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EURO 2020

Bulgaria - England game stopped twice because of racist chants

Pre-match fears that England's players would be subjected to racism in Bulgaria were unfortunately realised during Monday's match in Sofia.

Bulgaria v England halted twice due to racism

Play was stopped twice before half-time during the Euro 2020 qualifier between Bulgaria and England after the visiting players were subjected to racist abuse. Following their surprise defeat to the Czech Republic on Friday, England stormed into a 4-0 lead at the interval, with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling on target either side of a Ross Barkley brace. But events on the field became secondary as pre-match fears England players would be targeted by racist chants were unfortunately realised.

Play stopped in Sofia as fans hurl racist abuse

Sterling clashed with Bulgaria winger Wanderson after being fouled by Ismail Isa Mustafa in the 25th minute and a stoppage followed, with an appeal made over the stadium's public address system urging those offending fans to desist.

Bulgarian fans pictured during the Euro 2020 qualifier with England at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia

It was 3-0 by the time England boss Gareth Southgate entered conversation with the fourth official, preceding another more prolonged break in play – during which a group of Bulgaria fans were ejected from the stadium.

Under UEFA's protocol for dealing with racist incidents, the next steps for match referee Ivan Bebek would be to suspend the game and send the players to their dressing rooms for a specific period and then, if discriminatory behaviour did not stop or broke out again, abandon the match.