How Bulgarian media reacted to racism at England's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia

Bulgarian fans making Nazi salutes in the Vasil Levski stadium in Sofia
Some Bulgarian fans were photographed making Nazi salutes

The racist abuse of England players by Bulgarian fans during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia received prominent coverage in the Bulgarian media, with most outlets condemning the behaviour of home fans.

One headline - Shame on the pitch and the stands of Vasil Levski - summed up the running theme: Shame because the Bulgarian side were thrashed 6-0 at home and because of the racist abuse attracting bad publicity for the country.

The popular news site Dnevnik described the event as "a crushing defeat and a shameful stain on Bulgaria for racism, discussed around the world". It also observed that "the whole football world is already talking about what happened in Sofia and expects heavy punishment from Uefa".

Many outlets have carried reaction from Britain. The Sega newspaper used a quote from the Guardian for its headline "Bulgarian fans disgraced their country". The daily also cited other major British media shaming Bulgarian fans.

Racism anticipated

Many news sites pointed out that racism had been a topic of discussion before the game - alluding to previous incidents of racism in Bulgarian stadiums.

"The shame remains because images from the stadium shown on British TV show that the visitors had grounds to protest. Their fears ahead of the match were reaffirmed," wrote news site Club Z.

The news website Fakti also noted that the visitors had been aware of the problem: "The topic of racism was among the most discussed ahead of the match, as the guests expressed concerns over the behaviour of our fans."

Others appeared to suggest the incidents were a self-fulfilled prophecy. "Ahead of the match, the English discussed mainly the problem of racism, and that only increased tension," wrote sports website Topsport. It also noted that "English fans booed the Bulgarian anthem before the start of the match".

"Racism in Bulgaria? Terrible, I'm shocked!"

The event has prompted bitter soul searching among some Bulgarians on Facebook. Maria Spirova wrote: "All societies have a problem with racism, but some know it and are ashamed. They don't launch public attacks on innocent people, their visitors, just out of a desire to humiliate them, just for sport. We neither realise that we have a problem, nor are we ashamed."

Others have called for the authorities to take action against the offenders and solve the problem in the sport.

"Will there be measures against these people? Their faces are everywhere. Interior ministry? It would take five minutes to discover their identities. Sport ministry? You can't pour in millions in sports every year to promote Nazism, racism and stupidity," writer Zachary Karabashliev wrote.

Journalist Nikolai Draganov wrote sarcastically "Racism in Bulgaria? Terrible, I'm shocked!" He went on to provide a background to his assertion that last night's incident shouldn't surprise anyone, because it happened in a state where ruling parties "openly express hatred for one ethnic group".

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