England Cites Racism by Croatian Fans

AP, September 11, 2008

England asked FIFA to investigate racist chants toward striker Emile Heskey by Croatian fans during a World Cup qualifier.

The Croatian team called the conduct an “expression of frustration.” Heskey branded the fans “ignorant people” and said he tried to ignore it.

The derogatory chants in Zagreb on Wednesday came after the striker was cited for a challenge on Croatia captain Niko Kovac during the second half of England’s 4-1 victory.

“It is unacceptable for anyone to be subjected to racial abuse and we will be asking FIFA to investigate this,” the Football Association said Thursday. “The FA and England team are determined to do all they can to eradicate any form of racism from football and society.”

Croatia spokesman Davor Gavran said the chants were “in fact very much isolated.”

“They seemed rather an expression of frustration from fans at how the match is going on, than an attempt to insult someone,” Gavran told The Associated Press. “We condemn those individual cases.”

Croatia was fined $27,600 for its fans’ racist behavior during a European Championship game against Turkey in June.

Steve Bruce, who manages Heskey at Wigan, called the offending fans at Wednesday’s game “morons.”

“You could hear monkey chants and all the rest of it, which I thought we’d seen the back of,” Bruce said. “But, typical of Emile, he just got on with the game in hand and didn’t let it spoil his performance. I think it was a backhanded compliment really as they did it because he was playing so well.”

Three fans, including an unidentified 33-year-old Briton, were injured in brawls before the game, Zagreb police said. The fan was hospitalized after being hit on the head with a bottle by a Croatian fan.

Seventy-eight Croatian fans and four from England were accused of public disturbances and briefly detained before, during and after the game.

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