Racist Abuse Blights Bulgaria-England Qualifier

By Reuters
October 15, 2019Sports News

Racist abuse cast a blight over a Euro 2020 qualifier between Bulgaria and England on Oct. 14, with the match in Sofia twice halted by the referee after monkey noises and chants from the crowd were aimed at black players from the visiting team.

English FA chairman Greg Clarke, present at the Levski Stadium, said it was “probably one of the most appalling nights I have seen in football.”

British broadcaster ITV showed groups of men, dressed in black clothes, cupping their mouths and hurling abuse from the stands.

England manager Gareth Southgate informed the UEFA delegate after the first incidents and a public announcement was made, with play stopped.

The abuse continued and the Group A match, which England went on to win 6-0, was again temporarily suspended by the referee under a three-step UEFA protocol for tackling abuse.

England Bulgaria Soccer fans
Bulgaria v England – Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria on Oct. 14, 2019, Bulgaria fans during the match. (Action Images/Carl Recine/Reuters)

Sky Sports reporter Rob Dorsett said he had heard monkey chants on six occasions when England players Tyrone Mings and Marcus Rashford were in possession of the ball.

Mings said later that his senior debut had been “slightly overshadowed” but “ultimately we let the football do the talking.”

England striker Raheem Sterling added on Twitter he felt sorry for Bulgaria “to be represented by such idiots in their stadium.”

Southgate told reporters a ‘huge statement’ had been made by the protocol being implemented and by his players’ reaction.

“I don’t think that’s ever been a situation that’s happened before in international football,” he said. “For me, an even bigger statement was the way our players played.

“We’ve got players that have been through something they should never have to experience but have actually come off with a smile on their face because of how they’ve played.

“They always want the story to be about football but they’ve also been part of something that I think will be bigger.”

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