Euro Qualifying

‘Despicable’, ‘Disgusting’, ‘England players should have walked off’ - Paper Round

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UK back pages

Image credit: Eurosport

15/10/2019 at 06:40 | Updated 15/10/2019 at 07:42

England won 6-0 in Bulgaria on Monday night but the Euro 2020 qualifying win was overshadowed by racist chants aimed at England’s players. Here’s the reaction from the English press...

‘England players should have walked off’

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Would we ask female athletes to perform through clearly audible sexist abuse? No we wouldn’t. Would we stomach homophobic abuse? Same answer.

Those are the words of the Mirror’s Darren Lewis, who added:

“After just half an hour in Bulgaria, a football match became a test of whether world football is still prepared to tolerate young black men being abused on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Gareth Southgate, Manager of England speaks with referee Vasil Levski during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Bulgaria and England on October 14, 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria

Image credit: Getty Images

“Answer: It is. In this sport the game comes first at any cost. So they played on.”

Lewis called for countries to be thrown out of competitions if found guilty of racist abuse, while he also labelled it a “joke” that England were considering whether to come off the pitch or not.

The back pages


Barney Ronay’s ‘miserable’ opening for his Guardian report from the stadium:

“Welcome to the new world. This was a miserable occasion on a miserable night, in a miserable stadium, against miserable opposition – decorated with a miserable backdrop of recrimination and bad blood.

“But it was also, in its own way, a righteous occasion. Racist abuse in football stadiums has been a source of unhappiness for as long as there has been racist abuse, racist violence and everything else along the spectrum.

In Sofia, for the first time, football made a live intervention. It was vile, disturbing and toxic, with the promise of greater violence in the air as the stadium simmered through a deeply unpleasant evening of what was, at times only notionally, international sport.

‘No one will remember the football’

John Cross, the Mirror’s chief football writer, was at the match to witness the “surreal scenes”.

“The sad part is that no one will remember the football,” he wrote.

“No-one will remember the emphatic victory, Ross Barkley’s man-of-the-match performance, Marcus Rashford’s stunning strike or even Raheem Sterling’s brilliant brace.

Everyone will remember it for a night that shamed football when, somehow, amid appalling scenes, England’s footballers kept going while a section of Bulgaria’s fans disgraced their country.

‘A landmark date for the future’

Also present at the game, the Independent’s Miguel Delaney spoke of the landmark occasion where UEFA were forced to implement their anti-racism protocols for the first time.

“It was then that a grim piece of history was made,” he wrote.

It was the first time that Uefa’s three-step protocol was put into effect, with the public address system declaring that the referee would consider abandoning the match due to racist behaviour.

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