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By ESPN Staff

Heskey: Croatia racism fine inadequate

Emile Heskey has branded as inadequate the fine handed out to the Croatian FA after the England striker was subject to monkey chants from fans during last month's World Cup qualifier in Zagreb.

Heskey was surprised by the behaviour of the Croatian fans although he has experienced similar treatment before when wearing an England shirt - against Slovakia in Bratislava and during an Under-21 play-off game in Barcelona.

FIFA decided to hand out a paltry fine of less than £15,000 rather than deducting points from Slaven Bilic's side, who were beaten 4-1 after being on the receiving end of a Theo Walcott hat-trick.

Heskey, who is expected to spearhead England's attack against Kazakhstan at Wembley on Saturday, said: ''As for the fine, it's totally up to the people at the top.

''What is my gut reaction to the fine? Everybody knows it's not adequate but you've just got to leave it down to them. If you were asking what I'd do, it would be different to that.

''But you've got to respect them when they're making a decision like that and allow them to do that. If it happens again, they'll have to do something else. As for the fans' reaction, it was a little strange, because having come back to international football, I didn't really expect it.

''To be honest, I was a little bit surprised by it but it kind of stopped straight away. You knew it was there but it kind of blew over straight away. I had it in Slovakia as well, and it was worse there - and with the Under-21s in Barcelona.''

Heskey, who has shaken off a back injury and resumed, is unsure whether a points deduction would be the correct course of action to take.

He said: ''Deducting points? Is that going to stop the fans from chanting more, I don't know. But, as an FA, they've probably got to look at it in a broader picture as well and see where they can help.

''It's a difficult one to say 'deduct points' or 'stop fans from watching football'. I don't know.''

Heskey has often been labelled as an old fashioned type of centre-forward but his worth to England was demonstrated in Zagreb and he will clock up his 50th cap if he plays against both Kazakhstan and Belarus during the next few days.

He said: ''I don't know if I went out of fashion! But, yes, it's nice to be wanted. Obviously the game against Croatia was tailor-made for me because I like to put myself about and they had some pretty big centre-halves.

''It was nice. Yes, it was physical but I don't mind that. It was tailor-made for me but I don't think I've changed. I'm a bit more relaxed when it comes to football. When you're younger, you're really tense when you are going into games and you get really nervous.

''I can see it in some of the lads when they go out on the pitch. For me, it's not like it's just another game but you prepare differently and you focus your mind a lot better.''

Heskey is still the same modest player he was when he broke into the Leicester side as a teenager under Martin O'Neill more than a decade ago.

So, unsurprisingly, he plays down the fact he was a key player in two of England's greatest triumphs of modern times - the 5-1 win over Germany in Munich in 2001 and the win in Croatia four weeks ago.

He said: ''You've picked out two games there but you could probably pick out a few more that I wasn't involved in where the lads did really well. Crouchy [Peter Crouch] also did brilliantly in some of the games where England had some great results and he was scoring at that time as well.

''Have I not had the praise I deserve? I don't know. Praise isn't what you really go out and want to achieve. You want to go out there and win the game.

''You want to go out in the club game and win trophies and I've done that to be honest with you. The only ones I wanted to win were the Champions League and the Premier League and I didn't get to win them with Liverpool which was disappointing.

''They won the Champions League after I had left didn't they? But that's what football's about. Sometimes praise isn't everything.''


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