England defeated Bulgaria in their Euro 2020 Qualifiers match by a margin of 6-0 amidst racist chants from the supporters which halted the match twice at the Vasil Levski Stadium in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia on Monday.
The visitors were leading the match with a 7th and 20th minute goal from Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling respectively when the play was stopped for the first time in the 28th minute. Continuous racist chantings forced the stadium officials to make an announcement where they condemned the happenings and warned to abandon the match if the same continued.
This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved.
— The FA (@FA) October 14, 2019
Once restarted Chelsea midfielder Barkley scored again in the 32nd minute before the match was halted again with just two minutes to go in the first half. Croatian referee Ivan Bebek held words with coaching staffs and players from both the sides and restarted the game. Raheem Sterling scored in the stoppage time of first half to further extend the lead for the visitors before the player headed off to the tunnel.
The Manchester City sensation saw the back of the net again in the 69th minute, while English captain Harry Kane put the final nail in the Bulgarian coffin to seal an exemplary victory for the Three Lions amidst an atrocious playing condition. Following his team’s victory, England manager Gareth Southgate condemned the night’s proceedings. “We know it is an unacceptable situation,” Southgate was quoted saying to British broadcaster ITV.
“I think we’ve managed to make two statements really by winning the game, but also we have raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice and I know for some people that won’t be enough, but I think we were as a group on board with that process,” the 49-year-old manager added.
Other than making the infamous monkey chants, a group of supporters wearing blacks were also seen doing the Nazi salute. England defender Tyrone Mings, who was making his debut, was one of the players who was subjected to racial abuse.
The correct steps that were taken definitely helped. We made the decision at half-time to come out and play the game which we thought was the right decision. If anything else happened, we would have taken appropriate action,” said the defender after the match. This is the second occasion in 2019 where the English players faced the heat of racism. Earlier in March, in an away fixture against Montenegro, several footballers were targetted.
While Southgate had prepared his players to follow UEFA’s three-step protocol to report racist incidents, the Vasil Levski Stadium was partially closed yesterday after it was sanctioned for racist behaviour of fans during matches against Kosovo and Czech Republic in June.
The first stoppage of the game was in accordance with the first-step of UEFA’s protocol wherein a warning was played over the loudspeaker in both Bulgarian and English. After it was not paid heed to, the play was stopped for the second time and a number of Bulgarian ultras were taken out of the stadium.