Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bulgaria Soccer Coach Quits After Racism Row

Bulgarian fans at the game deride UEFA's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in soccer.
Bulgarian fans at the game deride UEFA's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in soccer.

SOFIA -- The coach of the Bulgarian national soccer team resigned on October 18 amid a scandal over racist abuse during a European Championship qualifying match against England.

The October 14 game at Sofia’s Vasil Levski Stadium was stopped twice because of racist abuse directed at England's black players.

Bulgaria lost the match 6-0 and have no chance of participating in the 2020 finals.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said in a statement that coach Krasimir Balakov resigned due to the team's recent “unsatisfactory” performance.

"I wish success to the next coach, the situation is not rosy at the moment," the 53-year-old told the media, adding: "I have never been a coach in such an atmosphere.”

BFU President Borislav Mihaylov also stepped down on October 18, along with the entire executive committee.

Bulgarian authorities have so far identified 16 suspects and have made several arrests following the England game.

An 18-year-old man was charged with "grave hooliganism," while four other soccer fans were fined and received two-year bans from sporting events.

The BFU is facing harsh sanctions from European soccer's ruling body, UEFA, which has opened disciplinary proceedings.

Bulgarian supporters were heard making monkey noises at England's black players during the October 14 match.

They were also seen doing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the text "No respect" -- a reference to UEFA's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.

Balakov initially said he hadn't heard any racist abuse during the game, but he later apologized to the England team.

With reporting by the BBC
  • 16x9 Image

    RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service relaunched in 2019 after a 15-year absence, providing independent news and original analysis to help strengthen a media landscape weakened by the monopolization of ownership and corruption.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.