Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has apologized to the England team after fans taunted their black players with Nazi salutes and monkey chants during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday.
England thrashed Bulgaria 6-0 to hand the hosts their heaviest ever home defeat but the game will be remembered more for the racist incidents that led to action being temporarily stopped in the first half.
European soccer’s ruling body UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria over the racist behavior.
While Balakov said after the game he had not heard any racist abuse from the stands, in an email to reporters late on Tuesday he apologized for the fans’ behavior.
“I strongly condemn and reject racism as a norm of conduct that contradicts modern human relations,” Balakov said.
“This is a prejudice that comes from the past that must be eradicated forever.
“I want to say something very clear: given that there have been insults on such a basis, I, as a coach of the national team, apologize to the English footballers and all those who feel hurt.”
Bulgarian Football Union President Borislav Mihaylov resigned on Tuesday, a few hours after the Balkan country’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov called for the former international goalkeeper to step down.
Mihaylov had previously defended Bulgarian soccer from accusations of racism and criticized England for what he saw as a “fixation” on potential incidents that could raise tension.
4 Bulgarian soccer fans detained following racist acts
At the same time, 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.
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
Credit:Reuters / AP