Condemned by the prime minister, denied by the head coach and “pre-planned” according to a player – what’s Bulgaria’s view of the racist abuse of England players?
“I didn’t hear anything,” said Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov.
But the events inside the Vasil Levski National Stadium during England’s 6-0 win did not fall on deaf ears in the country’s highest office.
Prime minister Boyko Borissov has issued orders for the president of Bulgaria’s FA, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign immediately.
I strongly condemn the conduct of some of the fans at the stadium #BULENG It is unacceptable that Bulgaria which is one of the most tolerant states in the world and where people of different ethnic and religious background peacefully live together should be associated with racism
— Boyko Borissov (@BoykoBorissov) October 15, 2019
“It is unacceptable that Bulgaria – which is one of the most tolerant states in the world and where people of different ethnic and religious background peacefully live together – should be associated with racism,” he said.
Mihaylov had sent an open letter to UEFA, claiming pre-match comments by England players such as Tammy Abraham – that England were prepared to take action if subjected to racist chanting in the match – were an affront to Bulgaria’s attempts to tackle the problem.
But despite the Bulgaria coach’s insistence that chants from their fans “must be proven”, the game was marred by the torrent of racist abuse directed at England’s players, with the match twice halted during the first half.
The England players were offered the option of walking off, which they turned down.
Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov was seen speaking to fans at half-time and the abuse calmed down in the second half, but the actions of fans angered those witnessing the scenes. Balakov, though, believes there needs to be an investigation before action is taken against his nation.
Debate: Should England have walked off?England match in Bulgaria halted twice over racismRacist chants mar England rout
Bulgaria coach: ‘It has to be proven to be true’
“I just talked to the English press, and I told them that if this is proven to be true then we have to be ashamed and apologise for it,” Balakov said.
“But once again, first it has to be proven to be true. If our captain spoke to the fans, it was probably because of the way the team was performing, and the whole topic in the build-up to the game.
“The fans are emotional, you obviously want me to say this and I have to say it, if something happened, I’m sure it was a small group of people who were really were out of their minds because it was unacceptable, if it happened of course.”