Uefa want governments to help football ‘wage war on the racists’
Four arrests are made and Bulgaria head coach Balakov apologises to England
Uefa has charged Bulgaria with four offences as the repercussions of Monday night’s ugly scenes in Sofia continue to reverberate throughout football,
The racial abuse hurled at England’s black players during the Euro 2020 qualifier drew a swift response from Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Tuesday, who urged the president of the Bulgaria Football Union (BFU), Borislav Mikhailov, to resign.
Having first “strongly condemned” the behaviour of Bulgarian fans, who made monkey noises and gave Nazi salutes from the terraces, the PM said: “After yesterday’s shameful loss of the Bulgarian National Team and given the bad results of our football, I ordered to end any relationship with BFU, including financial, until the withdrawal of Borislav Mikhailov from the post.”
Mikhailov duly stepped down, although the statement issued by the BFU refrained from going into detail as to the reason for his resignation other than to state is was “a consequence of the recent tensions”.
The statement added that these tensions had created “an environment that is detrimental to Bulgarian football and the Bulgarian Football Union”.
National newspapers were unstinting in their criticism of what unfolded on Monday with Dnevnik describing the match as “a crushing defeat and a shameful stain on Bulgaria for racism, discussed around the world”.
Later in the day police raided the HQ of the BFU, although it is unclear what they were after.
Mikhailov had gone on the offensive prior to Monday’s match with England, accusing them of stirring up trouble, but ignored previous incidents this year when Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist antics during Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.
Uefa has issued four charges against the Bulgarian Football Union:
- 1. racist behaviour (chants, Nazi salutes)
- 2. throwing of objects
- 3. disruption of national anthem
- 4. replays on giant screen
The English Football Association (FA) has also been charged with providing insufficient number of travelling stewards and Three Lions’s supporters are accused of disrupting the Bulgarian national anthem.
Those charges carry a minimal sanction but for Bulgaria the consequences could be grave with The Daily Telegraph forecasting that they “could face the harshest sanctions given the abuse on Monday night was not a first offence for its football federation”.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has urged football and politics to come together to “wage war on the racists”, adding that the sport alone couldn’t eradicate the scourge.
He said: “The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.
“The football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.
“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”
Four arrests are made and Balakov apologises
BBC Sport reports that four Bulgarian football fans have been arrested on suspicion of chanting racial abuse against England’s black players. Bulgaria’s Ministry of the Interior said in a statement: “Work is still ongoing to identify others.”
Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s head coach Krassimir Balakov originally claimed that he did not hear any of the racist chanting during the game on Monday but he has since issued an apology to England.
Writing on Facebook, Balakov said: “I unconditionally condemn all forms of racism as unacceptable behavior that contradicts the normal human relationships. I find that this form of prejudice should be buried deep down in our past and nobody should ever be subjected to it.
“I would like to state one thing very clearly - since there have been reported cases of racial discrimination at the stadium in Sofia I, as Bulgaria national team head coach, would like to offer my sincere apologies to the English footballers and to anyone who felt offended.”
Uefa has also announced that they have initiated disciplinary proceedings against Turkey into “potential provocative political behaviour”.
In their recent Euro 2020 qualifiers - against Albania on Friday and France on Monday - Turkish players made salutes as a way of celebrating goals, interpreted as supporting Turkey’s current military operation in Syria.
The news drew a swift retort from Turkey’s sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu, who warned Uefa to be “prudent” in its investigation of the salutes.