‘I did not hear the chanting… the unacceptable behaviour was from England fans’: Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov issues staggering denial over racist taunting
- Racist chanting marred England’s emphatic 6-0 qualifying victory in Bulgaria
- Home fans had directed shameful insults at Three Lions players in Sofia
- The clash was temporarily halted on two separate occasions by UEFA officials
Bulgaria boss Krasimir Balakov insists he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s supporters and slammed England fans for interrupting the Bulgaria national anthem in a staggering denial on Monday evening.
This is despite monkey noises aimed at England defender Tyrone Mings and forward Raheem Sterling being clearly heard at the ground and on television – to the extent where the game was twice brought to a halt.
Balakov told ITV: ‘I personally did not hear the chanting you are most probably referring to. I saw that the referee stopped the game.
Bulgaria boss Krasimir Balakov insists he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s fans
‘But I also have to say the unacceptable behaviour was not only on behalf of the Bulgaria fans but also the England fans who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgaria national anthem and during the second half they used words against our fans which I find unacceptable.
‘To be honest this has not happened to us before. The disciplinary measures by UEFA were not because of racist chanting but because of a banner from an organisation which is not forbidden by Bulgarian law.
‘We have had this problem since England were going to come to Bulgaria. For three weeks I have heard anything else but football and I don’t think this is the proper manner to prepare and play a football game because over three weeks everybody was talking about one thing.
‘If this turns out to be true, we are truly sorry. The Bulgaria national team and the Bulgaria football union are working very hard and no one wants to see this.
‘But let me tell you this really has never happened before in our games up until now.
A fan holds up a No Respect jumper, a reference to UEFA’s Respect campaign which encourages equality in football
‘If something can be proven, then we are sorry but we cannot speak on behalf of some fans.’
England’s black players silenced racist fans in Bulgaria with a 6-0 rout after the match had to be halted twice by the referee.
Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling scored while Tyrone Mings enjoyed a fine debut in defence, despite all three being targeted by jeering, monkey chants and Nazi salutes from the home fans.
Despite the Bulgarian FA rubbishing Gareth Southgate’s concerns about racism before the Euro 2020 qualifier, it took just 27 minutes for official Ivan Bebek to stop the game for the first time, after Mings had alerted one of his assistants to the abuse.
The referee implemented the first stage of UEFA’s three-step protocol, involving a statement being read out over the PA system, warning supporters stop their behaviour.
There was later another stoppage moments before half-time, but England’s players insisted they wanted to finish the half.
England all but ensured their qualification for Euro 2020 with a comprehensive 6-0 victory