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What happened in the Bulgaria vs England game; Reactions from around the world

Ferdie
ANALYST
Feature
15 Oct 2019, 18:17 IST

There were plenty of documented incidents of racist chanting and Nazi salute in the crowd
There were plenty of documented incidents of racist chanting and Nazi salute in the crowd

England beating Bulgaria 6-0 is fairly low profile news considering they were always expected to win and the size of the victory is unexpected, but not surprising. The talk after the game should've been about Ross Barkley's ability to shine for England but fail to make an impact for Chelsea, or Harry Kane's sublime play to create opportunities for his teammates, or even Marcus Rashford's screamer that kicked off the flurry of goals.

Yet the post-game conversation about the racist abuse directed towards England players is rightly taking centre-stage. There has been plenty of chatter around this that may be difficult to track, but here's the full story.

Pre-game

Speaking before the game, Tammy Abraham said that the players were prepared to walk off the pitch if there were incidents of racist abuse
Speaking before the game, Tammy Abraham said that the players were prepared to walk off the pitch if there were incidents of racist abuse

Before we actually delve into the game and the events that transpired in Sofia, it's important to take a step back and note the comments made prior to the game.

UEFA had already imposed a forced closure of a section within the stadium, which might have held 5000 supporters due to previous incidents of racist chanting by Bulgarian supporters against Kosovo and Czech Republic.

Recent England debutant Tammy Abraham was also asked about potential incidents of racism during the game to which he responded by saying that it was a discussion that the team had covered before and that, "if we’re not happy as a team we’ll decide whether or not to stay on the pitch." England manager Gareth Southgate, however, maintained that they would follow the UEFA protocol to combat racism.

The president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov branded these comments by Southgate ahead of the game as "offensive".

Summary of the incidents

Gareth Southgate had lengthy discussions with the referee
Gareth Southgate had lengthy discussions with the referee

England had begun the game well, Marcus Rashford handing them the initiative early on and Ross Barkley adding to it on the 20-minute mark. By the time the second goal was scored, racist chanting could be heard on the field mics and fascist gestures were being made by some of the crowd. England debutant Tyrone Mings pointed this out to the referee.

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At 22 minutes, match referee Ivan Bebek stopped play as part of UEFA's anti-racism protocol and announcements were made on the public address system in Bulgarian and English to stop the chanting.

While the first stoppage reduced the actual chanting, it didn't completely stop. As the half progressed, the mics picked up monkey noises being made towards the England players. This was the second stoppage of the game at which point the referee could have directed the players to leave the pitch until the chanting stopped and the play could be resumed. At 41 minutes, Bebek and Southgate had a long chat and England decided to continue till half-time.

During half-time, Bulgarian captain Ivelin Popov spent some time appealing to the Bulgarian fans to cease their racist abuse of the English players. Following the appeal, a few of the supporters were seen leaving the stadium.

The ITV live feed caught some incidents of racist abuse in the second half as well but Gareth Southgate said that the England players and himself who had resolved to leave the pitch in case of further incidents heard nothing in the second half.

UEFA Protocol

Tyrone Mings brought the initial incidents to the referee
Tyrone Mings brought the initial incidents to the referee's attention

UEFA have a three-step anti-racism protocol in place for referees to follow if they find incidents of racism in the stadium during the game.

First step: The referees can stop the match and instruct the authorities to make an announcement asking the spectators to stop.

Second step: If the first announcement fails, a second announcement is to be made and the referee can send the players into the dressing rooms for a specific period of time for which the play is suspended.

Third step: If the abuse continues, the referee can choose to abandon the game after consultation with the managers and other officials.

Reactions

The England players were vocal on and off the pitch
The England players were vocal on and off the pitch

There were plenty of reactions ranging from outrage to criticism of the people in charge. Perhaps the worst take of the whole scenario came from the Bulgarian coach Krasimir Balakov who refused to acknowledge that any incidents of racism had occurred in the stadium and chalked off the chanting to "unhappy" fans.

England's Raheem Sterling was quick to take to Twitter in response to his words.

There was, of course, a detailed statement released by the English FA after the game.

FA Chairman Greg Clarke also spoke after the game saying he head the chants while in the box and went down to pitch-side to provide support. He added that, "If they have zero tolerance to racism then one person making monkey chants is the same as 100 people making monkey chants. We have to address that at UEFA but, to be perfectly frank, we need to address it in England. We shouldn't take the moral high ground."

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright, however, thought that Clarke's comments were too soft and he heavily criticised UEFA as well.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister has since tweeted regarding the event and Sky Sports are reporting that he has asked for the president of the Bulgarian Football Union to step down as well.


Gareth Southgate also spoke after the events of the night to shed some light over what actually went on at the touchline.

Some relevant tweets

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