Euro 2020 Qualifiers: England players react to racist chants in Bulgaria

Here's what the manager and players of the English football team said in response to racist chants during its Euro2020 Qualifier game against Bulgaria.

Security ejected a group of Bulgaria supporters before half-time and, despite a match abandonment appearing on the cards, England played on to mete out further punishment to its overmatched opponents.   -  Reuters

Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling scored two apiece as the Three Lions recovered from their defeat to the Czech Republic in impressive style and moved to within touching distance of securing a spot at Euro 2020. However, the story of the night was how this game was completely overshadowed by racist chants directed at players of colour in England's team.

READ : Here's what happened in Bulgaria v England's Euro 2020 Qualifier

The footballing community has slammed the events that transpired on Monday night and have called on the UEFA and FA to take strict action in cases of this kind. Here's what the players in the middle of it all, members of the England football team, had to say about the incident.

"Proud of my teammates," says Captain Kane

England captain Harry Kane said he is proud of his teammates after the country's Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by racism in Bulgaria.

"Well I'm definitely proud of my team-mates and my friends and everyone involved in our nation tonight. It wasn't easy for anyone. We made a decision as a team to carry on playing. You see us coming together before half-time and we said we would play until half-time then get together and decide what we want to do."

"Everyone wanted to carry on and do their talking on the pitch. It's not easy to play in circumstances like that but the 6-0 victory and the way we played, the manner in which we played I'm extremely proud of for sure."

On what was said at half-time, Kane added: "There was a discussion in the changing room and everyone wanted to carry on playing.

"If there were players that didn't we wouldn't have come back out and played. That shows the squad and the maturity and the character that everyone wanted to come back out and play."

"Not a situation which should be happening in 2019," says Rashford

"Not an easy situation to play in and not one which should be happening in 2019. Proud we rose above it to take three points but this needs stamping out," wrote Marcus Rashford. The United player tweeted along with a picture of him celebrating scoring the opening goal.

The Manchester United forward also thanked the travelling support as well as Popov, insisting his actions should not go unnoticed.

 

"Thankful to the brilliant England support. You got behind us in the most meaningful way possible tonight and we are all very grateful. Have a safe journey home and take care," Rashford tweeted, to which he replied: "Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn’t go unnoticed. #NoToRacism"

"No place in football, disgraceful," says Maguire

Club colleague Harry Maguire described the fan behaviour as "disgraceful" - and insisted action must be taken to make sure it does not happen again.



"The best way to bounce back. Proud of the team. There's no place in football for that - disgraceful behaviour. Something must be done," the defender tweeted.

"Feel sorry for Bulgaria," says Sterling

The Manchester City forward added in another post: "Feeling sorry for Bulgaria to be represented by such idiots in their stadium. Anyway.. 6-0 and we go back home, at least we did our job. Safe travel to our fans, u guys did well."



Sterling quote-tweeted a story about Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov declaring prior to the match how England had a bigger racism problem than his own country, replying: "Mmmmh ... Not sure about this one chief".

"Don't feel attacked, but we are in a position where we can make a stand," Mings


"It was obviously disappointing but the way that we handled it, and the appropriate steps that were in place and the protocol that us as a team followed was effective," Mings told Sky Sports.

"Obviously disappointing to go through what we went through, but very proud of everybody over the way we handled it and ultimately let the football do the talking."

"We made a collective decision at half-time to come back out and play the game and see if anything changed. We made a collective decision and I think it was the right one at the time."

Rather than express anger, Mings said he felt sorry for the perpetrators and outlined why it was important the England players took the stance they did.

"It doesn't affect me one bit, I don't feel like it is a personal attack," he said.

"I feel more sorry for the people who feel they have to express those views. I don't take it to heart, but at the same time, we are in a position where we can make a stand.

"We have a voice and we were out there and could make a stand for people who don't necessarily have our position of influence.

"While it doesn't affect me, we had to follow the correct protocols and let the appropriate people know, just as we were doing all week to represent everybody who has potentially been abused."

By winning the game, we have raised awareness of everyone to the situation," says Southgate

"I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly. We reported everything immediately when we heard things," England boss Gareth Southgate told ITV.

"We had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players all the way through the first half in particular and then again at half-time.

"We know it's an unacceptable situation. We've managed to make two statements really, by winning the game but also by raising the awareness of everyone to the situation.

"The game was stopped twice and I know for some people that won't be enough but I think as a group we were on board with that process."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Southgate explained his England squad had prepared for such an eventuality at Vasil Levski National Stadium, where some sections of the grandstands were closed for the match as a punishment for previous racist behaviour during Bulgaria's June qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Kosovo.

"I'm incredibly proud of all my players and staff," Southgate added.

"We prepared for this game on the field and off the field. The whole group have been united in where they stood on what might happen, where we were during the game, at half-time and we've spoken again at the end.

"Our players feel well supported. It's such a difficult area because I know not everybody will agree that we've gone far enough. But I still believe we've made a huge statement, the game was stopped twice. I don't believe that's a situation that's happened before in international football.

"For me, an even bigger statement was the way our players played. We've got players who've gone through something they should never have to experience and they've come off with a smile on their face because of how they played.

"They always want the story to be about football but they've also been part of something that I think will be bigger."

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