The prime minister of Bulgaria has demanded that the country’s FA president steps down over the shocking racist treatment that England’s black players were subjected to on Monday night.
Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov says the government will freeze all relations with the Bulgarian FA – including denying them any funding – until Mihaylov steps down.
Football chief Borislav Mihaylov, who is also a member of UEFA’s executive committee, spent the build-up to Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier claiming England players including Tammy Abraham had been ‘offensive’ and derogatory’ in suggesting they could face racist abuse in Sofia. He also described branding Bulgarian fans as potential racists as ‘unjust’.
There were two breaks in play in Sofia after racist chanting was reported to the match officials – with England eventually running out comfortable 6-0 winners.
Mihaylov’s bizarre statements before the match were followed by Bulgaria’s manager Krasimir Balakov, selected by their FA, claiming not to have heard any chanting and saying in his post-match press conference: ‘the unacceptable behaviour was by England fans.’
England player’s were subjected to horrific racist abuse by Bulgaria fans during their 6-0 win in Sofia on Monday evening
There were two breaks in play in Sofia after racist chanting was reported to the match officials. Bulgaria fans are pictured making monkey noises
The behaviour of Bulgaria fans was met with widespread outrage and condemnation by players on the field and spectators
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (right) is now demanding the FA president Borislav Mihaylov steps down
Bulgaria boss Krasimir Balakov insists he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s fans
A fan holds up a No Respect jumper, a reference to UEFA’s Respect campaign which encourages equality in football
On Tuesday morning, in comments reported by Bulgarian news site sportal.bg Bulgarian minister for sport Krasen Kralev said: A little while ago, the prime minister called me urgently. You know that in the last four years, the government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football.
‘But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football, after yesterday’s incidents, the Prime Minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the football union, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov.’
England forward Raheem Sterling responded to the prime minister’s words on Tuesday morning, saying: ‘A good move – credit to you Mr Borissov.’
The events of England’s 6-0 win over Bulgaria on Monday night:
- The game was halted TWICE as home fans abuse black players, brandish ‘No Respect’ shirts and make Nazi salutes in planned racist onslaught
- Tyrone Mings reveals vile chants started before kick-off in Bulgaria
- Marcus Rashford praises ‘courage’ of Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov for appealing to fans at half-time to stop racist taunting of England players
- England boss Gareth Southgate considered taking his players off the pitch against Bulgaria as FA chairman Greg Clarke condemns racist taunting
- Ian Wright says England players taking action against racism made him ‘feel really good’
- Raheem Sterling calls out Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov for saying England have a bigger racism problem than his own country and posts funny Ainsley Harriott meme in response to Piers Morgan hailing his performance in face of vile racist abuse
- UEFA will use evidence from specialist ‘spotters’ in the crowd and TV footage to prosecute after Bulgarian fans’ appalling racist taunts
- Bulgaria’s prime minister has called on the president of their FA to quit over the racist incidents
Bulgarian football is in a state of crisis after manager Balakov insisted he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s supporters and slammed England fans for interrupting the Bulgaria national anthem.
That was despite monkey noises aimed at England defender Tyrone Mings and 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.’
Raheem Sterling praised the call to remove the president of the Bulgarian FA from his position on Tuesday morning
Fans in black wore clothes which had ‘ultras’ and ‘hooligans’ printed on them, before a mass walk-out before half-time
Hordes of Bulgarian fans in black hoodies and shirts which said ‘hooligans from Sofia’ left the stadium after warnings over their behaviour
Gareth Southgate and his players spoke to the referee about the offensive chants they heard from the stands
Self-described ‘hooligans from Sofia’ dressed in black and had their faces covered during the match
UEFA’S THREE-STEP PROTOCOL
1 – The referee will speak to the stadium announcer and demand the halting of racist behaviour.
2 – If it continues, the referee can take the players off the field into the dressing rooms for a period of time and the stadium announcer will make another address.
3 – If it still continues, the match will be abandoned.
Balakov added: ‘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.
Players and manager Gareth Southgate gather around the match referees to alert them about the horrific abuse the black players were being subjected to
Gareth Southgate consoled England striker and goalscorer Marcus Rashford as he left the field after being substituted having previously been targeted with abuse
Rashford, who scored England’s opening goal with a fine finish, said he was ‘proud we rose above it’ and said it was not an incident that should happen in 2019
‘If something can be proven, then we are sorry but we cannot speak on behalf of some fans.’
The incidents came after Bulgarian FA president Mihaylov trumpeted his fans’ behaviour and criticised England’s pre-match concerns in a letter to UEFA.
‘I first raised awareness about the issue at hand following England manager Gareth Southgate’s comments on potential racial abuse in England’s visit to Sofia on October 14; comments that the Bulgarian Football Union, the Bulgarian general public and I personally find offensive due to unjust branding of the local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behaviour,’ he wrote.
‘Following the communication with English FA president Mr Greg Clarke I was informed that Mr Southgate’s concerns were mainly due to the fact that Bulgaria received a Uefa sanction for racist chants in 2011 – and even though I view these comments as disregarding of all the work that the BFU has done over these eight years, I truly believed that our federation’s immediate reaction would result in a more constructive handling of public and media matters in the eve of the game in Sofia.’
Sterling, who scored twice tonight, posted an Ainsley Harriott meme as he agreed with Piers Morgan that there is ‘no sweeter way’ to show up the Bulgarians than having a black England player ‘destroy their team with his sublime talent’
He also took aim at the Bulgaria coach who said England had a bigger racism problem than his own country
England’s forward Harry Kane speaks with the referees during a temporary interruption in the first half of the qualifier
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 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 rubbishing of 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.
Bulgaria have previously been sanctioned by UEFA and they were ordered to leave 5,000 seats empty tonight as a punishment for previous abuse against Kosovo
Captain Harry Kane has since called for ‘stronger punishments’ for racism after the night of shame in Sofia.
Kane questioned whether being given three chances is the right way to punish offenders – echoing the view of Football Association chairman Greg Clarke.
‘Whether the UEFA protocol is strong enough, I am not sure,; he said.
‘Whether any racial abuse should be allowed at any time… well it shouldn’t be.
‘The protocol at the moment allows there to be an announcement and two or three steps before the players are taken off the pitch.
‘It is unacceptable to be racist once so I feel there can be stronger punishments and protocols but from our point of view as a team, we stuck together, showed unity and did what we had to and that is the most important thing.’
Bulgarian fans with hoods and face masks, some of them with ‘hooligans’ printed on their shirts, head for the exits after the second stoppage
A hooded Bulgaria fan watches on before a large group walked out en masse after the second stoppage in play in the first half
Before the match Gareth Southgate said he had spoken to his players about how they would react to any potential racist abuse
Gary Lineker praised Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov for pleading with the fans at half-time to stop with their abuse
England and Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard tweeted an image of a black and white Three Lions crest, calling it a ‘shameful’ night
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF KICK IT OUT ROISIN WOOD RESPONSE
‘I think more does need to be done,’ Kick It Out chief Roisin Wood told Radio 4 on Tuesday morning.
‘I absolutely applaud Gareth and the England team dignity that they showed. There may have been less in the second half, but it was still there.
‘If its zero tolerance its zero tolerance. That’s absolutely flouting to UEFA their own campaign.
‘I think there has to be a massively thorough investigation. Expulsion, not enter tournament. There has to be a clear message, it’s 2019.
‘You wouldn’t expect it in your workplace.’
After the first-half incidents, the players spoke in the changing room at half-time, with Kane praising the fortitude of his colleagues for wanting to continue the match despite the issues.
‘I’m definitely proud of my team-mates and my friends and everyone involved with our nation tonight,’ he added.
‘It wasn’t easy for anyone, we made a decision as a team to carry on playing, you saw us come together before half-time and we said we would play until half-time, get together and decide what we wanted to do.
‘Everyone wanted to carry on and do their talking on the pitch, which I am extremely proud of.
‘It is not easy to play in circumstances like that but the 6-0 victory and the way we played, the manner in which we played I’m extremely proud of for sure.
‘There was a discussion in the changing room and everyone wanted to carry on playing. If there were players who didn’t we wouldn’t have come back out and played.
‘That shows the maturity and the character that everyone wanted to come back out and play.’
Tyrone Mings (centre) making his debut for England, was the first player to report the abuse which led to the first stoppage
Tyrone Mings thanked the England fans for their support at the end of the match after being on the end of the horrific abuse
Tyrone Mings said he was ‘very proud’ to make his debut despite the ‘unfortunate incidents’
At the end of the match after England’s comfortable 6-0 win, manager Gareth Southgate headed to the England fans and applauded them