Bulgaria police make arrests over racist abuse at England match

The Bulgarian government said it has detained soccer fans thought to be linked to making racist gestures, including Nazi salutes, during a European Championship qualifying match against England. (AP Photo)
Updated 16 October 2019

Bulgaria police make arrests over racist abuse at England match

  • Monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes overshadowed England’s 6-0 win in Sofia on Monday, with the match halted twice during the first half due to the abuse
  • 15 people have been singled out via CCTV at the Vasil Levski National Stadium as being suspected of directing abuse against England’s black players

SOFIA: Six Bulgarians have been detained over racist abuse at a Euro 2020 qualifier against England that sparked a storm of protest and led to the resignation of the country’s football chief, police said Wednesday.
Monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes overshadowed England’s 6-0 win in Sofia on Monday, with the match halted twice during the first half due to the abuse.
“Six people have been detained and another three are being actively sought,” Sofia police chief commissioner Georgy Hadzhiev told journalists.
Hadzhiev added that so far 15 people have been singled out via CCTV at the Vasil Levski National Stadium as being suspected of directing abuse against England’s black players.
Penalties for the offenses carry brief detentions, fines and bans from sports events.
In total, 15,000 people watched the match at a stadium already partially closed after racist incidents during games against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
England manager Gareth Southgate told reporters after the game that his side had been ready to walk off the pitch if the abusive behavior continued but players decided to complete the match.
The incident sparked a storm of angry reactions from fans, media and officials in both countries.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “vile” racism, while his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov forced the country’s football federation chief Borislav Mihaylov to offer his resignation on Tuesday.
In a statement late Tuesday, Bulgarian national team manager Krasimir Balakov offered his apologies to the England player.
The scandal divided Bulgarians — while many apologized in posts on social media about what they said was a pervasive problem in the country, others refused to be identified with the offenders and condemned British media headlines that called all Bulgarians “racists” and “animals.”
UEFA announced that it was launching a probe into the behavior of both the Bulgaria and England fans. Its president Aleksander Ceferin stressed the commitment of European football’s governing body to root out the “disease” of racism.


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”