Bulgaria coach, Krasimir Balakov has accused England of having a bigger racism problem than his own country. This he did before the Euro 2020 qualifiers in Sofia on Monday.
The build-up to the game has been overshadowed. Reason being, there are fears England players could be subjected to abuse. This is just after they became targets during the qualifier against Montenegro in Podgorica earlier in March.
England will face Bulgaria with a section of the National Stadion Vasil Levski closed.
Gareth Southgate held a meeting with his players to underline the Uefa protocol in dealing with such incidences. The subject has however provoked an angry response from the Bulgarian football authorities. And now, coach Balakov has also hit back defiantly.
President, Bulgaria Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov wrote a letter of complaint to Uefa about “unjust branding” while Balakov said, “What I can say is that I don’t think we have a problem.”
“In the Bulgarian championship, we have a lot of players of different ethnicities and skin color. I don’t think we have this big problem like England do.”
When asked to give a further elaboration, he said, “What I meant was that in the Bulgarian Championship, we have not had such problems. While there have been incidents in various levels of English Football involving racism, which I consider something normal because it’s a big country with a very diverse population.”
“But we don’t have this problem in Bulgaria. I can assure you of that.”
Southgate has made it clear on several occasions that England must get its own house. He also pointed out the recent incidents of racism in the game between Hartlepool Unites and Dover Athletic.
Southgate has also admitted he understood the frustrations of the Bulgarian football hierarchy. On the other hand, Balakov said, “I would like to focus on football because at the end of the day, we have all civilized Europeans and we are all working for this sport and that’s all that matters.”