Bulgarian soccer chief quits after racist chants mar England game

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov talks to journalists at the Bulgarian President's office. (AP)
Updated 15 October 2019

Bulgarian soccer chief quits after racist chants mar England game

  • Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had called earlier for Mihaylov, a former goalkeeper and Bulgaria international, to go

SOFIA: Bulgarian soccer chief Borislav Mihaylov resigned on Tuesday after fans taunted England’s black players with Nazi salutes and monkey chants during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia, prompting match officials to halt the game twice.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had called earlier for Mihaylov, a former goalkeeper and Bulgaria international, to go.
The fallout from what English FA chairman Greg Clarke described as “probably one of the most appalling nights I have seen in football” also triggered calls for urgent action from anti-racism campaigners and politicians.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said European governing body UEFA — the tournament organizers — needed to do more to tackle “vile” racism.
The issue has long been a blight on European soccer, with racist incidents during matches reported sporadically and abuse levelled at players on social media.
UEFA, the administrative body for the sport in Europe, had already ordered the partial closure of Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium for the England game after racist behavior by Bulgarian supporters in June’s qualifiers against the Czechs and Kosovo.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said that soccer could not solve the problem on its own, and politicians must play a greater role.
“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honor will we make progress,” the Slovenian said in a statement.
FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, threatened to extend punishments levelled against sides globally in light of events at the match in the Bulgarian capital.
“FIFA may extend worldwide any sanctions that a Confederation or Member Association imposes for racist incidents, such as those which occurred in Sofia during the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier match between Bulgaria and England,” the Zurich-based organization said.
Monday’s match was temporarily halted by the Croatian referee under a three-step UEFA protocol, but the stoppage did not go far enough for some anti-racism activists who felt the England players should have walked off.
Anti-racism organization Kick It Out said UEFA’s existing sanctions were not fit for purpose and called for Bulgaria to be booted out.
“There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination — and if the Equal Game campaign means anything — then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow,” it said.
UEFA said it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria on a number of charges including racist behavior and the throwing of objects.
England were also charged for disruption of the national anthem and an insufficient number of traveling stewards.
Mihaylov had previously defended Bulgarian soccer from accusations of racism and criticized England for what he saw as a “fixation” on potential incidents that could raise tension.
His departure came just hours after a Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) spokesman said Mihaylov would not resign because the state had no right to interfere in football.
A later statement said that Mihaylov’s formal resignation would be presented to the Executive Committee on Friday.
“His position is a consequence of recent tensions; an environment that is detrimental to Bulgarian football and the Bulgarian Football Union,” it said.
Reuters was not able to reach Mihaylov by telephone on Tuesday.
More than 20 police officers swept into the (BFU) headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.
But the Bulgarian chief prosecutor’s spokeswoman said that the operation was part of an investigation conducted by the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, and so not directly related to the racism row.
“It’s about crimes against sport,” Rumyana Arnaudova told Reuters. “We’re talking about corruption offenses, connected to the work of the BFU’s referee commission and the appointment of referees on football matches.
“The investigation is still under way and it’s too early to say if there’ll be some arrests.”
Mihaylov, captain of the Bulgarian national team that made it to the World Cup semifinals in 1994, has been heavily criticized by local media and soccer fans for failing to lead the BFU out of years of corruption and controversy.
Bulgaria have failed to qualify for a major tournament since 2004, while Mihaylov’s tenure has been marred by allegations of cronyism. He has denied such allegations in the past.
There have been widespread reports of match-fixing in Bulgaria in recent years but little in the way of progress in holding anyone accountable.


LaLiga Academy UAE launches 2020/2021 season at new home at Dubai Sports City

Updated 05 August 2020

LaLiga Academy UAE launches 2020/2021 season at new home at Dubai Sports City

  • Over the past three seasons, Liga Academy UAE has changed the face of youth football training in the nation

DUBAI: LaLiga Academy UAE, developed by Spain's LaLiga, announced on Tuesday the launch of its 2020/2021 season, welcoming all players at its brand-new home at Dubai Sports City.

Over the past three seasons, Liga Academy UAE has changed the face of youth football training in the nation, with over 2,000 male and female players learning to play football the LaLiga way.

With the move, LaLiga Academy is bringing LaLiga’s global brand to Dubai Sports City, along with its superior youth football training program, executed to the Spanish league’s high standards, and with the same methodology that has developed the world’s best football players.

Moreover, the Football Academy at Dubai Sports City will be upgraded as a result of the LaLiga Academy high professional standards, offering young players the same training and development curriculum and methodology used at LaLiga clubs and delivered by a team of highly qualified LaLiga UEFA-Pro certified coaches.

Maite Ventura, LaLiga’s Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa said, commenting on the announcement: “With the move of LaLiga Academy, we are delighted to bring LaLiga’s brand and gold standard in training to Dubai Sports City, harnessing the venue’s world-class facilities. This reflects our commitment to advance youth football in the UAE, and we are confident that the Academy’s football program delivered to the highest standards at the hands of our LaLiga coaches, will create a pipeline of professional players right from the Academy.”

Hussein Murad, CEO of Inspiratus Consulting LLC, the sports management agency for LaLiga Academy said: “We are delighted to announce Dubai Sports City, which boasts one of the region’s best sports facilities, as the new home of LaLiga Academy in Dubai, in line with our mission to offer young players an immersive and professional football academy experience with a LaLiga high-level training and development program.”

He added: “In three short years, LaLiga Academy has established itself as a football academy in a league of its own, powered by LaLiga, and we look forward to continue growing in line with the UAE’s goals to elevate the standard of football in the nation.”

Open to boys and girls from 4 to 17 years of all abilities, LaLiga Academy, delivers the highest standard of Spanish football training, while providing a pathway to professional football careers and scholarships to top universities. Players will improve their football skills and develop their technical, tactical, physical, social and mental abilities through age-specific coaching sessions and personalized development programs.