Bulgaria boss Balakov 'did not hear' racist chanting

Tanya Simon
October 15, 2019

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has called for the resignation of the president of the country's football association after England players were subjected to racist abuse during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier.

Before the match Bulgaria's football chief Borislav Mihaylov said England players should face consequences if they breach UEFA protocols in the qualifying matches and expressed his "extreme disappointment" at the England players' comments ahead of the match and spoke of the "unjust branding" of local fans.

Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett said he had heard monkey chants in the stadium on a dozen separate occasions. While the "monkey" chants seem to have stopped by the second half, fans could be heard booing England players throughout the rest of the game, seemingly focused on the team's black players.

A group of black-clad Bulgarian fans, some of whom were making right-wing salutes, were moved from an area behind the dugout with home team captain Ivelin Popov trying to appeal to the supporters in a heated discussion at halftime.

England's Gareth Southgate speaks to the UEFA official.

FA chairman Greg Clarke was in attendance at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which was partially closed as a punishment for previous incidents of racist abuse from some Bulgarian supporters.

The 53-year old was asked in his press conference about captain Ivelin Popov pleading with fans to stop the abuse but again made a decision to beat around the bush.

A Bulgarian reporter labelled the accusations of racism as "absolutely not true" during Southgate's post-match press conference.

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Harry Kane set Barkley up for his second on the night, whipping in a pinpoint cross from the right flank that the Chelsea midfielder headed past Bulgaria keeper Plamen Iliev, with Kane next teeing up Sterling for a close-range tap in to send England into the dressing room with a 4-0 lead at half-time.

"And if anything else would've happened, we'd have taken the appropriate action".

In contrast, Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov and several of his players said they did not hear any racist abuse directed towards England players.

This is "not the first time" their players have experienced this kind of racist abuse during a game and they will be requesting an urgent investigation from UEFA.

In addition to the statement from the FA, the displays by some of the Bulgarian fans were castigated by many on social media - including current and former England players and London mayor, Sadiq Khan. "We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency", the FA said.

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

"Everyone was happy to continue, everyone was happy to see if things improved in the second half and I think it was important that we allowed the correct protocol to be followed and things were better in the second half".

"The game was so friendly", he said.

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