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Racist Chants Taint Euro 2012 Soccer Matches

Mario Balotelli

The Union of European Football Association (UEFA) has announced a formal investigation of alleged racist chanting during the Euro 2012 matches between Russia and the Czech Republic, as well as Spain and Italy. The governing body for European football has been called to action after a Spanish fans’ group said it had abused Italian striker Mario Balotelli, who is black, and Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, also black, claimed that racist chants had been directed at him.

While no official complains had been filed to the UEFA by Italy or Czech Republic, the organization released a statement: “Following the provision of new independent information today, regarding the two cases of alleged racist chanting in the Spain-Italy and Russia-Czech Republic matches, Uefa is now conducting further investigations.”

Members of a Spanish fans’ group admitted via an anti-racism network that some of their supporters racially abused Balotelli during Sunday’s game. According to BBC Sport and Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) chief Piara Powar, a statement has been delivered to UEFA, along with testimony from photographers who were at the game.

“Eyewitness accounts like this are very important,” Powar said. “It gives UEFA something to go on when they look at this. Fare monitors didn’t hear the abuse. We only have two observers in each stadium. And it hadn’t come to the attention of UEFA’s own officials at the game.”

Thomas Herzog, a spokesman for the Football Supporters Europe Fans’ Embassy team for Spanish supporters, said that approximately “200 supporters started monkey chants when the Italian player Mario Balotelli touched the ball.”

“We are clearly angry about this small section of Spanish supporters showing this kind of racist behavior. 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,” Herzog added.

Italy’s head coach Cesare Prandelli told BBC Sport that “no incident had taken place” involving Balotelli during the game against Spain. UEFA had reached out to the mayors of the Polish and Ukrainian cities hosting the Euro 2012 events to ask that they increase police presence to combat racist fan behavior.

Members of the Netherlands squad previously complained about hearing monkey noises during an open training session at Wisla Krakow’s stadium, with thousands in attendance.

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