Euro 2012: ‘Monkey chant’ claims spark UEFA action against Croatia

UEFA acted to stamp out monkey chanting at the European Championship for the first time yesterday after opening disciplinary proceedings against Croatia over the alleged abuse of Mario Balotelli.

European football’s governing body announced they were taking action against the Croatian Football Federation over the racist behaviour of their fans during the country’s 1-1 Group C draw against Italy on Thursday.

It was unclear whether the proceedings were also intended to deal with claims a banana was thrown on to the field during the game in Poznan or if that would be handled separately.

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UEFA said in a statement: “UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for the setting-off and throwing of fireworks, and the improper conduct of supporters [racist chants, racist symbols] at the UEFA Euro 2012 Group C match against Italy in Poznan on Thursday.

“The UEFA control and disciplinary body will deal with the case on 19 June.”

UEFA acted after the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network announced on Friday that their observers heard between 300 and 500 Croatia fans chanting monkey noises at Italy striker Balotelli.pictured, during Thursday’s match.

Reports a photographer witnessed a steward retrieving a banana from the pitch were also being looked into by European football’s governing body.

If Thursday’s purported banana-throwing incident is shown to be intended as an insult towards Balotelli, the fallout would be potentially the biggest yet at a tournament that has been dogged by allegations of racist abuse.

Balotelli said before Euro 2012 that he would “kill” anyone who threw a banana at him in the street and threatened to walk off the pitch if racially abused.

UEFA had been probing allegations the Manchester City striker, 21, was subjected to monkey chants in Italy’s opening match against Spain last Sunday. It was unclear yesterday whether they were still looking into that.

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli insisted yesterday he was unaware of the alleged banana-throwing incident.

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The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) later confirmed the claims and accompanying photograph of a banana being retrieved had been brought to their attention but added that no-one from their delegation witnessed the incident during the game.

A spokesman said: “There’s not any official complaint at the moment about that.

“It’s not quite clear whether it [the banana] was launched against Mario Balotelli.”

The HNS yesterday issued a statement condemning the “deviant” fans who had shamed their country but urged UEFA to spare them any further sanctions.

“[The] Croatian Football Federation distances itself from all deviant behaviour of the part of the fans during Euro 2012 and strongly condemns it,” they said.

As well as incidents surrounding Balotelli, UEFA had been looking into allegations Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Salassie was subjected to monkey chants during his side’s Group A opener against Russia nine days ago.

Holland players claimed they heard racist chanting during an open training session in Krakow before the tournament even began.

The proceedings against Croatia followed a ¤25,000 (£20,298) fine on Friday after their fans threw fireworks and missiles, and a supporter invaded the pitch, during Sunday’s win over Ireland.

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The HNS were fined £14,920 by FIFA just under four years ago after then England striker Emile Heskey was subjected to monkey chants in a World Cup qualifier in Zagreb.

Last week saw Russia hit with a suspended six-point deduction for their Euro 2016 campaign over the behaviour of their fans at Euro 2012, which included the display of right-wing banners.

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