Lifestyle & Belief

EURO 2012: Croatia latest to face racism allegations


Mario Balotelli of Italy speaks to a teammate during their EURO 2012 match against Croatia on June 14, 2012, in Poznan, Poland.


Claudio Villa

Croatian fans threw a banana at Italian striker Mario Balotelli and chanted racist slogans during their Euro 2012 soccer game on Thursday, a monitoring group said today.

Hundreds of fans from Croatia were involved, and soccer’s governing body in Europe has launched an investigation, The Associated Press said.

It was “not a boo or something that could be misinterpreted,” Football Against Racism in Europe’s Piara Powar told the AP.

This is the fourth investigation UEFA will have launched since the tournament began on June 8.

More from GlobalPost: EURO 2012: Dutch team target of racist chants

Organizers started defended themselves weeks before the tournament began after BBC aired a documentary showing violence at Eastern European stadiums.

A former England star later warned fans to stay home, and Great Britain issued a travel advisory saying ethnic minority and black supporters could be targets of violence.

Since play began, the Dutch team reported hearing racist chants and UEFA is looking into incidents from Russia-Czech Republic and Spain-Italy.

All of the incidents involve black players.

Spanish fans reportedly also started derogatory chants aimed at Balotelli, FARE said.

“We are clearly angry about this small section of Spanish supporters showing this kind of racist behavior,” FARE spokesman Thomas Herzog said. “But we have to stress that most of the Spanish supporters inside the stand were very aware of this issue and tried their best to intervene.”

During the Italy-Croatia game, an Agence France-Presse photographer took pictures after fans threw a banana on the pitch.

The Italian staff and players said they didn’t notice anything, but UEFA is still investigating.

“Our Italian observer is a fairly seasoned football fan and said he was shocked by what he had seen and heard,” Powar told AFP.

More from GlobalPost: EURO 2012: Fans fight before, after Russia-Poland game (VIDEO)