England overreacted a bit, says Bulgaria goalkeeper Iliev amid racism storm

Racist abuse aimed towards England's players has received widespread condemnation but Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev had a different view.

England players protest in Bulgaria.   -  Getty Images

Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev has accused England players of overreacting in the face of racist abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

Gareth Southgate's team cruised to a 6-0 victory in the Bulgarian capital, with Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling both scoring twice to take England to the brink of qualification.

But Sterling was one of the players targeted by racist chanting during the match, which was stopped twice before half-time – initially for a stadium announcement calling for the abuse to cease before a group of Bulgaria fans were ejected from the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Southgate and his players discussed whether they should resume the match during half-time before closing out a commanding win, with the abuse they received widely condemned afterwards.

However, Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed he did not hear the offensive chanting and said it must be "proven" before his country received any punishment.

That view was apparently not shared at board level, with Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov – a former international goalkeeper for Bulgaria – tending his resignation after prime minister Boyko Borissov threatened to cut the organisation's funding if he remained in the wake of Monday's shameful scenes.

But Bulgaria's current goalkeeper fell into line with the views expressed by his coach.

"If I am honest, I believe they [the fans] behaved well,” Iliev said, as quoted by the Guardian.

"There wasn't any abuse [as far as I could hear] and I think they [the England players] overreacted a bit.

"The public was on a good level – I didn’t hear any bad language used towards their or our players."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on the "football family" and governments to "wage war on the racists" on Tuesday in a strongly worded statement.

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