Croatia ripped, fined for racial taunts

Italy's Mario Balotelli controls the ball in front of Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic during their Group...

Italy's Mario Balotelli controls the ball in front of Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match June 14, 2012. (REUTERS)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:55 PM ET

DONETSK, UKRAINE - Incensed at the racial abuse targeted at Italy's Mario Balotelli in a game last week, Michel Platini has hit Croatia where it hurts -- in the wallet.

UEFA slapped a $101,000 fine Tuesday on the Baltic country for charges related to, in its words, "the setting-off and throwing of fireworks, and the improper conduct of supporters (including racist chants and racist symbols)."

UEFA reportedly received evidence from stadium monitors that about 300 Croatia fans made monkey noises at Balotelli during a 1-1 draw in Poznan, Poland last Thursday.

Before the tournament, Balotelli, who is black, threatened that "if someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail because I will kill them," adding that "I will not accept racism."

Fortunately, Balotelli had no need to go to such extremes.

That didn't stop Platini, UEFA's head honcho, from ripping into Croatia, revealing that he had warned the nation earlier about the unacceptable tactics of some of its fans. Platini accused Croatia of tarnishing a Euro 2012 tournament that, in his mind, has been "99% successful."

"I went one year ago to Croatia to speak with the president and the prime minister (about curtailing hooligan fans)," Platini said.

Obviously his words were not heeded. A cameraman at the Italy-Croatia game in Poland reported seeing a steward picking up a banana off the pitch that allegedly had been tossed by a Croatian supporter.

"(Croatia has) a good team that plays well but it's unacceptable when you've got a hundred or so arseholes among the crowd," Platini told reporters in Warsaw.

The Croatian federation knew that it could happen, he said.

"Any form of racism is a problem. One case is too many."

UEFA had investigated a number of other racial-abuse allegations during Euro 2012 including suggestions from Dutch captain Mark Van Bommel that fans at a training session in Poland had made monkey noises directed at the Netherlands' black players. The Croatian incident, however, was the only one in which UEFA managed to gather enough evidence to move forward.

On Sunday, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic slammed the perpertrators of l'affair Balotelli, calling for their banishment from all soccer matches.

"I don't like this kind of supporter, neither do my players," Bilic told reporters. "I don't even want them in the stadium.

"We are not a racist country, everyone is welcome, which is why we are angry at these crazy supporters and we have to minimalize this. We have to sanction these supporters and we must do everything we can to try to stop this kind of supporter forever."

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

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