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A UEFA European Championship qualifying soccer match between England and Bulgaria on Monday was marred by racist chant and Nazi salutes in the first half of the blowout.
The match was stopped in the 28th minute because of monkey chants that were aimed toward England’s black players, including defender Tyrone Mings and forward Raheem Sterling. The fans were warned by the stadium’s public announcer that the match would be called off if the chants continued. However, the match was again stopped in the 43rd minute.
Bulgaria fans in the crowd were also seen performing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and words which read “No Respect" — a reference to the European governing body's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.
England manager Gareth Southgate, third left, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
During the second stoppage in play, several Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting had left the stadium.
The FA issued a statement on the issue, saying the English players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting.”
“This is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football,” The FA statement continued.
England fans celebrate during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
FA Chairman Greg Clarke added: “I would like to see a very stringent review by UEFA because I know they take racism very seriously. We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”
Bulgaria’s Ivelin Popov appeared to have a heated argument with some of the home fans and asked them to stop the chants, as the rest of the players went to the locker room at half time.
England manager Gareth Southgate, right, speaks with Referee Ivan Bebek during the Euro 2020 group A qualifying soccer match between Bulgaria and England, at the Vasil Levski national stadium, in Sofia, Bulgaria, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
On Tuesday, Bulgaria Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov condemned the racist fans and called on soccer federation president Borislav Mihailov to resign.
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Borrissov said: “It is unacceptable that Bulgaria, one of the most tolerant countries in the world where people of different ethnicities live in peace, to be associated with racism and xenophobia.”
Bulgarian fans have been sanctioned in the past for other racist abuse in Euro 2020 qualifying. Monday’s match was played in a partially closed stadium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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