England manager Gareth Southgate fears further racist abuse in Bulgaria

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 11:34pm

England manager Gareth Southgate fears his players could be subjected to more racial abuse when they face Bulgaria in Sofia.

Raheem Sterling was the target of alleged racist abuse from a Bulgaria fan during England's 4-0 win at Wembley on Saturday, while he was also subjected to abuse in another Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro earlier this year.

Southgate fears the problem could continue when England travel to Sofia on October 14.

"Yes, it is a concern," he said. "It's something that we've already planned.

"We've already planned what our schedule looks like and we're going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we're aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we're all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.

"So, we are going to address that when we all get back together. We didn't think it was right to do it this month because it's too far away from the games, but we have to hope... we're not confident that we'll go there and nothing will happen."

England's last trip to Bulgaria in September 2011 was also overshadowed by racism, with Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and Ashley Cole subjected to monkey chants during a Euro 2012 qualifier.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) was only fined £34,000 by UEFA for "discriminatory" chanting and for the lighting and throwing of fireworks.

The Vasil Levski National Stadium will already be partially closed for England's visit in October as punishment for the racist behaviour of their supporters in the 2-1 loss in the Czech Republic in June.

Southgate also has concerns over the behaviour of England fans on the upcoming trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Violence involving some England supporters marred the recent Nations League finals in Portugal and Southgate has urged supporters to behave when abroad.

"It should be a given - sadly it isn't," he said. "Sadly, we are going to a place where people go, travel anyway for nights out from our country.

"What we don't need to see is behaviour that I am afraid happens on our own high streets, so it is not something that is just England supporters.

"I'm afraid that it is a societal issue of people with alcohol unable to control themselves. But we certainly don't want to be taking that abroad and that being a representation of our country."

Sky News

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