Short on strikers,England take on Ukraine

England’s Euro 2020 qualifying match in Bulgaria on Monday was halted twice in the first half over racist chants directed towards some England players by sections of home fans.

We can confirm that @England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting while playing in the #EURO2020 qualifier against Bulgaria.

This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved.

— The FA (@FA) October 14, 2019

England captain Harry Kane complained to referee Ivan Bebek, who, following UEFA’s newly introduced three-step protocol to deal with racist chants in football stadiums, temporarily suspended play twice – once in the 27th minute when England were leading 2-0, and then in the 42nd minute when they had added another.

Step 1 of the racism protocol – making an announcement on the stadium’s PA system for it to stop – was enforced in the 27th minute as play was halted for a short while.

The public announcement was met with loud boos from the home fans.

The Tyrone Mings incident which led to the England game being halted due to racist chants and Nazi salutes from the Bulgarian fans

— Michael (@AriboAribo79) October 14, 2019

With minutes left before half time, play was suspended again, with England manager Gareth Southgate having told the fourth official that further racist chants had been directed at his players. Step 2 of the racism protocol – temporary suspension of the match and further PA addresses – was enforced at this point.

Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov pleaded with fans to stop the chanting.

Good for him. It needs to come from the home players. Imagine thinking you’re in any way superior due to the colour of your skin. Such ignorance.

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 14, 2019

Six minutes of added time were played after the first 45 minutes because of the halt in play. England went into the half time break with a 4-0 lead.

Marcus Rashford had scored a seventh-minute stunner. A Ross Barkley brace put England three up (20, 32). Raheem Sterling scored England’s fourth and fifth (45+4, 69). Harry Kane added a sixth in the 85th minute.

Step 3 of the racism protocol – abandonment of the match – was not enforced despite there being reports of continuing abuse in the second half.

Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn’t go unnoticed. #NoToRacism

— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) October 14, 2019

Southgate told reporters a ‘huge statement’ had been made by the protocol being implemented and by his players’ reaction.

“I don’t think that’s ever been a situation that’s happened before in international football,” he said. “For me, an even bigger statement was the way our players played. We’ve got players that have been through something they should never have to experience but have actually come off with a smile on their face because of how they’ve played.”

“They always want the story to be about football but they’ve also been part of something that I think will be bigger.”

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Tyrone Mings said later that his senior debut had been “slightly overshadowed” but “ultimately we let the football do the talking.” On the other hand, England striker Raheem Sterling added on Twitter he felt sorry for Bulgaria “to be represented by such idiots in their stadium.”

Feeling sorry for Bulgaria to be represented by such idiots in their stadium. Anyway.. 6-0 and we go back home, at least we did our job. Safe travel to our fans, u guys did well 🤟🏾❤️

— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) October 14, 2019

An FA statement after the match said, “As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behaviour in society, let alone in football. We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency.”

“UEFA will be carrying out a thorough investigation,” added FA Chairman Greg Clarke. “Not just what the ref saw and the officials around him saw, but also live footage and witness statements to make sure this appalling scene of terrible racism is treated appropriately.”

England striker Tammy Abraham had said before the match that England would walk off the pitch – an action involving conceding the match by a 3-0 margin – if their black players are subjected to racist abuse. Southgate had, however, said, “There is a UEFA process and we have to have faith in that process.”

The game was being played in front of a reduced crowd after UEFA ordered a partial stadium closure due to racist behaviour by Bulgarian supporters in June’s qualifiers against the Czechs and Kosovo.

Bulgarian supporters had made monkey chants at visiting black players when England last travelled to Sofia for a European qualifier in 2011, prompting UEFA to fine the Bulgarian Football Union an amount of 40,000 euros.