KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Television images and recordings from England 6-0 victory over Bulgaria in Sofia have thrust the ugly scourge of racism directly into the face of UEFA.
The European federation and president Aleksandr Ceferin will be judged on whether all the sanctimonious words and programmes concerning the fight against discrimination is being supported by disciplinary teeth.
If it is then Bulgaria, already under a partial ground-closure order for the Euro 2020 tie, must be brought to the brink of expulsion from the competition.
One particular TV image stood out: a hooligan in the Vassil Levsky proudly holding up, presumably deliberately for the cameras, a shirt branded “No respect” in answer to UEFA’s anti-racism campaign.
Play was halted twice in the first half by referee Ivan Bebek after England manager Gareth Southgate complained to the fourth official about the chants. An announcement was broadcast to the stadium that the match would be abandoned if the taunting continued.
A phalanx of hooligans left the stadium at halftime and England’s players decided at the interval to see out a match in which the second half generated far fewer outbursts.
Victory brought England to within sight of qualification for the Euro finals courtesy of goals from Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and two each from Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke said: “Iheard examples of appalling racist chanting. I was looking at a group of people, all in black – about 50 of them – who were making what looked like political fascist gestures. I couldn’t be sure, it was 100 metres away but it looked appalling.
“I’ve spoken to one or two of the players and I’ve also spoken to one or two of the backroom staff, because we don’t just have a multiracial team, we have a multiracial backroom staff.
“They were visibly emotionally upset, and I spoke to Gareth after the game too and I offered him our full support.”