Football: UEFA opens racism cases against Spain, Russia
(WARSAW) - UEFA said on Tuesday it had opened disciplinary proceedings against European and world champions Spain and Russia for racist behaviour and chanting by their fans during Euro 2012.
The first case against the Spanish Football Federation concerns La Roja's opening Group C game against Italy on June 10, after which it was claimed that a section of Spanish supporters racially abused striker Mario Balotelli.
The second case against the Russian Football Union relates to the country's first Group A game against the Czech Republic on June 8, following which it was claimed that defender Theodor Gebre Selassie was taunted with racial slurs.
European football's governing body said in a statement on its website that it would deal with both cases on Thursday.
The latest allegations come after the Croatian Football Federation was fined 80,000 euros ($100,000, 64,500 pounds) after a UEFA-backed racism monitoring group said up to 500 fans racially abused Balotelli during the countries' match on June 14.
An AFP photographer positioned in front of the fans at the match also said he heard the chanting and at one point saw a steward pick up a banana from the pitch.
The size of the fine handed down to Croatia was criticised, as it was less than the 100,000 euros and one-match suspension given to Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner for flouting strict player advertising rules.
Bendtner had flashed the sponsored waistband of his underpants during a goal celebration.
UEFA and its president Michel Platini have repeatedly insisted that they have a "zero tolerance" policy towards racism in European football.
Tuesday's announcement is the first disciplinary proceeding in the tournament against Spain, who meet Portugal in the semi-finals on Wednesday, as they aim for unprecedented back-to-back titles.
The day after the match, British newspapers quoted other fans as saying that "hundreds" of Spanish fans behind the goal "were involved in monkey chanting and laughter and mockery whenever Balotelli was on the ball".
Manchester City striker Balotelli, 21, said in a recent interview that he would walk off the pitch if he were racially abused during a match.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, though, strongly rejected claims that Balotelli was racially abused during the game with Spain, which ended 1-1.
Russia, who failed to get past the group stage, have been in the dock before over its fans' behaviour during their three matches, in particular the game against the Czech Republic that they won 4-1.
Four volunteer stadium stewards were beaten up and required hospital treatment after the match, while fans displayed "Russian Empire" flags, which can be seen as deeply provocative in parts of Eastern Europe formerly under the control of Moscow.
For the violence, UEFA fined the Russian football federation 120,000 euros and warned that the team would be docked six points from their next European championship qualifying campaign if there were any repeat of the crowd trouble.
The Russians have been fined a total of 195,000 euros during the tournament because of the display of nationalist flags as well as the lighting and setting off of fireworks in grounds.
The overall head of Russian football, Sergei Fursenko, resigned on Monday. He had previously announced an appeal against the threat of a points deduction but said the federation accepted the fine for crowd trouble.
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