The president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) has resigned a day after Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifying match against England was interrupted by racist abuse of opposing players by the home fans.
A statement from the BFU, which was obtained by The Guardian’s Metodi Shumanov, said that tensions stemming from the match influenced Borislav Mihaylov’s decision to step down.
The statement read: “It comes after the pressure that has been generated over the past few days; a situation that is not positive for Bulgarian football or the Football Union itself. After so many years in the position and because of his network of international contacts, Mr. Mihaylov has said he is ready to continue helping Bulgarian football to develop in any way possible.”
Monday’s game in Sofia, Bulgaria – which ended with England winning 6-0 – was temporarily stopped twice in response to a section of home supporters who were directing racist abuse, such as monkey chants, at Gareth Southgate’s team.
Some fans, who were dressed in black clothing, were also seen making Nazi salutes and engaging in a heated discussion with Bulgaria team captain Ivelin Popov at halftime.
Mihaylov handed in his resignation shortly after Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov called for him to do so.
“It is unacceptable for Bulgaria, which is one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and people of different ethnicity and religions live in peace, to be associated with racism and xenophobia,” Borissov had said, according to Ben Church of CNN.
“I urge Borislav Mihaylov to immediately resign as president of the Bulgarian Football Union.”
In response, England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling praised Borissov on Twitter:
A spokesperson for Mihaylov had initially insisted that he would not step down.
“Of course he would not resign,” BFU spokesman Hristo Zapryanov said, according to Angel Krasimirov of Reuters. “The state has no right to demand that and interfere in football.
“The football union cannot be held responsible for the hooliganism of a group of people.”
The BFU also initially attempted to minimize concerns about the racist abuse after Monday’s match at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which had already been ordered by UEFA to be partially closed due to similar racist behavior in the past.
“It’s quite disappointing to focus on racism,” BFU vice president Yordan Lechkov said. “It’s not serious to concentrate on that if there’s a qualifier like this and we’re playing against a team like England.”
Additionally, Bulgarian players and their manager claimed they did not witness supporters verbally abusing English players.
It’s understood that UEFA will wait to decide whether to punish the BFU after examining the referee’s official match report, according to Church.