Southgate and squad brace for potential racist abuse in Bulgaria - GulfToday

Southgate and squad brace for potential racist abuse in Bulgaria


England manager Gareth Southgate fears racist abuse in Bulgaria. Reuters

England manager Gareth Southgate is to meet with his squad ahead of their Euro 2020 match in Bulgaria next month and discuss what measures they might take if they are subjected to racist abuse.

One Bulgarian fan was arrested for “discriminatory abuse” directed at Raheem Sterling during the 4-0 win over Bulgaria last Saturday at Wembley, although he was subsequently released without charge.

A previous England team have already experienced racist abuse in Bulgaria in 2011 -- Southgate’s team also were showered with abuse in a Euro qualifier in Montenegro last year.

Bulgaria’s Stadion Vasil Levski will be partially closed for the matches with England on October 14 and Czech Republic in November because of the racist behaviour of fans in June.

A total of 5,000 seats of the 46,000 capacity stadium will be closed off for the England visit and 3,000 for the Czech Republic match -- and a banner with the wording “#EqualGame”, with the UEFA logo on it will be displayed over the seats.

“It is a concern, we’re not confident that we’ll go there and nothing will happen,” Southgate said, adding that the meeting to address the issue was “already planned.”

“We’ve already planned what our schedule looks like and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.”

UEFA ordered the partial closure of Bulgaria’s national stadium following racist behaviour by their fans in Euro 2020 qualifying games against Czech Republic and Kosovo in June.

Last month, Bulgarian club sides PFC Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv were punished by UEFA for racism during Europa League games.

Meanwhile, England’s abundance of attacking talent has the Three Lions believing they can end a 54-year wait to win a major international tournament next year, when the Euro 2020 final will be hosted at Wembley.

Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Harry Kane were in full flow as Kosovo, unbeaten in 15 matches prior to travelling to Southampton on Tuesday, were put to the sword with five goals in 38 first-half minutes.

That took England’s tally in four qualifiers to 19 goals with mathematic qualification seemingly a formality. But there remains plenty for Gareth Southgate to perfect ahead of the European championships as Kosovo became the first visiting side to score three times in a qualifier in England for 12 years as the hosts edged an eight-goal contest 5-3.

“We’ve been saying international football is dull, that wasn’t the case tonight,” said Southgate, who did not hold back in criticising a sluggish start to the second-half that saw a 5-1 lead quickly cut to 5-3.

“The small bit after half-time: ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back, so we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves.”

Centre-backs Michael Keane and Harry Maguire, who became the world’s most expensive defender after a £80 million move from Leicester to Manchester United last month, were at fault for all three goals conceded.

England’s inability to close out the game after going in front has also seen them lose two semi-finals at the World Cup in 2018 and the Nations League in June under Southgate.

Attack may therefore be the best form of defence come the Euros with 19-year-old Sancho taking his sensational form for Borussia Dortmund onto the international stage with his first two England goals, alongside the established pairing of Kane and Sterling.


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