POZNAN, Poland (AFP)
Mario Balotelli was racially abused during Italy's 1-1 Euro 2012
Group C match with Croatia in Poznan, Poland, an AFP photographer
at the game said on Friday.
The photographer was situated in the corner where the majority of
Croatian fans were sitting during Thursday's match and said he
heard monkey noises being directed at the Italy striker.
At one point, he also saw a steward picking up a banana that had
been thrown onto the pitch.
European football's governing body made no immediate comment and
said only that they were awaiting the report from English referee
Howard Webb from the match.
A spokesman for the Italian football federation meanwhile said
that neither Balotelli nor any other player had mentioned either
being abused or the throwing of a banana.
The official, however, said the federation was unhappy about
booing during the national anthem.
UEFA has said it was investigating claims Balotelli, who is of
Ghanaian origin, was racially abused during Italy's 1-1 draw with
Spain in Gdansk Sunday as well as similar allegations involving
Russian fans and Czech player Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Selassie is of Ethiopian origin.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, though, had strongly rejected the
claims in a number of British newspapers that Balotelli was
subject to racist taunts against Spain.
"That's absolutely untrue," the Azzurri coach said at a news
conference on Monday.
Manchester City forward Balotelli, 21, has previously said that
he would walk off the pitch if he were racially abused by fans.
UEFA president Michel Platini said at a pre-tournament news
conference in Warsaw that if Balotelli did that, he would receive
a yellow card, advising him instead to alert the match referee,
who can now stop matches in the event of racist abuse.
Although UEFA has said it has opened an inquiry into the claims
against Balotelli and Gebre Selassie, it has not started any
formal disciplinary proceedings.
Racism has become a major issue for tournament co-hosts Poland
and Ukraine after claims that far-right extremist gangs were rife
at football grounds in both countries.
Warsaw and particularly Kiev have strongly denied the
allegations, with both they and UEFA maintaining that racism is a
problem across European society and not just at football grounds
in the two eastern European countries.
Croatia are already facing possible sanction after their fans lit
flares and let off smoke bombs to celebrate two first-half goals
in their opening Euro 2012 match against the Republic of Ireland,
also held in Poznan, UEFA said on Tuesday.
Smoke bombs were also thrown during the Italy match, AFP
reporters and photographers in the ground said.