In some of the most disgraceful scenes witnessed in recent times, England footballers suffered some disgusting abuse from sections of the Bulgarian crowd – but completed the 90 minutes, despite having the option to have the game abandoned – and in the process completed a 6-0 rout of Bulgaria – which does not secure their qualification to Euro 2020, but takes them just one point away from doing so with two games to play.
The abuse, which was seen, and heard, by millions of football fans watching the live TV coverage, was at its most heinous in the first half. Such was the voracity of the abuse, that England manager Gareth Southgate was forced to make an official in game complaint to the UEFA official, who, along with the match referee and officials, instigated the UEFA protocols for this racial abuse. The game was halted, twice, and a loud PA message was given to the crowd warning them about this disgusting abuse, and the potential for the game to be abandoned should this continue. The first half was played out, and then the England team was given the option to either play the remainder of the game or remain in their dressing room. After discussion and consultation, England took to the pitch for the second half and completed the demolition. There remained some further comments and noises from the crowd, but it was far less than the first half – with a large section of the abusers leaving the ground shortly after the PA announcement made.
It was a hugely upsetting, disturbing and disgraceful incident that caused outrage across the footballing world – but left many wondering whether England were right to play the match out – or whether they should have taken a stand and had the match abandoned, to draw as much attention to this and show unity & strength in their outrage of these moronic people – and have action taken against those countries where this attitude seems to remain prevalent.
Sportsweek, via its Facebook social media outlet, conducted a poll asking whether England were right to play the match out – or whether people believed they should have stayed off the pitch in protest.
70% of the people who participated in the vote said that YES, they believed England were right to complete the match, with 30% voting for the alternative. The poll can be seen below :
Fans on Twitter also supported the sentiment that England were right to play the match out :
England v Bulgaria . Unless they throw stones or bottles or use guns England must not walk off otherwise it makes us look like a bunch of girls
— Moody 🙂 (@moodyblue81) October 14, 2019
So glad England boys won today. They fought through the racist remarks etc. That is true strength. Can’t begin to imagine how they felt. But I know I’m SO ANGRY about it. This is really still happening in 2019. #racismshouldbeillegal #racistsshouldbeputinjail #Englandvbulgaria
— ANNE-MARIE (@AnneMarie) October 14, 2019
Comments from the Sportsweek poll also indicated support for the decision to play the game. Greg Keattch commenting “Best reaction was the scoreline, nasty vile fans of Bulgaria”
Whilst put in that shocking situation, there is a feeling that any team is caught between a rock and a hard place. As professional footballers, it is fully understandable that the players will want to play games out and show these people that they can chant all they like, but it is on the pitch where it truly counts, and that they, as footballers, can rise above these mindless morons with their abhorrent attitudes.
But at what point does that sentiment stop and more direct action become needed to really bring attention to this? Does it take a team like England to have to walk off the pitch and cause its abandonment to drive home how wrong this is – to the host nations and authorities? What needs to happen for UEFA to bring more serious and severe sanctions against nations where this happens? Putting up banners stating ‘Kick It Out’ and issue puny fines is clearly having no effect whatsoever. Something needs to be done so that ALL individual nations Football Authorities take this issue far more seriously and introduce measures starting domestically and for national matches.
But the poll and comments clearly show that England fans, on the whole, were proud and fully supportive of the attitude, actions and decisions taken by the team against Bulgaria – we can only hope this is the last time they have to face this kind of behaviour from people who are supposed to be football fans, and there to watch two teams play the game that should bring the world together.