UEFA has confirmed that it has begun disciplinary proceedings against Croatia’s football federation after Croatia fans directed racist chants at Mario Balotelli and displayed racist banners during the 1-1 draw against Italy on Thursday.
The proceedings are the first to be brought over racist chanting at the tournament so far, although investigations into other allegations are ongoing.
“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 Group C match against Italy in Poznan on Thursday,” a UEFA statement said.
“The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body will deal with the case on June 19.”
In a statement, the HNS condemned the “deviant” fans whose behaviour had led to the disciplinary action and urged UEFA not to impose sanctions on the Croatia team.
“[The] Croatian Football Federation distances itself from all deviant behaviour on the part of the fans during the final tournament of UEFA Euro 2012 and strongly condemns it,'' the statement said.
“The federation, its national team players and members of the technical staff support all UEFA activities aimed at identifying individuals whose behaviour damages the reputation of the competition, no matter which country they come from.”
The federation appealed to UEFA “not to punish the Croatian national team, and not to associate it with those of the fans who actually are not supporters but hooligans who should be isolated from all sports events."
The statement added: “Also at this championship, Croatia showed [what] great, cultural and loyal fans it has - fans who love their national team, respect all other national teams and support their country in the spirit of sports and fair play.”
It was unclear whether the disciplinary proceedings would also deal with claims that a banana was thrown onto the field during the game.
On Friday, UEFA said it was looking into the claims after a photographer was reported to have witnessed a steward removing a banana from the pitch. The photographer heard monkey chants being directed at Balotelli.
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 added that no one from its delegation had witnessed such an incident during the game.
Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) said on Friday that its observers had heard monkey chants being directed at Balotelli during the 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. We are working with them to provide as much information as possible.”
The news came 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 said no disciplinary proceedings had been launched in these cases at this stage, adding 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.”
In an unrelated disciplinary case, the Croatian federation was hit with a €25,000 fine on Friday after fans set off and threw fireworks and missiles, and a supporter invaded the pitch during Sunday's win over Ireland.© ESPN