inappropriate celebrations,” the Belgrade daily Blic said.
Belgrade’s Glas Javnosti described Mandzukic’s gesture as “a Nazi salute to Gotovina.”
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