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FIFA to investigate allegations of Croatian racism

FIFA have opened an investigation into allegations that Croatia's fans racially abused England striker Emile Heskey during their World Cup qualifying match last week.

World football's governing body said on Wednesday that it has begun disciplinary proceedings after England's Football Association lodged an official complaint.

FIFA said in a statement: ''FIFA can confirm that it has received an official request from the FA yesterday evening to investigate allegations of racist chanting at the Croatia vs England qualification match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup played in Zagreb on September 10 2008. FIFA has opened a disciplinary procedure to look into this matter.''

Racist chants were directed at Heskey at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb after he was booked for a challenge on Croatia captain Niko Kovac during the second half of England's 4-1 victory.

Heskey later branded the fans "ignorant people" and said he tried to ignore the chants.

"You have to let the people above deal with that and I'll carry on playing my game," Heskey said after the match. "They are ignorant people, you have to ignore it and enjoy your game. Their players weren't happy about it either."

Piara Powar, a director for the anti-racism campaign Kick It Out, told the Times: "Their fans are being monitored for incidents of racial abuse and evidence of far-right activities.

"A number of preventative initiatives are under way with Croatian fan groups, the more progressive of whom understand the damage these types of incidents do to the standing of Croatia and its people.

"Longer term, we are involved in a European campaign to ensure to all governments, football associations and clubs across Eastern and Central Europe know what political and educational action they need to take to engender tolerant attitudes and an appreciation of Europe as it is.

"It is not an easy undertaking but one that is crucial to the future of the new Europe."

It is only three months since UEFA fined Croatia's football federation nearly £10,000 over the racist behaviour of some of the team's fans during the Euro 2008 match with Turkey.

UEFA imposed the fine after the Croatia fans were found guilty of ''displaying a racist banner and showing racist conduct''.

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