Police open probe into racist football banner

26th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

VILNIUS, March 26, 2007 (AFP) - Police have launched a formal investigation into the brandishing of a racist banner by home fans during Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier against France, the Lithuanian Football Federation said Monday.

VILNIUS, March 26, 2007 (AFP) - Police have launched a formal investigation into the brandishing of a racist banner by home fans during Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier against France, the Lithuanian Football Federation said Monday.

"The police have started an investigation to find out who is responsible for the incident," Vaidotas Rastenis, the federation's deputy spokesman, told AFP.

"The federation in turn is to release a statement for the fans related to the incident," he added.

At Saturday's match in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas, home fans displayed a large banner showing an outline map of Africa in the blue, white and red colours of France's national flag, emblazoned with the words: "Welcome to Europe".

The banner appeared to be aimed at France's black players, who make up the majority of the team.

Lithuanian federation chief Liutauras Varanvicius slammed the fans' behaviour, saying their actions could bring punishment for the Lithuanian team.

"Such an action is a crime. We now should expect heavy sanctions from UEFA," Varanavicius said in an interview with the daily newspapers Kauno Diena.

Rastenis, meanwhile, said the federation had not yet received any official contact related to the incident from UEFA.

European football's governing body has been cracking down hard on stadium racism in recent years, and a string of national teams have faced sanctions including heavy fines and being forced to play matches behind closed doors.

UEFA is "most likely to consider all the incidents after Wednesday's round," Rastenis said.

France managed an unconvincing 1-0 win over their hosts in Saturday's Group B match.

Lithuania are away to Ukraine for Wednesday's qualifier, while France's next match is on June 6, at home to Ukraine.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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