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Bulgaria v England

'We are all the same' - Embarrassed Bulgaria captain Popov calls for unity after racism shame

01:38 EAT 16/10/2019
Ivelin Popov Bulgaria 2019
The FC Rostov star admitted that he was left horrified by the actions of fans during his nation's defeat earlier this week against the Three Lions

Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has said that he was “embarrassed” by the scenes of racism that marred his side’s Euro 2020 qualifier with England on Monday, revealing that he spoke to supporters at half-time in an attempt to dissuade them from further actions.

Gareth Southgate’s side ran out hefty 6-0 winners in Sofia in a match marked out more by actions off the pitch than on it, with groups of home supporters both performing Nazi salutes and “monkey chants” among others.

UEFA has subsequently opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria following the ugly spectacle, with the club already having been serving punishment for previous racism in fixtures with Kosovo and Montenegro when they welcome the Three Lions.

Furthermore, Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov was forced to resign after calls from the country’s prime minister Boyko Borissov, though coach Krasimir Balakov claimed that there was no issue with home fans at all.

Skipper Popov, who plays at club level for Russian Premier League outfit FC Rostov, has however fully condemned the actions committed by supporters, adding that he spoke with the crowd at the interval in an attempt to warn them of the consequences.

“It was important that I spoke like this because it’s a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game,” he was quoted by The Telegraph .

“We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody.”

“Of course I feel embarrassed. I don’t want it to be like this, it’s not good for us, the federation and our country. How do I feel? I don’t feel good because we didn’t play well, we lost 6-0 and also what happened was terrible.

“It must stop. We are 11 versus 11, it doesn’t matter your colour, it’s no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football. Only we if we are together can we stop these bad things.”

Sections of the Bulgarian football establishment countered in the build-up to the match that England’s Football Association faced a greater struggle with racism than the BFU, but Popov additionally rebuffed the idea that it is a singular issue in further comments quoted by The Guardian .

"I tried to talk with the stewards who were supposed to control the situation," he added. "We're all suffering from that kind of behaviour. Do you think a foreign player would like to come and play in Bulgaria after what happened tonight?

"Racism is a world problem that needs to be eradicated. We're all people regardless of the skin colour."