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UEFA to probe Balotelli racism reports

ESPN staff
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Mario Balotelli suffered racist abuse, witnesses said © PA Photos
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UEFA will investigate claims that Italy striker Mario Balotelli was the victim of racist chants during the draw with Spain in Gdansk.

The investigation will be coupled with an inquiry into racist abuse of Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie during the Czechs' defeat to Russia. Selassie told journalists he had noticed racist chanting being directed at him.

Fans' Embassy of Football Supporters Europe (FSE) reported that Balotelli was abused by Spain supporters. No official complaint has so far been made to UEFA by either Italy or Czech Republic officials.

UEFA, which confirmed that no disciplinary proceedings had been launched at this stage, said in a statement: "Following the provision of new independent information regarding the two cases of alleged racist chanting in the Spain-Italy and Russia-Czech Republic matches, UEFA is now conducting further investigations."

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said claims Balotelli had been abused were "absolutely untrue", but Thomas Herzog, of the FSE, said: "We were present during the match inside the football stadium and stayed inside the stand of the Spanish supporters over the entire course of the match.

"At some point during the match, about 200 supporters started monkey chants when the Italian player Mario Balotelli touched the ball. We're glad to report that the majority of Spanish supporters reacted in a very positive way, because many of them tried to intervene very quickly and stop the fans in question."

That evidence, along with a statement made by photographers present at the game to the Daily Mirror, was handed to UEFA.

On Saturday, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) group said an observer at Friday night's Czech Republic-Russia match had heard "fleeting" abuse of Selassie.

FARE chief executive Piara Powar, asked whether the abuse had included monkey chants, said: "Our observer reported descriptions of that nature. It was directed at the Czech Republic's only black player."

UEFA asked FARE to help appoint a team of observers to report offensive chanting or banners. Powar said that, in this instance, the abuse witnessed had come from a small section of the crowd and it "may not be easy to pull together evidence for a case to be brought."

On Friday, members of the Netherlands squad were racially abused during an open training session in Krakow. The incident led former Netherlands international Ruud Gullit to say: "The monkey sounds that greeted the Holland team at their training session this week were an embarrassment to the Polish authorities."

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