Racism Strikes England’s Dominant Win Over Bulgaria

England triumphed over Bulgaria 6-0 yesterday with goals from Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, and Ross Barkley. This wasn’t the main talking point however, that dishonor would fall to the blatant racism demonstrated by Bulgarian Fans. The game came very close to being abandoned after the referee had to stop the game twice after Bulgarian fans consistently abused Tyrone Mings and other black members of the English team.

The referee, Ivan Bebek, stopped play for the first time inside 30 minutes after England had scored its second goal. The video above shows England head coach Gareth Southgate pointing out the racist chants to the referees. Mings, a centerback, appeared to be the main target of the racist chants throughout the night. Mings visibly unnerved by the whole thing can be seen saying ” Do you hear that” to the referee. The play was then stopped again before half time but was resumed after Bebek decided not to call the game. The abuse continued with some fans even holding “UEFA, No Respect” shirts and others throwing Nazi salutes, some of which were caught on camera.

The abuse was so bad that England’s players and coaches talked about leaving the game at halftime, but decided against it and continued in the second half to a 6-0 rout of the Bulgarian side.

England fans did not let this injustice go unremarked and were heard during the game responding in force to Bulgarian fans racist chants.

What’s, even more, worrying about this event is the significant amount of denial by Bulgarian players and staff. Bulgaria’s goalkeeper, Plamen Iliev, responded to questions after the game with: “If I am honest, I believe the fans behaved well. There wasn’t any abuse and I think the England players overreacted a bit. The public was on a good level – I didn’t hear any bad language used towards their or our players.” Bulgaria’s head coach, Krasimir Balakov, has also stated that “I did not hear the chanting. The unacceptable behavior was from the England fans.” This blatant denial of clear and obvious racism is worrying from the Bulgarian FA because this is not the first time Bulgaria has been in trouble with UEFA for racism during a game. In 2011 England again was attacked by racist monkey chants and in June of this year UEFA handed down a partial stadium closure of 5000 seats after incidents with Kosovo and the Czech Republic with a further 3000 seat ban coming in November.

In the past days UEFA has handed down their preliminary charges, but amazingly both England and Bulgaria have been punished. Bulgaria is facing 4 charges including racist behavior, throwing of objects, disruption of the national anthem, and replays on the giant screen. While England is facing two charges including disruption of the national anthem and an insufficient number of traveling stewards. These charges come on the heals of UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, releasing a statement about the power of UEFA’s sanctions.

UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

More broadly, 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 honor will we make progress.

Handing down charges to both diminishes the impact the racism has and signals to others that they can continue to do this abhorrent behavior with little to no recourse

Unfortunately, this is just one in a long line of racist incidents occurring just in the last year. In European competition, England was again attacked by Montenegrin fans after which UEFA handed down a stadium ban and a 20,000 Euro fine. In England, Millwall was handed down a stadium ban after racist chants. Just last month Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku was the focus of racist abuse by Caligiarian fans, but Caligiari got off scot-free after the Italian FA decided that the chants were not to the “size and perception” that they were originally reported.

The biggest case of racism happened last season after 19-year-old Mosie Kean, a black Italian player formerly for Juventus, stood up to racist fans after continued and abhorrent monkey chants when he had scored. He bravely stood in front of a raging crowd with his hands up and stared into the depths of the crowds.

This caused a total meltdown in the soccer world after his teammate, Leonardo Bonucci, blamed half the racial abuse Kean was receiving on Kean’s own actions. Leading to a massive fallout behind the scenes at Juventus and Kean’s eventual departure to Everton last summer.

No one is naive enough to think racism will just stop one of these days and we will a live-in some utopian form of society where nothing bad ever happens. However, UEFA and the respective FA’s need to start getting serious about the bans they are handing down to these racist FA’s and teams. Obviously partial stadium bans and minimal fines aren’t cutting it and have not been cutting it for a while. Bans need to start including something that will harm the teams like money never could, points. If UEFA and the FA’s start stripping points from the teams for their fan’s behaviors then the racist actions would probably be curtailed pretty fast. No one wants to be the reason their team doesn’t make the World Cup or misses out on the Champions League places. This kind of behavior has to be met with absolute force and 20,000 Euros isn’t getting the job done. If UEFA wants to be seen as some moral bastion, which they never will for other reasons, they have to start getting serious about the stances they are taking. It will take a lot of work and UEFA will receive a lot of backlash but the only way this change is if fire is met with fire.

 

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