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.


Spurs sack Pochettino amid results slump

Updated 20 November 2019

Spurs sack Pochettino amid results slump

  • Tottenham statement: The club can today announce that Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff Jesus Perez, Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez have been relieved of their duties
  • Tottenham sit 14th in England’s top flight after picking up just three wins from their opening 12 games, and were eliminated from the League Cup in September by fourth-tier Colchester United

LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur sacked manager Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday following a miserable start to the campaign that has seen last season’s Champions League finalists slide down the Premier League table.
Tottenham sit 14th in England’s top flight after picking up just three wins from their opening 12 games, and were eliminated from the League Cup in September by fourth-tier Colchester United.
“The club can today announce that Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff Jesus Perez, Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez have been relieved of their duties,” Tottenham said in a statement.
Pochettino, 47, joined Spurs from Southampton in 2014 and transformed the club’s fortunes despite failing to win a trophy in his five-and-a-half years in charge.
His side have become Champions League regulars over the past four seasons, culminating in a dramatic run to the club’s first ever European Cup final in June, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.
However, domestically results have been on the decline since February.
Only the faltering form of Arsenal and Manchester United allowed Spurs to cling onto a top-four finish last season as they won just three of their final 12 league games.
That form has continued at the start of this season with Pochettino leaving the club already 11 points outside the Premier League top four and 20 behind leaders Liverpool.
“We were extremely reluctant to make this change and it is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste,” said Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
“Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.
“It falls to the board to make the difficult decisions — this one made more so given the many memorable moments we have had with Mauricio and his coaching staff — but we do so in the club’s best interests.”
The job done by Pochettino was all the more remarkable given the tight budget he was afforded by Levy for transfers and wages in comparison to Tottenham’s Premier League rivals, as the club built a new stadium at a cost of over £1 billion.
Spurs were forced to play at temporary home Wembley for the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign and most of last season before moving into their new 62,000 capacity ground in April.
After 18 months without signing a single player, Levy finally loosened the purse strings to buy Tanguy Ndombele for a club record £63 million ($79 million) in July and added Giovani lo Celso on loan and Ryan Sessegnon in the summer transfer window.
However, injuries have prevented that trio making an instant impact, while Pochettino bemoaned the disruptive effect of Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen all entering the final year of their contracts.
“Mauricio and his coaching staff will always be part of our history,” added Levy.
“I have the utmost admiration for the manner in which he dealt with the difficult times away from a home ground whilst we built the new stadium and for the warmth and positivity he brought to us. I should like to thank him and his coaching staff for all they have contributed. They will always be welcome here.
“We have a talented squad. We need to re-energise and look to deliver a positive season for our supporters.”