A member of the Bulgaria squad reportedly apologised to England’s players after disgusting racist abuse marred Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier , and explained to them that it had been planned and co-ordinated before the match.
Sky Sports News report that the player – who has not been named – made a special effort to seek out the Three Lions squad after the match in Sofia, which the visitors won 6-0.
It is thought that he explained that the abuse came from a group who are affiliated to a local neo-Nazi political movement, who had the express intention of shouting racial slurs and giving Nazi salutes during the match, which was halted twice in the first half.
Shortly after the second stoppage, a group of around 50 fans dressed all in black could be seen heading for the exit, and they were then escorted out of the stadium.
Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov could be seen pleading with home fans to stop the abuse at half-time, for which he has received praise from England’s Marcus Rashford .
“First, I tried to talk with the stewards who were supposed to control the situation,” Popov said after the game.
“We’re all suffering from that kind of behaviour. Do you think a foreign player would like to come and play in Bulgaria after what happened tonight? Racism is a world problem that needs to be eradicated. We’re all people regardless of the skin colour.”
However, Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov and goalkeeper Plamen Iliev were less forthcoming in their criticism of the abuse.
“If I am honest, I believe they [the fans] behaved well today,” said Iliev, who plays his club football for Ludogorets.
“There wasn’t any abuse [as far as I could hear] and I think they [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.”
“I personally did not hear the chanting,” added Balakov, whose words have been criticised by England’s Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold .
“I saw the referee stopped the game but I also have to say the behaviour was also not only on behalf of the Bulgarian fans but also the English fans, who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgarian national anthem.
“During the second half they used words against our fans which I find unacceptable.”