Italy news

UEFA investigates banana claim

Photographer 'saw steward removing banana' at Italy-Croatia match

ESPN staff

Monkey chants were reportedly directed at Italy's Mario Balotelli© PA

UEFA is investigating claims that a banana was thrown onto the pitch and racist chants directed at Mario Balotelli during the match between Italy and Croatia on Thursday.

European football’s governing body said it was looking into the claims after a photographer was reported to have witnessed a steward removing a banana from the pitch and heard monkey chants being directed at the Italy striker during the 1-1 draw in Poznan.

The Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, asked about the reported banana-throwing incident on Friday, said: “No, I haven't seen anything.”

The Italian Football Federation said it had been made aware of the claims but said no one from its delegation had witnessed such an incident during the game. A spokesman said there “is not any official complaint” from the federation at this stage.

Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) said on Friday that its observers had witnessed monkey chants being directed at Balotelli during the Croatia game.

On its Twitter feed, the organisation reported: “FARE observers report between 300 and 500 supporters of Croatia involved in racially abusing Mario Balotelli at last night’s match in Poznan. UEFA received the observers’ reports this afternoon. We are working with them to provide as much information as possible.

“We congratulate the Italian fans for their support of Balotelli last night. Many sang his name to drown out the monkey chants.”

The news comes a day after UEFA confirmed that it was still investigating allegations that Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie had been subjected to monkey chants from Russia fans during the match between the two nations. Selassie told journalists he had noticed racist chanting being directed at him.

Alleged racist chanting towards Balotelli during the game between Italy and Spain in Gdansk is also being investigated. The Fans' Embassy of Football Supporters Europe (FSE) reported that Balotelli had been abused by Spain supporters.

No official complaint has so far been made to UEFA by either Italy or Czech Republic officials.

UEFA, which confirmed that no disciplinary proceedings had been launched at this stage, said in a statement: “Following the provision of new independent information regarding the two cases of alleged racist chanting in the Spain-Italy and Russia-Czech Republic matches, UEFA is now conducting further investigations.”

Last Friday, members of the Netherlands squad were racially abused during an open training session in Krakow. The incident led former Netherlands international Ruud Gullit to say: “The monkey sounds that greeted the Holland team at their training session this week were an embarrassment to the Polish authorities."