England thrash Bulgaria after game halted over racist abuse

Croatian referee Ivan Bebek stopped the game in the 28th minute after Raheem Sterling was a target for abuse. (Reuters)
Updated 15 October 2019

England thrash Bulgaria after game halted over racist abuse

  • Racist chanting was heard from the stands and reported by England players to manager Gareth Southgate

SOFIA: England bounced back from their first tournament qualifying defeat for 10 years with a 6-0 thrashing of toothless Bulgaria on Monday in a Euro 2020 Group A clash marred by racist incidents in the first half that stopped the game.
The match at the Vasil Levski stadium was temporarily halted by the referee in the first half under a three-step UEFA protocol to tackle racist abuse from the crowd.
Racist chanting was heard from the stands and reported by England players to manager Gareth Southgate, with the referee informed and a public announcement made on two occasions.
"The officials were onto everything very quickly," said Southgate. "We reported everything very quickly when we heard things.
"I explained to the players that if anything else did happen in the second half we would be coming off. We all saw the second half was calmer and that allowed our players to do their talking with the football."
Most of the Bulgaria players and coach Krasimir Balakov said they had not heard any abuse of the England team.
"It's a very delicate subject," Balakov told reporters. "I do not think there is a single person in Bulgaria who would say that racism is something pleasant.
"But at the same time, it is very strange how this topic is interpreted in football. I have heard absolutely nothing (during the game)."
On the pitch, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling both netted twice after Marcus Rashford got the opener and captain Harry Kane finished off the rout, Bulgaria's heaviest home defeat, as the visitors recovered from a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday.
England, who moved closer to a place at Euro 2020, are top of the group with 15 points from six games, three ahead of the Czechs and four in front of Kosovo who beat Montenegro 2-0.
EARLY VICTIM
England debutant Tyrone Mings was an early victim of racist abuse, turning towards the fans when chants were aimed in his direction. Croatian referee Ivan Bebek stopped the game in the 28th minute after Raheem Sterling was a target for abuse.
A public announcement condemned the racist abuse before stating that the match would be abandoned if it continued.
The game was stopped again in the 43rd minute but resumed after the referee consulted England manager Gareth Southgate.
A group of black-clad Bulgarian fans, some of whom were making right-wing salutes, were moved from an area behind the dugout with home team captain Ivelin Popov trying to appeal to the supporters in a heated discussion at halftime.
Popov did not even go to the dressing room, attempting to explain to fans that their behaviour was unacceptable.
European soccer governing body UEFA had ordered the Bulgarian Football Union to partially close the Vasil Levski national stadium for England's visit after supporters were found guilty of racist behaviour in matches earlier this year.
On the pitch, Barkley struck twice after Rashford score in the seventh minute as Southgate’s side highlighted the gap in quality with the hosts before Sterling netted before halftime.
England’s victory was rounded off by Sterling's second goal midway through the second half and a cool finish from Kane five minutes from the end against bottom side Bulgaria.
"We have no class," coach Krasimir Balakov said of his side. "I understand all the people who have bought tickets and wanted something different, but against this England team, with this dynamic, and with these players that cost millions..."


Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

Updated 20 min 33 sec ago

Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

  • First woman from the Kingdom to compete in the championship in Indonesia

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is sending its first woman to compete in the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup that begins in Indonesia.

Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.

Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating in the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating in the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The men’s competition started Sunday at 9 p.m.

The women’s competition will begin at 3 p.m. today, where Mashael will take part in six rounds. The competition will run until Nov. 24.

HIGHLIGHT

  • Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.
  • Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating at the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating at the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The competition continues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and after completing 24 rounds, the top 24 players will be selected to compete for the top eight positions by playing eight runs on Friday. On Saturday, the best four female players and four male players will be chosen to compete in the finals.

Abdulrahman said that he is looking forward to the world cup. “This year there is a new advantage and that is having teammate Mashael joining me for the first time. I’m proud of her! It’s a big thing for Saudi women and for us in the team because this world exposure will help them to learn and give them an incentive to develop their skills,” he said.

The 20-year-old player has been bowling for the past 10 years. Despite his young age, thanks to his perseverance and sense of discipline he managed to win many victories, but the most distinguished were those in 2018. He delivered the bronze medal at the World Cup in Detroit, and two bronzes at the Asian Bowling Championship in the Philippines in the same year, and a gold medal for the trio event at the Arab Bowling Championship in Oman.

Mashael, 32, was only able to play officially last year in February 2018 when the Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) received the decree to allow women to play in sports. However, she has been playing for fun since early childhood when she used to travel to Egypt with her family and where she managed to learn from the professionals and get hooked on the game. Mashael was chosen to take part in the Egypt Arab Championship and World Bowling Women’s Championship in Las Vegas in August 2018.

Mashael said: “Playing for fun is definitely enjoyable but when you wear your country’s flag that’s a huge responsibility put on your shoulder. You become an ambassador and a role model and when I’m put in that situation, I definitely want to give my all to be fit for that honor, and give the best image worthy of our beloved country.”

The bowlers expressed their gratitude to the Saudi Bowling Federation and its president Bader bin Abdullah Al-Alsheikh for his support and for creating opportunities for them so that they can progress, enrich their experiences and win awards and achievements.