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Bulgaria handed stadium ban for racist incidents vs. England

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UEFA have issued a two-game stadium ban to Bulgaria — one of which has been suspended for two years — after their fans were found guilty of racially abusing England’s players in their EURO 2020 qualifiers earlier this month.

[ MORE: Racist abuse in Bulgaria

The governing body of European soccer announced the sanctions on Tuesday, with many believing the punishment against the Bulgarian Football Union wasn’t strong enough. It means they will play their qualifier against the Czech Republic next month in an empty stadium.

Bulgaria were also fined $83,700 and in their next two home games they have to hold up banners saying “No to Racism” with the UEFA logo on it.

The qualifying game against England was stopped twice in the first half with a stadium announcement made as the referee threatened to abandon the game after using Step One of UEFA’s protocol during a racist incident.

Racist chanting and Nazi salutes were made by a section of Bulgaria’s fans, while banners saying “No respect, UEFA” were held up. The stadium in Sofia was already partially closed due to previous incidents of racism during games involving the national team.

Bulgaria’s fans have now been found guilty of racially abusing opposition players in three of their EURO 2020 qualifiers.

Bulgaria changes coaches following England loss

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Bulgaria has made a coaching change following the 6-0 loss to England in Euro 2020 qualifying that was overshadowed by rampant racist chanting throughout the match, specifically across the first half.

Krasimir Balakov resigned two days ago after the heavy defeat, following the resignation of federation president Borislav Mihaylov. Balakov did not cover himself in glory amid the racist chanting, claiming before the match that “I don’t think that we have this big problem like, for example, England do” when it comes to racism. During the match, he was caught by cameras looking visibly upset that the match was stopped to address the chanting and after the game claimed he did not hear any abuse.

On the field, the team was struggling mightily as well. After being soundly beaten by an England side motivated by the abuse, Bulgaria sits bottom of Euro 2020 qualification Group A with just three draws and no wins through seven matches, although they still have a chance to qualify for the tournament via the playoff. Balakov had only been in charge since May.

A report claims that Balakov has been replaced by Georgi Dermendzhiev who has formerly taken charge of Bulgarian clubs Ludogorets Razgrad and Levski Sofia. The 64-year-old has been without a job since parting ways with Sofia in April.

“Georgy Dermendzhiev is the new Bulgarian national team coach. All has been agreed, he’s the new manager. We’ll finalize the documents tomorrow,” Bulgarian federation vice president Yordan Lechkov said, according to quotes posted on Bulgarian publication sportal.bg on Monday. He will be on track to take charge of the mid-November qualifier against the Czech Republic.

Bulgaria’s coach apologizes to England; Popov slams racists

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Bulgaria’s coach Krasimir Balakov has apologized to the England national team after they were subjected to racist chants during their EURO 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday.

Balakov was previously bullish about racism in Bulgaria, stating before the game that England had a bigger problem with racism than Bulgaria.

Initially after the game he said he didn’t hear any racist abuse and during the match he got into a heated debate with Jordan Henderson about why the game was halted for a second time.

In a post on Facebook, Balakov apaolgized to the England players and offered his views on the racist incidents plaguing Bulgarian soccer as three of their EURO 2020 home qualifiers have now seen racist abuse from their home fans.

“I condemn unconditionally all forms of racism as unacceptable behavior that contradicts normal human relationships. I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and nobody should ever be subjected, Balakov said. “I trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different backgrounds and never judged anyone about the color of their skin. In addition, I have always actively participated in all initiatives involving unprivileged people or the needy.”

“My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria had no problems with racism are based on the fact that the local championship has not seen such a problem on a large scale. There may have been isolated cases, but it’s definitely not something you see in the stadium. The majority of football fans do not take part in such chants, and I believe that was also the case in the game against England. One thing I would like to say very clearly is that as the stadium in Sofia has reported cases of racial discrimination, I sincerely apologize to the English footballers and those who feel offended.”

That is what Balakov should have said right after the game.

The cynics out there may also say he is only issuing this apology now after Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borissov, asked for the president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign.

Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA England boss Gareth Southgate sharing his concerns over previous racist incidents in Bulgaria, resigned on Tuesday.

After Bulgaria’s goalkeeper said England’s players “overreacted” in regards to the racist abuse hurled their way, their captain, Ivelin Popov, handled himself remarkably well throughout this sorry situation for Bulgaria.

Popov was seen remonstrating with home fans at half time in order to get them to stop the abuse, and he was praised by Marcus Rashford and others for his reaction.

“Of course I feel embarrassed. We are 11 v 11, it doesn’t matter your color, it’s no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football, everybody and only we, if we are together, can we stop these bad things,” Popov said. “It was important that I spoke like this because it’s a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game.

“We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody. But when you start to speak to them, afterwards they understand. I think in the second half was better.”

Bulgaria detains four fans following racist acts

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) The Bulgarian government says it has detained four soccer fans linked to making racist gestures, including Nazi salutes, during a European Championship qualifying match against England.

[ MORE: Bulgarian FA chief resigns ]

Bulgarian fans also directed monkey noises at England’s black players during the match, which was halted twice in an effort to stop the racist abuse. England won the match 6-0.

The Ministry of Interior says police have “detained four people, whose involvement in what happened is being clarified.”

The ministry says any evidence collected will be handed over to prosecutors.

In the fallout from Monday’s game, the president of the country’s soccer federation has resigned and the Bulgarian special police forces have raided the federation offices.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bulgaria, England both sanctioned by UEFA

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UEFA have dished out sanctions to both Bulgaria and England after their EURO 2020 qualifier on Monday.

The game was halted twice in the first half due to racist chants from the home fans.

UEFA’s anti-racism protocol was put into place as the racist abuse was reported to officials who then stopped the game and an announcement was made over the stadium speakers threatening to abandon the game.

European Soccer’s governing body announce on Tuesday they have sanctioned the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) for racist chanting, Nazi salutes, disrupting the national anthems and throwing objects among other charges.

The English Football Association have been hit with charges which include not having enough travelling stewards and also for disrupting the national anthem.

UEFA are said to be thoroughly investigating the racist abuse of England’s players from Bulgaria’s fans.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov asked for the president of their football association, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign following the racist abuse of England’s players in Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium on Monday.

And on Tuesday Mihaylov handed in his resignation as Bulgaria, who has previously been charged for racist chants against Kosovo and the Czech Republic, were at the center of the truly disgusting racist abuse.