Croatia coach Bilic urges UEFA to punish racists

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic urged UEFA on Sunday to come down

hard on racist football fans.

Bilic’s comments came a day after UEFA charged Croatia with

”improper conduct” of supporters, including ”racist chants,

racist symbols” during its European Championship game against

Italy on Thursday in Poznan.

”It’s a big problem all around Europe and all around the world,

and in the name of the whole Croatian nation, and not just our

team, we’re all really disappointed with this,” Bilic said Sunday

ahead of the team’s final Group C match against Spain. ”We are not

a racist country and that’s why we are so angry with these couple

of crazy supporters.”

Bilic said that he ”as a Croatian, as a parent, as a sportsman

and as a person who comes from a modern, open-minded and tolerant

state” wanted authorities to do all they can to ”stop this kind

of supporter forever.”

UEFA is also looking into reports that Croatian fans threw a

banana toward the pitch during Thursday’s match at Poznan’s

Municipal Stadium and racially abused Italy striker Mario

Balotelli, who is black.

An anti-discrimination group appointed by UEFA to work at Euro

2012 said it has ”categorical” accounts from two monitors that

around 300 Croatia fans directed monkey chants at Balotelli.

The striker was substituted in the second half of the 1-1 draw

against Croatia.

UEFA’s charge also relates to fireworks thrown onto the pitch

after Croatia scored, which delayed Italy’s kickoff to restart the

game.

UEFA rules make national associations responsible for their

fans’ behavior. Punishments range from warnings and a sliding scale

of fines to points deductions and even expulsion from Euro

2012.

The Croatia Football Federation was also fined ?25,000 ($31,500)

Friday for its fans’ behavior at an earlier match against Ireland.

UEFA said the sanction was imposed for ”the setting off and

throwing of fireworks and missiles, and a pitch invasion by a

supporter.” A Croatia fan was tackled by stewards after trying to

reach Bilic following the 3-1 win last Sunday.

A Croatia victory over Spain on Monday would guarantee its

passage to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 from Group C.

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Graham Dunbar in Warsaw, Poland contributed to this report.