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Soccer's racism problem rears its ugly head in Bulgaria-England Euro qualifier

Bulgarian fans doing Nazi salutes.
Bulgarian fans doing Nazi salutes. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

England's 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win against Bulgaria was halted not once, but twice, following racist chants directed at England's black players.

The backdrop: The game was played in a stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria, where 5,000 seats were already closed off as a UEFA punishment for racist chants during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

  • "Bulgaria supporters in the crowd were seen directing monkey chants at England players [and] doing Nazi salutes," per AP.
  • Bulgarian captain Ivelin Popov spent halftime pleading with fans to stop the racist chanting, and the 2nd half passed without incident.
  • And sadly, this was nothing new for England's black players, who were subjected to similar treatment in Montenegro last March.

The big picture: Over the last decade, UEFA has handed down supporter bans to clubs and national teams in Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, Spain, France, Poland and Greece for racist behavior.

  • But the sanctions — from paltry fines to partial stadium closures — have often fallen short and failed to curb racism in the sport. Will this time be different?

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