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)

England's Euro qualifier in Bulgaria marred by racist abuse

October 14, 2019 - 2:51 pm

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — England's European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half due to home fans chanting racist abuse on Monday.

Bulgaria supporters in the crowd were seen directing monkey chants and England players, doing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the text "No Respect" — a reference to the European governing body's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.

The referee briefly halted the game in 28th minute as the public announcer warned that the match could be called off completely unless the racist abuse stopped. That is step one of UEFA's anti-racism protocol for games. England captain Harry Kane, whose side was leading 2-0 at the time, conversed with referee Ivan Bebek on the halfway line and England coach Gareth Southgate talked to a number of his players as the announcement was made.

England scored again once the game resumed, but there was another pause after 43 minutes, Southgate was again in conversation with officials on the touchline with players joining him on the side of the pitch. Dozens of Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting, many of them wearing dark hoodies, then left the stadium.

England scored a fourth goal once the game resumed for the second time. England was leading 4-0 at half time.

The Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia was already subject to a partial closure for the match after Bulgaria was sanctioned for racist chanting during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

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