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Racist abuse brings England-Bulgaria Euro 2020 soccer match to a halt — twice

England's Harry Kane, center, and Jordan Henderson speak with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. .
England's Harry Kane, center, and Jordan Henderson speak with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. . (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Update on Tuesday Oct. 15, 2019: The president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, resigned on Tuesday. The Bulgarian prime minister had earlier called on him to step down.

England’s Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has described the match in which Bulgarian fans hurled racist abuse at England’s black players as “probably one of the most appalling nights I have seen in football.”

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Even U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office put out a statement, with a spokesperson saying that UEFA needs to do more to combat “vile” racism. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the president of UEFA has said that soccer can’t solve this issue on its own and that politicians have a role to play.  

Team Bulgaria’s head coach Krassimir Balakov put out a statement on Tuesday as well, condemning the racist abuse and offering his apologies to the English team. 

“I find that this form of prejudice should be buried deep down in our past and nobody should ever be subjected to it,” he wrote. 

 

From Monday Oct. 14, 2019:

Soccer fans chanting racist slurs wound up pausing the Euro 2020 soccer match between England and Bulgaria twice on Monday.

Held at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria, the European Championship qualifier was stopped twice in the first half, during the 28th and 43rd minutes.

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Bulgaria fans were spotted directing monkey chants at English players, engaging in Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the words “No Respect” — a reference to the European governing body’s “Respect” campaign, which targets racism in the sport.

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England chose to continue playing and the game was quickly resumed after both pauses. England won the match by a massive landslide, 6-0.

Officials concerned by prospect of racist chants at World Cup
Officials concerned by prospect of racist chants at World Cup

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov and several of his players said they did not hear the racist abuse.

The Football Association in England later addressed the incident on Twitter, confirming that England players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting” during the match and demanding that UEFA investigate the incident.

“This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved,” the FA tweeted Monday.

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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.

“… there is no place for this kind of behaviour in society, let alone in football.”

An announcement admonishing the racist slurs and issuing a warning to fans — that the match could be abandoned — played in the stadium at one point, according to the BBC.

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The two breaks in the game took place according to a three-step UEFA protocol designed to handle racist abuse from spectators.

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Rising above racism through sport: the historical story of black hockey players in Nova Scotia

England manager Gareth Southgate told Agence France Press last week that his team would follow UEFA protocols if any players were subjected to racist chants in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

According to AFP, the protocol is present to make sure spectators are warned about the fact that a match will be suspended in the event that racist chants do not stop.

— With files by The Associated Press and Reuters