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'Shameful' Bulgaria racists should be banned for life, says Berbatov

23:59 GMT+3 17/10/2019
Ivelin Popov Bulgaria 2019
The former Manchester United and Tottenham striker was outraged by the abuse suffered by Three Lions players and called for a tough response

Bulgarian football legend Dimitar Berbatov has slammed his countrymen for the racist incidents suffered by England players in Sofia, affirming that those responsible should be banned from football grounds for life. 

The Three Lions' 6-0 European Championship qualifying win on Monday was marred by offensive comments directed at players from the stands, causing two stoppages to play.

Raheem Sterling, who scored twice, and debutant Tyrone Mings were among those targeted by chants, with a group of Bulgaria fans also ejected from the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Respresentatives of the home side subsequently offered mixed responses to the incidents. 

Goalkeeper Plamen Iliev denied there was abuse, stating that "I think [the England players] overreacted a bit."

But national team captain Ivelin Popov labelled the events as "terrible" and called on fans to crack down on racist behaviour in the future.

“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," he told the Telegraph.

"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.”

Berbatov, who starred in the Premier League with the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United, echoed that call and demanded action against those who he dubbed "bad apples".

"In every nation there are bad apples and bad people, this was the case in our stadium against England this week," the former forward said to Betfair.

"There were people there who were only there to provoke; these people don't deserve to go to games and watch football, and for me they need to be banned for life, not just at football but all kinds of sport.

"I hope our government in Bulgaria does their job and bans them for life, they don't deserve to be there and they have brought shame on all of us.

"Because of them, we are only talking about the incidents of racism and not about the football, which has become secondary and it should not be like that. I am very ashamed of how these people can do this.

"It is also a problem in England, Italy and all around the world, these people should be banned for life. We need to stay together and fight against it because this is unacceptable.

"I cannot accept the criticism that the whole of Bulgaria has received, 50 people cannot define a nation, we are not racists. I am a proud Bulgarian and I know that we are dealing with this straight away, and there will be severe justice. I hope that every country around the world is working on this issue, we are all in this together, let's not divide."