Posted: Sunday June 17, 2012 1:43PM ; Updated: Sunday June 17, 2012 1:46PM

Croatia coach Bilic urges UEFA to punish racists

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GDANSK, Poland (AP) -- Croatia coach Slaven Bilic urged UEFA on Sunday to come down hard on racist soccer fans.

Bilic's comments came a day after UEFA charged Croatia with "improper conduct" of supporters, including "racist chants, racist symbols" during its European Championship game against Italy on Thursday in Poznan.

"It's a big problem all around Europe and all around the world, and in the name of the whole Croatian nation, and not just our team, we're all really disappointed with this," Bilic said Sunday before the team's final Group C match against Spain. "We are not a racist country and that's why we are so angry with these couple of crazy supporters."

Bilic said that "as a Croatian, as a parent, as a sportsman and as a person who comes from a modern, open-minded and tolerant state," he wanted authorities to do all they can to "stop this kind of supporter forever."

UEFA is also looking into reports that Croatian fans threw a banana toward the field during Thursday's match at Poznan's Municipal Stadium and racially abused Italy striker Mario Balotelli, who is black.

An anti-discrimination group appointed by UEFA to work at Euro 2012 said it had "categorical" accounts from two monitors that around 300 Croatia fans directed monkey chants at Balotelli.

UEFA rules make national associations responsible for their fans' behavior. Punishments range from warnings and a sliding scale of fines to points deductions and even expulsion from Euro 2012.

A Croatia victory over Spain on Monday would guarantee a spot in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 from Group C.

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