Reverberations continue in Bulgaria in aftermath of England game

Manager Balakov quits along with president of football union and entire executive committee

Bulgaria coach  Krasimir Balakov  reacts during the  qualifier against England that was marred by racist chanting by some Bulgarian fans at the Vassil Levski stadium in Sofia. Photograph: Georgi Licovski/EPA

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov reacts during the qualifier against England that was marred by racist chanting by some Bulgarian fans at the Vassil Levski stadium in Sofia. Photograph: Georgi Licovski/EPA

 

Borislav Mihaylov has confirmed he has resigned as president of the Bulgarian Football Union in the wake of the racist chanting that marred England’s 6-0 victory in Sofia on Monday.

Having done so, hit out at Gareth Southgate, accusing the England manager of exaggerating the nature of the chanting that was directed at his black players during the Euro 2020 qualifier.

Mihaylov was speaking at a press conference on Friday and which followed a meeting of the BFU’s executive committee, during which it was decided that the national team manager, Krasimir Balakov, and the entire committee would also quit.

“There were four or five people making the chants,” said Mihaylov during the press conference and with his resignation having first been reported on Tuesday. “The second time the match was stopped only England manager Gareth Southgate had heard them.

“We did what we had to do regarding the security during the game versus England. Bulgaria is not a racist country. And my decision to step down has nothing to do with prime minister [Boyko] Borissov asking for my resignation the day after the game. My patience is over.”

Balakov came under criticism after claiming he could not hear any of the racist abuse that took place at Stadion Vasil Levski on Monday.

Step one of Uefa’s anti-racism protocol was activated just before the half-hour mark, with the referee asking for a public address announcement to be made ordering the abuse to stop. However, it continued and although there was a short stoppage just before half-time, the game was completed with England winning comfortably.

“I was concentrated on the game,” Balakov said on Monday night.

“I didn’t actually hear anything but I just talked to the English press downstairs and I told them that if this is proven to be true, then we have to be ashamed and we have to apologise for it. But, once again, first it has to be proven to be true.”

Balakov later issued a statement making a “sincere apology” to the England team and anyone else offended by the racist abuse but it was not enough to save the 53-year-old’s job. The BFU’s executive committee will remain in position until elections for the new president and the new committee have taken place.

Meanwhile, five more men have been arrested over the events of Monday night. They were detained at a police station in Sofia while a further five were searched at a different precinct in the Bulgarian capital, taking the total number identified to 16, according to a spokeswoman for the ministry of the interior.

Six supporters were arrested on Wednesday, with four already having been banned from attending any sporting event for the next two years and fined 1,000 lev (€500). The ministry spokeswoman said the search to identify further individuals continues.

– Guardian

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