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Police arrest six Bulgarian fans for racist abuse against England

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England’s players wait on the pitch during a temporary interruption of the Euro 2020 Group A football qualification match between Bulgaria and England due to incidents with fans, at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Stringer / AFP)

Bulgarian police have identified 15 fans they suspect are responsible for subjecting black England players to racist abuse and arrested six of them.

The nine not arrested are under police investigation, with three wanted.

England’s 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifier win over Bulgaria in Sofia was stopped twice in the first half following racist chanting by home supporters.

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“We do not tolerate such behaviour,” Bulgaria Ministry of the Interior commissioner Georgi Hadzhiev said.

Bulgaria’s football chief Borislav Mikhailov resigned on Tuesday.

Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov said after the game he “didn’t hear” any chanting, having previously accused England of having a bigger racism problem.

But Balakov has since posted a statement on Facebook, acknowledging the incidents on Monday and apologising to “English footballers and to all those who felt offended”.

“I condemn all forms of racism as an unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relations,” he added.

Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov became emotional when he was asked on TV how to prevent a similar occurrence in future. He advocated that “fans are not allowed in the stadium or even [face] heavier punishments”.

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Apparently referring to the five-year European ban imposed on English club sides after 39 people died at Heysel Stadium before the start of the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, he added: “Like in England for years – five years without going to stadiums. People don’t deserve to suffer.”

Meanwhile, the English Football Association and Uefa have condemned the actions of the ‘ultras’ section of Bulgaria fans, with Aleksander Ceferin, president of the sport’s European governing body, calling for “football family and governments” to “wage war on the racists”.

The FA has also offered full support to England players following the racist chanting, with counselling one of the options open to them.

Stewards appeared to join those chanting racist abuses
Stewards appeared to join that chanting racist abuse

‘Stewards joined those chanting’.

According to European anti-discrimination body Fare, about 20 stewards joined those involved in racist abuse and far-right activity after taking their hi-vis jackets off.

The European anti-discrimination body had spotters in the crowd and have included their findings in the report they have handed to Uefa.

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