Home » General » Bulgaria Soccer Coach Quits After Racism Row

SOFIA -- The coach of the Bulgarian national soccer team resigned on October 18 amid a scandal over racist abuse during a European Championship qualifying match against England.

The October 14 game at Sofia's Vasil Levski Stadium was stopped twice because of racist abuse directed at England's black players.

Bulgaria lost the match 6-0 and have no chance of participating in the 2020 finals.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said in a statement that coach Krasimir Balakov resigned due to the team's recent unsatisfactory performance.

"I wish success to the next coach, the situation is not rosy at the moment," the 53-year-old told the media, adding: "I have never been a coach in such an atmosphere.

BFU President Borislav Mihaylov also stepped down on October 18, along with the entire executive committee.

Bulgarian authorities have so far identified 16 suspects and have made several arrests following the England game.

An 18-year-old man was charged with "grave hooliganism," while four other soccer fans were fined and received two-year bans from sporting events.

The BFU is facing harsh sanctions from European soccer's ruling body, UEFA, which has opened disciplinary proceedings.

Bulgarian supporters were heard making monkey noises at England's black players during the October 14 match.

They were also seen doing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the text "No respect" -- a reference to UEFA's "Respect" campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.

Balakov initially said he hadn't heard any racist abuse during the game, but he later apologized to the England team.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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