Croatia fans found guilty of racially abusing Mario Balotelli

 

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The Independent Online

UEFA's attempts to stamp racism out of the European Championship came under the spotlight today when Croatia were fined less for monkey chants at Mario Balotelli than Nicklas Bendtner was for displaying a sponsored pair of underwear.

The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) were docked 80,000 euros (£64,561) for offences which included the racist abuse of Italy striker Balotelli by between 300 and 500 of the country's fans during Thursday's Group C game in Poznan, which was also dogged by accusations a banana had been thrown onto the field.

Today's fine was one of the biggest imposed by European football's governing body for racism-related incidents but it was still significantly lower than the 100,000-euro (£80,524) punishment and one-match ban dished out to Denmark striker Bendtner 24 hours earlier.

Critics of the decision pointed out yesterday that UEFA had taken more draconian action against Bendtner than they had over several racist incidents down the years.

Those arguments carried even more weight on the back of today's decision when considering that Croatia's fine - which they were given three days to appeal once they receive the written judgment - was not only for racist abuse.

The HNS, who last week labelled their misbehaving fans "deviant", were also punished for them setting off and throwing fireworks for a second time at Euro 2012.

They had already been docked 25,000 euros (£20,131) for that - and the invasion of the pitch by a supporter - during Sunday's win over Republic of Ireland.

Croatia have been previously fined twice for racism by UEFA and FIFA since 2008 and the former's president Michel Platini launched a stinging attack on their fans yesterday.

But an even dimmer view appeared to have been taken about Bendtner's antics, something that was ridiculed today by the bookmakers whose branding appeared on the underwear he hoisted up after scoring in Denmark's Group B defeat to Portugal six days ago.

Paddy Power offered to pay Bendtner's fine, branding the "pantsgate" sanction "barmy" and to the punishment being more severe than those for racism.

The company said: "Paddy Power are also issuing an alert to all other players intending to wear their own lucky underpants in the remaining UEFA fixtures to keep the string tied tightly on their shorts so that they too don't face the wrath of the over-the-top UEFA pants police."

Germany were today the latest team to face punishment for the extremist behaviour of their fans when action was taken over the display of a neo-Nazi banner during their Group B win over Denmark on Sunday.

The FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) network, who have been working with UEFA to monitor crowd problems at Euro 2012, posted on their official Twitter account: "FARE can confirm that one of our observers reported a neo-nazi banner in the German section at the match v Denmark in Lviv on Sunday."

Disciplinary proceedings were opened against the German Football Association (DFB) for the "display of inappropriate banners and symbols, and inappropriate chanting".

The DFB was also charged with the setting-off of fireworks, having already been fined 10,000 euros (just over £8,000) after their fans threw screwed up pieces of paper at Portugal players during their opening group game.

UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body will deal with the latest case on Saturday.

Euro 2012 has been marred by several allegations of racism, including another involving Balotelli, one surrounding Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, and claims of such abuse during a Holland training session before the tournament even began.

Last week saw Russia hit with a suspended six-point deduction for their Euro 2016 campaign over the behaviour of their fans in Poland and Ukraine, which included the display of extremist banners.

PA

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