Croatia coach Bilic urges UEFA to punish racists

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic urged UEFA on Sunday to come down

hard on racist soccer 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

before 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 ”as a Croatian, as a parent, as a sportsman and

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

state,” he 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 field 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 had ”categorical” accounts from two monitors that

around 300 Croatia fans directed monkey chants at Balotelli.

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.

A Croatia victory over Spain on Monday would guarantee a spot in

the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 from Group C.

—-

Graham Dunbar in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.