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Football must wage war on racists

Published : Tuesday, 15 October, 2019 at 7:37 PM  Count : 136

Football must wage war on racists

Football must wage war on racists

The "football family and governments" need to "wage war on the racists", says Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin after the abuse of England players in Bulgaria.

England's Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria was halted twice due to racist abuse of England players by home fans.

Ceferin said football associations cannot solve the issues alone.

"Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress," he said.

The behaviour of Bulgaria fans, which included Nazi salutes and monkey chants, has been widely condemned by players and politicians.

In a statement, Ceferin said Uefa was committed to doing everything it can "to eliminate this disease from football".

"There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory," Ceferin said.

"The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

"The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views."

The president of the Bulgarian Football Association resigned on Tuesday after being told to quit by the country's prime minister.

The British government said they would write to Uefa to demand more action.

Uefa told BBC Sport any action in response to Monday's events would have to follow on from a disciplinary committee, which in turn has to wait for a referee's report.

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov said after the match that he "did not hear" any racist chanting.

Play was halted twice in the first half because of abuse from the stands and England players had the option to walk off the pitch, but chose to continue.

The Vasil Levski Stadium was already partially closed for the match after Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist behaviour during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

What happened during the game?

Some fans in the Bulgaria section of the stadium appeared to make Nazi salutes

Some fans in the Bulgaria section of the stadium appeared to make Nazi salutes

After making a pass in the first half, Mings glanced over his shoulder and could be heard calling towards the touchline: "Did you hear that?"

The game was stopped in the 28th minute and a stadium announcement was made to condemn racist abuse and warn fans that the game could be abandoned if it continued.

The game resumed but was stopped again just before half-time. England manager Gareth Southgate and several England players were in discussion with match officials before the game was restarted for a second time.

A group of Bulgaria supporters wearing black hooded tops - some wearing bandanas covering their faces - started to leave the stadium after the game was halted for a second time. BBC Radio 5 Live reported that some made racist gestures while heading towards the exits.

After six minutes of time added at the end of the first half because of the delay, Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov was seen in a heated debate with a section of home supporters near the tunnel while the rest of the players headed for the dressing rooms for half-time.

'Bulgaria should be expelled from the competition'

Uefa told BBC Sport any action in response to Monday's events would have to follow on from a disciplinary committee, which in turn has to wait for a referee's report.

Anti-discriminatory body Fare has called for Bulgaria to be expelled from the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"We think that after what happened, Uefa has it in their power to kick Bulgaria out of Euro 2020 qualification for sure," said Fare Eastern Europe development officer Pavel Klymenko.

"There have been too many incidents, too much negligence from the Bulgarian FA. Uefa should make an example of the Bulgarian FA and expel them from the competition."

'Kane taking the players off would have sent a huge message'

In line with Uefa protocol, England had the option to walk off the pitch but they continued to play the full 90 minutes.

England defender Tyrone Mings, one of the players who was abused, said "the manager, the team and the supporting staff" came together to make the decision to play and he was "very proud" of the decision.

However, former England defender Joleon Lescott said it would have sent a "huge message to the world" if captain Harry Kane had led the team off.

"You've got to think if I'm racist, the last person I want to hear is Raheem Sterling, I don't care what he says or what he thinks but I might listen to a Harry Kane or I might listen to a Jordan Henderson because they're the players I've come to watch and I admire because I'm racist," former Manchester City and Everton defender Lescott said.

"It's great that we're looking to do it collectively but if Harry Kane just took that ball and said we're going, the message that would send to the world would be huge, more than Raheem Sterling."


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