Poland's sports minister regrets England exit
England reacts to missed penalty. Photo by AFP

Poland's sports minister said on Monday she was disappointed by England's Euro 2012 exit as fans were unlikely to return to the country to learn first hand that pre-tournament claims about racism were overblown.

Joanna Mucha said she had her “fingers crossed for England” during their match against Italy in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Sunday.

England lost the quarter-final 4-2 on penalties.

An England victory would “have attracted many fans to Warsaw (for the semi-final against Germany) and would also have presented an opportunity to definitively refute the BBC documentary,” she told reporters in the capital on Monday.

The BBC's “Stadiums of Hate” documentary aired last month showed football fans in the tournament co-hosts Poland and Ukraine making Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey chants and beating up Asian students.

But with the 16-nation tournament entering its semi-finals stage, police in Poland have registered no reports of racially-motivated attacks by Poles or Polish fans, national police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski told AFP on Monday.

In the run-up to the championships, concern over potential racism-related violence prompted former England captain Sol Campbell, who is black, to warn fans to “stay home, watch it on TV... don't even risk it”.

Both Warsaw and Kiev argued that the claims did not give a true picture of the situation on the ground, with Poland's organisers even extending a personal invitation to Campbell.

The tournament has, however, been hit by some racist chanting.

Croatia, notably, were fined 80,000 euros ($100,000 64,000 pounds) after some fans abused Italy's Mario Balotelli during the two countries' group stage match in Poznan, western Poland.

European football's governing body UEFA also said it was investigating alleged racist chanting by Spanish fans against Balotelli and Russian fans against the Czech Republic's Theodor Gebre Selassie.

Dutch players complained of hearing monkey noises during a public training session in the southern Polish city of Krakow, although the city's mayor strongly rejected the accusations and no official UEFA probe was instigated.

“England fans are very positive (about Euro 2012). So, we had hoped a face-off in Poland and their coming to Poland would have allowed England fans to confirm that the reality here is different than that portrayed in the BBC documentary,” Mucha added.

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