Uefa have laid their first formal racism charges at Euro 2012 by opening disciplinary proceedings against Croatia over alleged monkey-chanting directed at Italy's Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.
Croatia have been charged with "improper conduct" of supporters, including "racist chants [and] racist symbols" at the game in Poznan. The governing body received reports from anti-discrimination monitors working with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), who testified that Croatia fans made monkey noises and displayed far-right nationalist flags. Balotelli was substituted in the second half of the 1-1 draw. "It was fairly consistent throughout the game," FARE executive director Piara Powar said yesterday. "It was at its most intense as he was substituted and left the field."
The charge also relates to fireworks thrown on the field after Croatia scored, which delayed Italy's kick-off to restart the game.
Uefa's Control and Disciplinary Body will deal with the case on Tuesday. The Croatian Football Association has condemned its "deviant" fans and asked to be spared sanctions, though national associations are deemed responsible for their fans' behaviour. Punishments range from warnings and a sliding scale of fines to points deductions and even expulsion from Euro 2012.
Chants were also allegedly made at Balotelli during Italy's Group C match last Sunday in Gdansk. In a separate investigation, evidence is also being sought by the governing body to support claims that Russian fans made monkey noises at Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie in Wroclaw.
Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, has told The Independent on Sunday that he is indignant at the way the Uefa president, Michel Platini, dismissed his client's threats to walk off the field if subjected to racism. "I don't believe Platini has done anything to improve the game or help the position of players, as his reaction to Mario shows," said Raiola. Balotelli made his pre-tournament comments to a magazine after racist attacks against Asian fans in Ukraine were brought to light by a Panorama documentary.
A further concern for Balotelli is the knee injury that could keep him out of his country's final Group C game against Republic of Ireland tomorrow, after he limped off during yesterday's training session.
Medical staff will assess his fitness today, with Antonio Di Natale likely to replace him if he fails to recover. Napoli forward Di Natale came on for Balotelli in the second half of Italy's opening two matches, scoring against Spain. Italy must beat Republic of Ireland to stand a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
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